I love farmers' markets and try to make them a part of my week. But I never really thought about all the reasons why they are so healthy until I read the new EatingWell in Season: The Farmers' Market Cookbook and began making its recipes. In this new book, Dr. Preston Maring tells how he convinced Kaiser Permanente hospitals up and down the West Coast to set up farmers' markets in their parking lots. Dr. Maring says, "Shopping and eating from your farmers' market is the single best thing you can do for your health." He also outlines 7 other reasons why you should shop at farmers' markets, including:

  1. Get Inspired: Wondering what to do with all that fresh rhubarb? Farmers' markets inspire me to make new recipes, like Spice-Rubbed Game Hens with Rhubarb-Date Chutney or some of my other spring recipe favorites.
  2. Follow a Better Diet: One Kaiser employee started shopping at the farmers' market and lost 63 pounds in six months. Here's how he did it.
  3. Learn How to Cook for Your Health: Did you know that only one in four Americans are getting the 5 or more servings of vegetables a day recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and numerous other diet experts? Think about all the vegetables you get at the farmers' market! (EatingWell in Season: The Farmers' Market Cookbook has a handy guide for preparing and preserving more than 60 fruits and vegetables.)
  4. Support Your Community: Most farmers' markets require that the food be locally grown and sold directly so your dollar stays within the community. Plus, it's just plain fun to meet the farmers. Meet 4 of our favorite farmers.
  5. Encourage Sustainable Agriculture: Many small farms that are selling to farmers' markets are working hard to keep the environment healthy by reducing their use of pesticides, protecting water and soils and planting a diversity of crops.
  6. Eat by Season: Sure, I'll eat strawberries flown in from Chile in February but they taste nothing like the sweet organic berries that are ripe here in Vermont in early summer. By eating in season, you reduce the amount of carbon expended on both storing and trucking your food from another climate.
  7. Change Our Food System: Farmers' markets are growing, but so are other ways you can eat well by season and change the food system. Try buying a "share" in a farm through a CSA (community supported agriculture). Join a community garden or simply pick your own this summer. It's healthier for you and for our planet.