Making the healthiest choice possible
Recently, one of my clients shared with me her frustration with the organic label.
How can you make the healthiest choice possible with food?
How can you weed the fads from the truth?
Here are my 5 tips for choosing what foods you buy as part of a clean and healthy eating lifestyle.
A few sobering statistics.
The Environmental Working Group, an independent research group, found 287 chemicals in the blood of 10 Americans.
Out of these 287 chemicals, they linked 133 to cancer in animal tests and 151 to birth defects. They found that 153 can alter the hormonal system, 185 are associated with infertility and reproductive problems, 130 affect the immune system, and 157 are toxic to the nervous system.
10 Americans whose exposure to these chemicals came not from the air they breathe, the water they drink, or the food they eat.
The 10 Americans they tested were newborns.
Industrial pollution begins in the womb.
The Environmental Working Group spearheaded the 2004 study in collaboration with Commonweal. Their research showed that these 287 chemicals found in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies included industrial chemicals, pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline and garbage.
Since we’re already exposed to chemicals, does buying organic food really matter?
Yes, it does.
An article from Environmental Health Perspectives cited scientists at the University of Washington tested the urine of children eating a conventional diet and children eating predominantly organic produce to see if there was any difference in the children’s pesticide levels.
Some children on a conventional diet had pesticide byproducts in their urine that showed an intake of pesticides above the negligible risk level recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines.
The children who ate organic food had a median level of pesticide byproducts, only one-sixth that of the children eating conventionally farmed foods!
By order of priority, here’s how I choose the foods I purchase based on most to least clean in terms of toxin load:
1- Organic Local and Seasonal Foods
Ayurveda (the system of alternative medicine I practice) ALWAYS recommends that most of the foods we consume be whole, nutrient-rich, local and seasonal.
That’s because our biological systems are in sync with the biological rhythms of nature.
Our gut bacteria changes along with the seasons, allowing us to digest properly the foods that grow during that season.
There’s a belief in all ancient medicinal traditions that the foods and herbs that grow in our environment are healing to us.
2- Non- Organic Local and Seasonal Foods
If I can’t find organic local and seasonal foods, I’d still choose the foods that are local and seasonal.
I encourage everyone to either belong to a CSA, a Community Supported Agriculture or to go to your local farmer’s market.
The farmers who take part in a CSA or a farmer’s market rarely grow their produce in huge quantities. As a result, they use significantly fewer chemicals and the chemicals they do use are usually the same ones recommended for organic farming.
Finally, I highly encourage people to choose organic meat and dairy foods because of the high levels of hormones and antibiotics in conventionally raised animals. And I recommend choosing wild caught fish and preferably small fish like sardines which are rich in Omega 3s.
3- Non-GMO or Non Genetically Modified Organisms
Let’s be realistic, unless you live in a pristine area, 100% organic foods don’t exist; not because of a failure by the growers, but because of nature. Wind and rain don’t discriminate where they fall. And our air and water are so polluted that these chemicals affect organic crops as well.
However, it’s still important to choose organic, whenever you can!
If I can’t find organic versions of the healthy foods I love, especially certain grains and legumes, then I look for a Non-GMO version.
Today, nearly 88% of all corn planted in the U.S. is genetically modified. This means that many processed products have genetically modified corn in it. Like breakfast cereals, corn flour products such as chips and tortillas, soups and condiments.
Using genetically modified crops hasn’t been around long enough to clearly be linked to serious health issues. That’s why many people are still on the fence about its dangers.
But let’s think about this. Our body has eaten the same foods for hundreds of thousands of years. It knows how to digest these foods. How can we not question its ability to digest and absorb foods that have been genetically modified?? Look at all the people developing a sensitivity to wheat (gluten) that has been super hybridized over the years!
My client Casey has horrible gut issues whenever she eats bread in the US, but when she travels to France, she can eat all the croissants and baguettes she wants and never have one outbreak! The quality of the wheat used matters.
4- EWG’s 2022 Dirty Dozen List
Eating organic foods can still be very expensive. EWG, the Environmental Working Group, has created a list of foods that you should absolutely buy organic. You can get the FREE list here. They even have a free app where you can scan the barcode of produce items and you’ll get its score!
You can buy the foods that are not on the list, non-organic.
When none of these things are available, then I highly recommend that you peel the skins of all your fresh produce. Contrary to popular belief, merely washing produce with soap or other cleansing products is NOT enough.
5- Avoid Non-Organic Whole Grains
Here’s my final tip that surprises most people whenever I point it out!
Buying whole grains is always a good idea because it’s more nutritious. However, you should only buy organic whole grains.
Here’s why. Whole grain means that the outer layer, the bran, is kept on. This multi-layered outer skin of the grain contains important antioxidants, B vitamins and fiber. But it’s also the part that’s covered with pesticides and insecticides in conventional farming.
Eating a slice of non-organic whole grain bread is like eating a mouthful of chemicals.
Do Exercise Your Power of Choice
I understand that sometimes making the best food choices can feel bothersome.
However, I encourage you to exercise your freedom of choice.
We are what we choose to eat.
According to the National Institute of Health, “Healthy eating can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other health conditions.”
Your food choices not only affect you but also your family, your community, and the whole planet.
Join my February live, virtual FREE cooking class to learn how to cook your clean and healthy foods!