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When to choose local over organic

Expert insight:

Buying local minimizes your carbon footprint because the products are shipped much shorter distances compared to those grown on larger commercial farms, says Libby Mills, RDN, Philadelphia-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Since produce loses nutritional value in the days following harvest, the quick commute also makes local fruits and vegetables more nutrient-dense. 

Items bearing the USDA Organic Seal are guaranteed to be free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, though they don’t necessarily have the above benefits. 

One thing to keep in mind, Mills notes: Many small farms simply don’t have the financial means to purchase the organic certification. In her experience, two out of seven farmers at local markets use organic practices.

The bottom line: 

Both options are better for your health and the environment than those from mass-production farms. Regardless of your choice, always rinse produce before eating to remove residual microbes and bacteria from soil and roaming animals, Mills says.