I am going to try my best to make this not just another post about eating organic. We’ve all heard the apocalyptic studies about chemicals in our diet and their effect on our health, but sometimes we need a reminder.
A friend recently shared this TED Talk with me by William Li, head of the Angiogenesis Foundation. In it he discusses how most cancers are caused by environmental factors, and that diet consists of a third of those environmental factors.
What does this mean? It means that we have more control over our outcomes than we thought. We can essentially feed or starve disease, like cancer, with our diets.
Very rarely do we think about food, or the chemicals in it, with the exception of perhaps pregnant women who are told to cut back on caffeine and mind their mercury levels in fish. They’re also told to stay away from deli meats and make sure other meat is cooked thoroughly. Why? Because there is danger of bacterial infection – in other words these mass-produced foods aren’t safe.
But how about the rest of us? Surely these things can’t be good if they are considered dangerous for anyone.
What’s scary is the amount of chemicals that lurk in the grocery aisles. Sometimes I walk through the store and feel like I’m in a food desert. I can’t pronounce half of the ingredients on the labels – most of which didn’t exist during our grandparents time. Many times I’m left wondering – what IS that – exactly?
This type of Frankenstein food is more common than you think including “low-fat” or “non-fat” foods, and “enriched” breads, flours and snacks. What “enriched” really means is that the food became so processed they had to add some good stuff back in to make sure it had some sort of nutritional value.
But your body isn’t easily fooled. Just like taking a multi-vitamin, eating enriched foods, or foods artificially infused with extra anti-oxidants, is no replacement for foods that contain these nutrients naturally. Foods where these nutrients naturally occur are more complex, take longer to break down and therefore give your body a longer time to absorb all that good stuff.
It gets even scarier when one considers the petro chemicals used by big agri-business on crops.
I am not trying to terrify you. Goodness knows I am no saint when it comes to eating whole foods. I still enjoy my occasional Tasteykake or fast food. But the point is, I have cut back considerably from before, and you can too.
Start small. Drinks are a great place to begin. Cut back on soda and artificial juice cocktails. Switch to water, milk if you like, and 100% juice. Make tea and lemonade at home – not that sugary mix junk. You’ll save a ton of money this way.
Then try shopping the perimeter of the grocery store. This, in most cases, will put you in produce, meat and dairy sections – places you’re much more likely to find real food that doesn’t come in a box.
If you’re feeling more adventurous try to buy organic, or grass-fed. Or, to save money and support the local economy, buy local. Many local farmers follow organic practices, but are not certified organic because it is too costly to do so. It doesn’t mean their produce is less safe than organic, it just means it hasn’t been certified. When you buy local, you have the opportunity to ask the farmer about their practices, and make an informed decision about the quality of their food. You can’t do that in the grocery store!
Do know in general that those that are certified organic go through very rigorous testing, and as a result are far more safe to consume than your average non-organic, mass produced items.
Try to eat whole foods like full fat dairy in moderation, rather than low-fat varieties. Same with sugar. If you’re trying to mind your calories, a good alternative to sugar is stevia which is a naturally occurring sweetener with no calories. Others like honey or even agave nectar. All are better than refined sugar.
Long story short, we have much greater control on our health and our lives than first realized when it comes to our diets. Choose wisely. As the old saying goes – better to pay the grocer, than the doctor.