DEAR DR. BLONZ: I keep reading about "buying locally." I can see the good in that it would involve fewer resources, but it seems that if you buy all your food from your area, you wind up with the nutrients only from that area, and might miss others. I am curious about the possible benefits of getting food that is grown all over the world. -- B.K.
DEAR B.K.: "Seasonality," where we are limited to foods available during periods in which they are harvested, is less of an issue in today's fully stocked supermarkets. Much depends on where you live; there is less impact in a state like California, where vast agricultural resources and temperature-controlled transportation methods keep fresh produce available throughout the year. But even with bountiful harvests, there will be periods during which specific foods may not be available. (One of my favorites is dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes, which are around only a few months of the year. To my palate, no other tomatoes come close.)
Store shelves remain full as grocers purchase fresh foods grown worldwide and organically grown produce available from the Southern Hemisphere when it's winter in the north. We should support local agriculture by buying locally and patronizing farmers markets when possible. Quality can vary, as some regions do a better job with specific foods than others; this is often based on cultural traditions perfected over generations. As for potential health benefits, nutrients reflect more the quality and variety of what you eat rather than where it was grown.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: After I get my dietetics degree, I am considering graduate school, with the goal of working for a food company to develop nutritious foods with less processing, ideally by using controlled atmospheres. I want to develop, test and promote various food products, create new recipes and improve existing ones. Would getting a graduate degree in food science or nutrition be more beneficial? I would appreciate your opinion since this is your area of specialty. -- J.D.
DEAR J.D.: A dietetics degree will provide a foundational understanding of how nutrients work in the body. A graduate food science degree would seem logical if you want to work in the food industry. In addition to learning essential information about food production science, you would be more marketable when looking for a job. Consider a school with food science and nutrition departments; some may have these combined. The Institute of Food Technologists may be a good resource. This professional organization is based in Chicago, and it provides information about careers in the food industry (ift.org).
As you compile a list of possible schools, check online for a list of faculty research interests. Academic departments' successes depend on their faculty's strengths, and reviewing their interests is an excellent way to see how a department is oriented. In graduate school, you will take the required coursework, but will be associated with a professor to guide you on projects. You'll be ahead of the game if you find a school with one or more faculty members that either speak to your current interests, or describe an area of research you want to pursue.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.