By Anne Swann, Public Health Dietitian with Vancouver Coastal Health and Richmond Eats 2016 participant.
Richmond’s Season of Plenty
I was recently on vacation and was talking to a gentleman from Hawaii, living now in Vancouver. When he found out I was from Richmond, he began raving about Richmond blueberries and fresh tomatoes (that he purchased in bulk from a farm market and made into the “best” tomato sauce in the world). I was proud to be a resident of such a place, especially in its season of plenty.
I decided to dive in and explore further this city I call home by taking part in Richmond Eats: The Local Eating Challenge. As I drove from farm-to-farm, and farm-market to farm-market, gathering the bounty of locally grown food, I was not only surprised by the variety of what was available, but also the dedication of the local farmers who produced the food.
I was able to purchase locally grown blueberries, watermelon, Kabocha squash, green beans, broccoli, green and yellow zucchini, lettuce, green peppers, green peas, strawberries, beets and beet greens, corn-on-the-cob, tomatoes, Swiss chard, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, honey, roasting chickens, eggs, beef and salmon.
Add to this the local backyard plums and apples I was given by friends, and I was all set. I also added three foods to round out my four food-group offerings: milk, brown rice and tea (my personal comfort food). I would eat well, eat healthfully and enjoy this experience.
Bounty of Colors and Nutrients
Every color of the rainbow could be found on my plate. All those fresh produce colours are natural pigments that are wonderfully useful to humans.
Red tomatoes and watermelon contain a pigment that may help stop the growth of cancer. Red, blue and purple pigments from strawberries, blueberries, beets and plums are antioxidants that may help protect against heart disease. Orange colored squash and carrots carry carotene which also may reduce the risk of cancer. Yellow corn and green beans, peas, peppers and leafy lettuce are rich in pigments that seem to protect eye health. Even pale colored produce such as cauliflower, green grapes, and pears contain other disease-preventing substances and vitamins and minerals, making them desirable. By including as many colors as possible, I am enjoying the fresh taste and feel of just ripe, just picked fruits and veggies. Plus, in doing so, I am reducing my health risks. Countless studies have linked produce consumption with a reduced risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes, cancers, cataracts and obesity.
Yet the recent “My Health My Community Survey” (2013-2014) of Richmond adults found that only 21% of residents surveyed consumed at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables. (Actually, Canada’s Food Guide recommends that all adults consume at least seven daily servings). In fact, Richmond ranked last of all the Vancouver Coastal Health communities in this regard.
Come on my friends. This is the season of plenty. Let’s get out there and indulge.
Fish for the Taking
Did you know that Richmond is the home of Canada’s largest commercial fishing harbour? Steveston Harbour provides boat moorage, repair, storage, waste disposal, an ice plant, unloading station and a public floating fish market.
It is home to more than 500 commercial fishing boats. If you have not been there, check it out. I bought my salmon on a Saturday afternoon. The best days of the week for selection are Friday afternoon, and during regular business hours on Saturday and Sunday. This is generally when the greatest number of vendors is open.
The following fish are in season and may be available: Albacore tuna, Coho salmon, Chum salmon, Dungeness crab, Halibut, Pink salmon, Rockfish, Sablefish/black cod, Sea urchin, Shrimp, Sockeye salmon, Sole.
Canada’s Food Guide suggests that we eat at least two servings of fish each week. This is because fish is one of the best food sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. These are required in the diet and are considered important to heart health, and brain and eye development.
Also, studies show that taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement does not provide all the health benefits of eating the real fish. There is a synergy of factors in real food that an isolated nutrient cannot provide. So take time this weekend to check out the local public fish market at Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf.
Get Back to Whole Foods, the Real Deal
One last benefit that I have realized from eating local this week is that I actually enjoyed it. Plus, by eating more foods close to their natural or “whole” state, and cooking from scratch, I have consumed less free sugar, sodium, saturated and trans fats, and more vitamins, minerals, fibre, and protein.
These whole foods have satisfied my hunger and maximized the nutritional benefits of eating. Also, by cooking and eating together, my family enjoyed freshly made meals and conversation. We all helped in the preparation of the food so it became more “fun.” Scientists are beginning to understand that not only does the nutritional profile of one’s diet deteriorate with increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods, but also the heart-and-soul of life deteriorates along with it.
Take more time, more often, to enjoy and savor the tastes and smells of home cooked meals. Eating well with family and friends is one of the best and simplest ways to improve your quality of life.