Part 1 of 3 on Food Labeling
"Organic Food" What does that label really mean? It sounds like a waste of money. After all, doesn't organic mean "natural, living"? So then all plants would be organic. It seems like just another marketing ploy to convince us to pay more for something that's not really any better for us. Isn't that false advertising? If you're like most people I know, you work hard for your money, and I want to help you spend it wisely. Nobody likes to be mislead or feel that they've been taken advantage of. That's why I'm writing a blog series on food labeling. I want you to understand what the labels mean so you can spend your hard-earned cash to best benefit you and your loved ones.
In order for a farmer to become a USDA Certified Organic grower and use the label (shown below), the business must comply with the following:
"Integration of cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. This means that organic operations must maintain or enhance soil and water quality while also conserving wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife.
Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.
All organic crops and livestock must be raised in a production system that emphasizes protection of natural resources; plant and animal health; preventative management of pests, diseases, and predators; and compliant use of allowed materials. All organic products must be protected from prohibited substances and methods from the field to the point of final sale, whether it is a raw agricultural commodity or a multi-ingredient, processed product."
In a nutshell, organic produce, feed, and animals are
Free of poison used as herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides; antibiotics; hormones; radiation; sewage sludge
Free of most anything "unnatural" or synthetic, including GMOs (genetically modified organisms). This means that anything with a USDA Organic label is also GMO-free; however, a GMO-free label does not necessarily guarantee an organic product (for a later post).
Grown or raised on land that has met these criteria for a minimum of 3 years.
So is organic food really better for you?
According to studies showing the impacts the poisons from conventional farming have on our health, I'd start with a resounding, "YES!" These toxic substances are making people sick; the farmers, especially, are seeing more cases of cancer, infertility, birth defects, and other health issues with their children, directly related to the poisons. Many of these toxins are known endocrine disruptors, wreaking havoc on our hormonal balance, which can cause many health problems, from day to day minor issues like headaches, nose bleeds, and skin rashes, to weight gain, to cancer. Since many of these harmful toxins are stored in our fat cells, they stay with us for a long time, causing us to retain extra fat and overload our detoxing organs. An interesting study published this September by The Obesity Research And Clinical Practice found that "Factors other than diet and physical activity may be contributing to the increase in BMI over time." It is thought that these factors could easily be the toxins and chemicals in our food supply.
But what about the nutritional density of the organic vs. conventional food? While there are studies to support both opinions, I best understand the explanation of the plant's immune system. When a plant has to be strong enough to defend itself against pests and fungi instead of relying on an outside source to protect it, that plant has more antioxidants and has been tested to have higher levels of vitamins and minerals as well. All of those substances are phytonutrients (a substance found in certain plants which is believed to be beneficial to human health and help prevent various diseases) that we consume.
So you decide for yourself. Is eating organic healthier for you? Is it worth the price-tag? If you want my opinion, I absolutely believe so, but if you feel that you can't yet afford to go 100% organic, consider this resource. The Environmental Working Group has put together the leading shopping guide for contaminated produce. Follow these guidelines to avoid the nastiest pesticides and toxins while saving money buying non-organic cleaner foods! Go here for more resources and information.
Sweet Bell Peppers
Snap Peas (Imported)
Potatoes + 2 (Hot Peppers and Kale/Collard Greens)
Frozen Sweet Peas
While these lists give you some options, going 100% organic is the best choice for your health and the environment, both short-term and long-term. Some guidelines suggest that removing the peel from the produce will eliminate the toxins; however, that is not the case. Keep in mind that the poison starts in the seed of the GMO plant and in the soil of conventional produce, so the toxins are growing in and on the plant, 100% part of the plant, from core to peel. While the government would have us believe that the quantity of toxins we consume is safe, we are all unique and impacted differently, so there's no 100% accurate way to measure their safety for all of us or their impact on us over time. Would you put a drop of poison in your baby's bottle? Of course not, so why would you eat it? It's sad that so many people are trying to eat healthier, yet, the very plants and herbs that can provide healing can in fact cause harm, as they are ushering in toxins with every bite. You know that water is good for you, but would you drink dirty water? That dirty water won't have the same cleansing affect on the body if it is hosting other contaminants that are harmful to the body. Don't undo the good you're doing.
So in the end, does it really cost more to eat organic if you're reducing medical expenses and improving your vitality? What do you do now for energy? Most of us have costly habits to keep us going (coffee and energy drinks). Think about it.
Choose wisely. You only get one body.
Go here for Part 2 on Food Labeling.
To your health,