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Healthy Eating Part II

Posted Feb 10 2011 3:00am

Happy Thirsty Thursday!!

The other day when my mom was here she complained that I had no drinks for guests. Only water. What she said was “no soda or anything, even for guests?” My reply was that if I am not willing to drink that poison, why would I give it to family and friends? Her and my brother are coming back to help finish hooking up my computer, and start cleaning today. So I was at Whole Foods and decided I would get some “drinks for my guests.” I found these Honest Teas that looked really good. I tried the above flavor and it was amazing! It’s caffeine-free, don’t worry ;-)

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Today I want to address something that is very familiar to most healthy living bloggers out there. The organic, local, GMO debate. Earlier in my “blogging career” I would write about this often. Back then I didn’t even know about the blogging community, never read blogs, and did nothing to bring readers (aside from clients and friends) to my site. I knew nothing about the whole “blogging thing.” I wrote mostly based on “eye rolling” conversations I had with clients, family or friends. Meaning, I would explain why something is important to eat, or why buy organic, or something about nutrition and I would get the “eye roll.” Which can be very frustrating, as you can only imagine. I like to have data and science to back up my antics. So I started my blog as a place to reference things, and show the eye rollers what’s up ;-)

If you did not read Healthy Eating Part 1 I suggest you go back and do so now. I will again repeat that this series is not about me dictating what is healthy for you. It’s mostly to educate you and give you something to think about, along with some guidance while you are figuring out your healthy path. Hopefully this installment will give you a deeper insight on why it’s important to purchase certain products over others. Or give YOU a place to reference when you are having a “eye rolling” conversation with a friend or family member, and want to have something to back you up.

Here it goes….

Healthy Eating Part II Organic, Local and Genetically Modified Food

Michael Pollan says that the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world. Unfortunately, many people out there have a diet that is far from natural. Anyone that saw the movie Food Inc. or read any of Michael Pollans books know how big of an impact the corn refiners association has on our food supply. Along with how important it is to buy local, only eat grass fed beef, organic chicken. More awareness has come about since Food Inc. aired, and more people are checking labels for High Fructose Corn Syrup in their products, buying organic dairy and meat and supporting their local farmers. I know many people that got very upset after seeing the movie, changing their habits. Then, a few months down the road “forgetting” why they were doing it and slowly going back to their old ways. Why does this happen? I don’t have the answer, but hopefully this post can remind everyone as to why it’s important to make certain choices when shopping for food.

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Pesticides: Be Afraid?

We want to eat our daily fruits and vegetables. But there are all these issues with toxins in our food! I have to say that organic is not always the most sustainable, or the cheapest. Local is not always the cleanest. So what do you do?

Most of us heard of pesticides. Most of us try to avoid them. Unfortunately, I know more people that turn a blind eye to conventional produce and meats than not. I just heard about a study in pregnant women how they found 247 toxins in the placenta due to environmental toxins (such as pesticides) so don’t try and tell me that they are safe. MANY of which were harmful to the babies brain development! I want to break it down again for those that just don’t care that they are buying supermarket conventional everything week after week:

A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest. Pesticides are detected in 7 of every 10 conventional fruit and vegetable samples tested. In the US, the EPA regulates pesticides in our food supply. Even though the EPA raises high standards of safety as far as the use of pesticides go, there are loopholes and flaws in the legal system. An analysis by NRDC revealed that the majority of pesticide products are approved for use as a ‘conditional registration’ before all required studies are completed. Read more about what’s wrong with pesticide regulation in America .

Health Risks:

Consuming pesticides regularly has been linked to cancer, endocrine problems, birth defects, nerve problems, obesity, depression and other diseases.

Buying organic is not always practical for most families, it’s expensive. I truly believe that we all need to start “voting” when we shop to show companies that we want more organic products. Increasing the demand and lowering the price. However, there are things that are known to be much lower in pesticides when tested, while other products are much higher. I will “remind you all” of The Dirty Dozen in a minute. You can also check out the EWG shoppers guide to reducing pesticide exposure.

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Organic: When to Buy & Why

Like I said in the last series,  buying local AND organic is ideal. Being a girl that lives in a seasonal climate, I do not have access to most produce year round. I am definitely guilty of buying things out of season (for my local climate) to make my favorite dish. I try my best to eat mostly seasonal produce, but it’s not always practical for my family (cough, picky husband). I’d rather eat produce out of season, than processed, unhealthy foods. I do have standards for how I buy though.

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Produce:

The Dirty Dozen I have written an entire post dedicated to the DD before, but I will re-list it again for you all here with some extra info.

These conventional fruits and vegetables had the highest amount of pesticides present when tested. I ALWAYS buy organic with any of these:

Grapes
Apples Peaches
Nectarines
Celery
Strawberries
Bell Peppers
Cherries
Kale
Lettuce Pears
Carrots
Most of these tested 80-98% positive for pesticides. Except for Kale which tested 53% positive.

The CLEAN 15 I am more lax about buying conventional with these. These are the money savers:

Onion

Avocado

Sweet Corn

Pineapple

Mango

Asparagus

Sweet Pea

Kiwi

Cabbage

Eggplant

Papaya

Watermelon

Broccoli

Tomato

Sweet Potato

Onion, Avocado, Sweet Corn, Pineapple, Asparagus and Mango all tested less than 10% positive for pesticides. Sweet peas had about 23%, Cabbage 18%, Eggplant 24%, Watermelon 28% (9% multiple pesticides), Broccoli  35%,  and Tomatoes were the highest at 47% (14% multiple pesticides).

Check out my post on how to spot organic vs. conventional produce in the supermarket.

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Meat, Dairy & Eggs: I no longer eat meat or chicken or mostly anything that had a  mother (aside from some fish) and am about 90% dairy free. However, MOST of the people, if not ALL of the people in my life DO eat these things. The majority of the ones I know that do not are other healthy living bloggers.

This to me is one of the MOST important areas to follow the organic standards.

Seventy-five years ago, it took a cow 4 or 5 years to reach a weight of 1,200 pounds. Today, cattle can be slaughtered at just 14-16 months of age, thanks to massive amounts of corn, protein supplements, antibiotics, and growth hormones.

The beef industry profits GREATLY on fattening cows up with corn and pumping them with hormones. They can produce cheaper meat for consumers. And we are buying it. At least MANY of the people I know still are…even against my advising them to CYPN  (can you please not). Beef recalls in America were coming out more often than they should have been. I just heard about another one last week. If you saw Food inc. they covered this issue in detail. It was quite disturbing as to WHY there were so many recalls. How the industry is making our food. Factory farms are no good people.

He’s too cute to eat for me, but I would rather see those I know support farmers who raise their cattle humanely

Why Grass-Fed?

Cows are not meant to digest corn. Their stomachs are naturally pH neutral, and a corn-based diet creates an acidic environment. This creates a number of health problems within the cow. They will experience bloating, diarrhea, weakened immune system, liver disease, and ulcers. The farmers feed these cows tons of antibiotics to treat these health problems, which then leads to antibiotic resistant bacteria which makes this medicine increasingly ineffective.

This acidic environment contributes to the growth of e-coli. E-Coli thrives in an acidic environment.  Michael Pollan goes into this in his book, An Omnivores Dilemma as well as in the movie Food Inc. where they actually showed you that the lethal strain of E. coli known as 0157:H7 is believed to have evolved in the gut of corn-fed cattle.The acidic environment in the cows intestinal tract (from eating an unnatural diet of corn) created an acid-resistant strain of the pathogen. this is able to survive the acidic conditions of a human stomach, and is also known to be fatal! Switching cows to a grass-fed diet would eliminate over 80% of the E. coli in a cows digestive tract.

The most disturbing story was the one where the little boy ate a hamburger that was contaminated by E coli strain 0157:H7, which ended up being fatal. It was not recalled until 10 days after the boy had died. One hamburger can have hundreds of cattle. It only takes one contaminated cow to make you sick. Are you willing to take that risk with your family? The recall happened 1o days after the boy died! this is something to think long and hard about wen you are opting to buy cheap meat.

Chicken, It’s what’s for dinner?

There is a huge issue with pumping chickens up with hormones so they grow faster. These chickens are stacked up in dark houses, on top of one another, never seeing the light of day. Most of them can’t even stand up because the are too big for their bodies from all the hormones. They never see the light of day, and are also pumped with antibiotics because of all the health issues they endure from their environment. Antibiotic resistance is a major issue. It’s all to make more money. And it’s truly disgusting.

Don’t even get me started on pork. My best advice is to not eat it. If you do, go for the organic.  Luckily, my husband doesn’t eat it. If your family does, do some research. Find the most humane raised pork possible and invest in it.

Eggs

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When it comes to organic, free-range, and so on; you want to think about how the hen was raised, what they are eating, how they live. If you want to get your nutrients from an egg, you need to think about where the hen is getting it’s nutrients from! The last big egg recall here in the US was scary for consumers. However, the ONLY eggs that were safe to eat were the organic eggs. Something to think about. Read my previous post about the 5 grades of eggs !

Dairy

I am not big on the dairy industry. Especially after reading The Food Revolution by John Robbins. The China Study gave me a lot to think about in lieu of health. However, The Food Revolution uncovered so much more, including how veal is a major by-product of the dairy industry. I never though about the fact that we have to keep cows pregnant year round to support our milk and cheese consumption. Baby cows being stripped from their mothers (to be placed in cages not allowed to stand up) and fed formula on their way to an early slaughter did it for me. But this post isn’t about being dairy-free. I am on my way to it. Can’t honestly say I am 100%. But I try not to support them too much. I know many people who want to turn a blind eye to the practices of the dairy industry, and how they pretty much have major control on our government (hence all the ads on “milk does a body good”).Which is what bothers me the most, the lies and confusion that everyone has about how healthy dairy is for you.

We are not meant to consume dairy. My daughter will NEVER drink cows milk.

However, as far as overall dairy consumption goes for most people, everything in moderation is OK. Like I said, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t let a  little cheese slip in every now and then. I am not perfect with it, but I have come a LONG way since dairy was a major staple in my diet in earlier years. The problem with dairy is, we  over consume it. For those out there that simply do not want to give up dairy, or eat it regularly.

Organic is better than not. It still has it’s issues, and I think now that organic is becoming more popular, the issues may become more prevalent in commercially produced organic dairy (since they may have to keep those cows pregnant year round, giving them the same issues with udder infections and blood and pus). Health-wise though, they won’t contain hormones. If you must drink milk, find a local dairy farm that doesn’t keep cows pregnant 24/7.

I can give reasons why not to eat eggs, meat, chicken and dairy ( 6 to be exact ). But this is not what my post is about. It’s about educating people that DO eat these things. I know, from experience, that many people are not willing to give it up. No matter what you tell them. They would rather not think about it. So, the best thing to do is press the importance of supporting farmers that raise their meat, chicken and dairy in a humane way. It’s healthier for the environment, and the consumer!

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What about the question of imported organic products…..

and Wal-Mart (who are so bad for the world, I’ll go there another day though) now going organic? To save this post from being a novel I will link out a great article in the New York Times by Michael Pollan on this subject. He also touches on Atrazine, an herbicide commonly applied to cornfields in America (banned in Europe for being a suspected carcinogen) that show up in our water and food. Read it.

What about processed organic food?


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I think in lieu of consumers suddenly wanting more “organic” products, companies have started to cash in on slapping the “organic” or “all natural” label on everything from chips, crackers, cereal, and I even hear that they were trying to sell “organic bottled water” in Australia! Just because the label says organic, doesn’t mean you should buy it and eat it blind. You need to read your labels with ANY processed, man made food. The only thing I can say in defense of these products are they are less likely to have GMO’s like high fructose corn syrup in them. They also often times have a shorter ingredient list, but NOT always. They also can be 2x the cost of a product that is not labeled “organic”. So when you are trying to budget, be aware of this. You can compare products. I tend to buy the processed foods that have the organic label, because I find them to have healthier grains, and a short ingredient list. However, I have seen MANY processed snacks and foods with that label that are LOADED with sugar, calories, and things that are not so healthy for you! Organic doesn’t always equate healthy!

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Local: What’s the Deal?

Ideally, buying local is best. I am not sure how it works in other countries, but here in the US there are very stringent standards for getting that USDA Organic labeling. Stringent and expensive. Most small farmers just can’t afford it. However, many farmers still feel very strong about growing their crops organically, even if they do not have the label. My cousin, Joey is a professional gardener, and every family gathering Michael sits in the corner and sighs as Joey and I go back and forth about Monsanto , organic produce, GMO’s, pesticides, you name it for hours. It’s always a good conversation and I love picking his brain. One of these days I will have him get me started on growing my own food. I have tried, but my thumb is closer to brown than it is green. My great grandfather (who is still alive thank you) has been growing his own food his whole life. It’s always great having him get in the conversation and tell us all the tricks that help you avoid EVER using a chemical in your garden. I wish I remembered them all. I will have to get back to you in another post when I refresh my memory :-)

My best advice is to buy local, in season produce often, but know who you are buying from (investigate how they raise their crops). In California, or Florida, Arizona, it’s much easier to eat local and organic year round. In the winter here, the local produce is sort of  scarce. The farmers markets I have gone to still carry a lot of conventional produce that gets shipped in from all over the country. I guess they are trying to keep their profits up off season. This always confuses me, and I feel a sort of lack of trust if I ask them how they are growing their food,if they don’t feel strongly enough about not shipping it in from other countries. On the other hand, I am sure they are just trying to stay in business. I am also very shy, and in the peak season, when they are swamped,  I feel funny pulling the farmer aside to grill them on how they grow their food. I plan on making more of an effort this Spring/Summer to find which local farms  follow the chemical free standard that my great grandfather followed when he was growing tomatoes and other produce at his small farm.

(taken at a local farm in my area last Spring)

The “local” rule is MUCH easier to follow when it comes to meats. There is a farm a few miles from here that raises cows for food. I always get sad knowing what is going to happen to them in the end. But it’s really nice to see a bunch of cows spread out in a field, eating grass, moseying along. Not stacked up in a factory farm being fed antibiotics and corn. My husband is a meat eater, and I will only buy meats that are coming from local farms like this or have the USDA Grass-Fed stamp on them.

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Genetically Modified Organisms

I hate frankenfoods. Almost 98% of packaged foods have genetically modified corn such as high fructose corn syrup in them. This may have cut down in the past couple years (since consumers became more aware of it), but it’s still a major issue. Companies are now genetically modifying not only processed foods, but also fish, produce, and meat. Yet another reason why you need to be an educated consumer. Also, why buying organic is important. Certified organic products do not contain GMO’s

Cultivated Genetically Modified Foods – From bacteria (E. coli) and fungus, fruits and vegetables to animals, genetic manipulation is becoming more and more common in our society. In the US market now, 60 to 70% of the processed foods are genetically modified. In 2006, United States GMO crops reached just shy of 135 million acres, with the total global area exceeding 250 million acres!

This is a short list of the genetically modified food crops that are grown in the US today:

Read more about GMO’s and how they effect us here !

I will have to dedicate another post to this topic alone. Not enough time today!

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8+ hours later…Tell me to shut up already! I covered as much as I could in one post on this subject. I could keep going, and I am sure there are plenty of points that I wanted to make and missed. However, no one has that long of an attention span so hopefully you took the time to read this (as long as it is), and got something out of it. Or you know someone that can! I am now cross-eyed, and my toosh is asleep so I am going to hope I covered everything. And hope that I edited it all correctly. If there are some grammar errors, I apologize ;-)

More Stuff to Read on Healthy Living:

Erin over at The Healthy Apron is doing an awesome series on “Is It Healthy?” She covered yogurt , fruit smoothies , and pretzels . Check it out!

Chantal from Eat Dance Live wrote a great post on birth control a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed it, and it’s something that all women should read!

I got SUCH a great response on my last Healthy Eating Post. I hope to hear all of your brilliant comments again!

xxoo

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