One of summer’s greatest pleasures is a trip to the local farmers’ market. Strolling among the stalls laden with colorful, crispy, crunchy fruits and vegetables is a feast for the senses. Yes, your local farmer’s market is overflowing with summer’s bounty. But did you know that a trip to the farmers’ market can benefit your hearing?
Summer produce picked ripe and sold at its peak offers an unparalleled dose of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that promote good hearing health. Because locally grown produce doesn’t have to be shipped across the country, it doesn’t lose valuable nutrients in transit; it is often sold within 24 hours of being picked. Farmers’ markets offer another benefit as well: they give you a chance to shop in an environment free of the background noise, reverberation and canned music common to supermarkets and warehouse stores. For those with hearing loss, face to face conversations with vendors in a pleasant environment can turn food shopping from an unpleasant, stressful task into an enjoyable experience.
Once you arrive at the farmers’ market, you might be overwhelmed by all of your options. Don’t worry - we have put together a shopping list to steer you toward the produce that offers the most benefit to your hearing health.
Spinach: For a great start to healthier hearing, grab a bunch of this leafy green vegetable. But this isn’t the canned spinach of your youth; fresh spinach is high in potassium, one of the most important nutrients when it comes to healthy hearing. Lack of potassium has been linked to poor hearing and is thought to be a contributor to presbycusis, or age related hearing loss. Other potassium-rich foods you might find at the farmers’ market include potatoes, tomatoes and melons.
Broccoli: As you peruse the offerings at the farmers’ market, look for the broccoli next. Broccoli is chock full of folate which is vital to maintaining healthy blood flow to the inner ear. Not a fan of broccoli? You can still get a healthy dose of folate if you choose the asparagus, fennel, squash or collard greens.
Red bell peppers: Sweet and crunchy, red bell peppers can be enjoyed raw for snacking, as part of a veggie tray or tossed into a stir fry for color. They offer a healthy dose of vitamins A and C, which the body needs to fight free radicals that can contribute to hearing loss.
Artichokes: If you are lucky enough to live in an area that produces artichokes, look for them at your farmer’s market. Artichokes are high in magnesium, which can reduce the effects of tinnitus, prevent hearing loss and reduce sensitivity to noise.
Sweet potatoes: The potassium and alpha lipoic acid contained in sweet potatoes promote the health of the mitochondria in the inner ear, support nerve system function and fight free radicals that damage all aspects of health, including hearing.
Fresh herbs: Forget about the plastic boxes of herbs sold at the supermarket. Instead, take advantage of the summer months to grab bundles of fresh herbs like basil, cilantro or flat leaf parsley grown locally. Fresh herbs added to your dish not only pack a flavor punch, they are a great source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that is thought to be helpful in preventing damage to hair cells in the cochlea.
Strawberries: As you make your rounds, grab a couple of pints of strawberries. Not only are fresh, in-season strawberries remarkably better than what you find in the supermarket, they are also a great source of vitamin C, which protects the hair cells in the cochlea and reduces the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Strawberries are also high in antioxidant phytonutrients known as phenols, which protect us from disease and promote good health.
Blueberries: Known as a superfood, these beauties live up to this name by providing a boost of antioxidants that is second to none. Antioxidants fight free radicals in the bloodstream which can cause tissue and nerve damage in the inner ear and lead to hearing loss.
Cherries: Take advantage of cherry season while you can, because especially in northern climates, cherries are here and gone before you know it. Packed with potassium as well as vitamins A and C, cherries are a delicious way to get the nutrients your body needs while protecting your hearing health.
Peaches: Iconic symbols of summer, peaches are also an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin C which defends against the free radicals than can have a negative effect on hearing as we age.
Still have room in your reusable market tote? Don’t skip the meats, dairy and eggs. Numerous studies have shown that insufficient levels of B12, the valuable nutrient found in these foods, has been linked to hearing loss. Some larger farmers’ markets feature vendors offering items such as grass-fed beef (even higher in B12) and farm fresh, pastured eggs. But be sure to purchase meat and eat eggs in moderation, as high cholesterol is another contributor to hearing loss.
Even just getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine to shop your local farmers' market will give you a healthy dose of vitamin D, which has anti-inflammatory properties and strengthens the bones in the inner ear. For good hearing now and in the future, a healthy diet is a great place to start.
If you've noticed any changes in your hearing, visit a hearing healthcare provider like one of the consumer-reviewed centers here to get help sooner rather than later.
Contributed by Lisa Packer, staff writer, Healthy Hearing