Not all foods are created equal.
Recently, one of my clients shared with me her frustration with the organic label. Can we really say that certain foods are organic? She asked.
I completely understand her frustration and I figured she mustn’t be alone!
So in today’s blog I’m sharing my criteria for choosing the foods I buy as part of my 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, 133 are linked to cancer in animal tests. 151 are linked to birth defects. 153 can alter the hormone 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 did not come from the air they breathe, the water they drink, or the food they eat. Who were they? The 10 Americans they tested were newborns.
Industrial pollution begins in the womb.
In the study spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group in collaboration with Commonweal, researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Tests revealed up to 287 chemicals in the group, including industrial chemicals, pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline and garbage. Due to glaring loopholes in federal law, no one knows whether or not these exposures are safe.
So how do we choose our healthy foods? Is organic our only option? Here’s by order of priority how I choose the food I purchase:
1- Local and Seasonal Foods Organic
Ayurveda ALWAYS recommends that the majority of the foods we consume be whole, nutrient-rich, local and seasonal. That’s because our biological systems are in sync with the biological systems of nature such as the seasons. Our gut bacteria changes along with the seasons, allowing us to digest properly the foods that grow during that season. Furthermore, there’s a belief in all ancient traditions that the foods and herbs that grow in our environment are healing to us.
2- Local and Seasonal Foods Non-Organic
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 go to your green market. Because these farmers don’t grow in huge quantities, they use a whole lot less chemicals and these chemicals are usually the same recommended in organic farming. Growing food is hard work, people near us who choose to do that, do it out of love for nature and for people. I believe in supporting them! I also believe that the future of farming will look like that because of the unsustainability of agro-business.
3- Organic or Non-GMO
Let’s be realistic, unless you live in a pristine area, 100% organic foods don’t exist, not because of a failure on the part of 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!
In articles from Environmental Health Perspectives, scientists at the University of Washington tested urine of children eating a conventional diet and children eating predominantly organic produce. They found that the differences in pesticides levels are detectable in our bodies. Some of the children on a conventional diet had pesticides byproducts in their urine that indicated an intake of pesticides above the negligible risk level recommended by EPA’s guidelines. The children who ate organic foods had a median level of pesticides byproducts only one-sixth that of the children eating conventionally farmed foods. So eating organic DOES make a difference!
If I can’t find organic versions of the healthy foods I love, especially 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. That means that every processed product that says: corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup has GM corn in it. Breakfast cereals, corn flour products such as chips and tortillas, soups and condiments.
By law, organic foods cannot be genetically modified. The use of genetically modified crops hasn’t been around long enough to clearly be linked to serious health issues. That’s why a lot of people are still in the dark about its dangers. But let’s keep it simple. Our body has eaten the same types of 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!
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.
4- EWG’s 2019 Clean 15
Eating organic foods can still be very expensive, so my last choice would be EWG’s 2019 list of clean conventional vegetables. 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!
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.
The Ayurvedic perspective
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the root cause of symptoms, including weight gain, is the build-up of toxins. Please do whatever you can to limit the amount of toxins you ingest to prevent future health issues! Read this article on What is an Ayurvedic Diet for more information.