Flavors of the month

Fresh produce tastes better, so this month's pillar—Eat Locally, In-Season, and Organic Whenever Possible—should be a delicious one to put into practice.

The Equinox Nutrition Philosophyis comprised of 12 fundamental nutritional pillars, all of which support the health of your cells, and thus increase your body’s overall energy capabilities while decreasing acidity and inflammation. The result: A younger, healthier (and we bet, happier) you with a metabolic system that hums. Here, the ninth:

When it comes to your endless food choices, we suggest you try to keep it close to home, super-fresh, and as clean as possible. Obviously life can interfere with the best-planned shopping list, but making this your guideline will help you enforce it most of the time.

Even if you haven’t deemed yourself a locavore, eating locally just makes sense when you think about it. Wouldn’t you rather have tomatoes ripened on the vine from a nearby farm than those trucked in from Mexico? “When something is harvested, you get more nutrients the sooner you eat it. And since soil qualities are changing, it becomes more challenging to get all the vitamins and minerals we need from foods, particularly when it’s shipped a long way. This is a good reason to eat locally,” says Ryan Andrews, a fitness and nutrition coach with Precision Nutrition. The use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides are some of the reasons for the changes in soil qualities, notes Andrews, which also makes a case for going organic.

So far we’ve established that we believe in clean proteins. The same goes for produce. Choosing organic will reduce your exposure to pesticides that can disrupt your natural hormone balance and lead to disease over time. Another plus: Organic agriculture is more environmentally friendly—in addition to boosting soil productivity and minimizing nutrient loss in your food, it conserves energy and promotes sustainability.

But don’t rule out small, local farms if they’re not certified organic. It doesn’t mean they use pesticides, it may just come down to not having the means to pay for the organic certification. Inquiring and showing interest in how the food is produced can help you establish a relationship with your local farmers so you can learn about their practices. It’s this feeling of connection and community that contributes to the feel-good factor of local food.

You’ll also get the benefit of being able to feast on what’s in season—a focus of local farms and farmers markets. Who doesn’t relish the idea of biting into a juicy plum fresh from a market stand or leaving with a bag of zucchini to stir-fry for dinner? What’s in season is freshest and probably fits what your body is actually craving—water-dense melon, berries, and cucumbers in the spring and summer, and cozier, heartier fare like squash, root vegetables, and sweet potatoes in the fall and winter months.

If this dictate seems like a tall order on a day-to-day basis, lean into it. Buying all organic produce can be pricey but, if possible, at least go organic when it comes to the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, which indicates which fruits and veggies are most tainted with pesticide. (They also suggest a conventionally grown Clean Fifteen). “I suggest people read those lists and make their decisions,” says Dr. Terry Wahls. “Ultimately, you can’t escape the choices you make with your food. You’re going to pay the farmer or pay the doctor. I’d rather pay the farmer.”

Snatch up this month's best local, organic produce, then put it to good use with these recipes from Tasting Table:

Heirloom Tomato Gratin with Tarragon and Gouda Crumbs

Agrodolce Pasta

Practice what we're preaching for the next few weeks, then check back on October third for rule number ten. If you're just tuning into our 12-month eating overhaul, read our
nutrition philosophy.