Food is a fundamental part of who we are and what we are. It is used as a celebration. It is a real common denominator as well as an indulgence and commodity. We are bombarded daily with information on what food is good and bad, and the latest in what will work to take care of all our health problems. One thing is for sure: there are more questions than answers and we are overwhelmed by all the studies and research. It is impossible to interpret just what is right. The topic of food is charged with emotion and controversy and it seems everyone has an opinion. Like it or not, we find ourselves in the midst of a battle for the future of food every time we go to the store. Every dollar spent on food has ecological and social impact. How do we make good food choices for ourselves and where do we begin?
Our foods are laden with many unknowns: pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, chemical additives, and numerous processes stripping our food of its nutritional value. With each glass of milk or piece of meat is an agenda, lobbyist, a Fortune 500 company, a distribution chain, or processing plant. Some say … you need to squint to see the farmer and you need binoculars to find the cow! Our processed food diets are lacking in nutrition. “Enriched” food products are really a misnomer. Foods that have been artificially fortified with vitamins and nutrients are not the same as foods with naturally occurring vitamins and nutrients. There are many nutritionists that agree our bodies cannot do much with nutrients like these. Our bodies simply cannot absorb much of them. They are just pieces of a puzzle and do not include the complex of co-factors that enable them to be utilized.
The question of choosing local or organic food is a common one. Purchasing food that is both local and organic is ideal in that it is good for our health, the health of the environment, and our community. The more we eliminate processed foods from our diets, the more aware we become of our physical and emotional being.
One benefit that is clear when it comes to choosing organic is that the more organic food we eat in place of conventional food, the less toxins and toxic residues we ingest. Researchers have found that even low-level exposure to pesticides can affect the nervous system leading to neurological and behavioral problems. Toxins used in farming accumulate in our soil, water, and bodies. Organically-grown food has fewer pesticides and lower pesticide residues than conventional food. While organically grown foods may not be pesticide free, they will certainly reduce our intake of harmful toxins.
When seeking out organic food, read food labels. Packaged foods are often clearly marked with a certified organic seal. Fruits and vegetables typically contain a product look up (PLU) code to help identify how the food was produced. Organic produce has a 5-digit code that begins with a 9; conventional produce has a 4-digit code that begins with a 3 or 4; and genetically modified produce has a 5-digit code that begins with an 8.
Many individuals are working with limited food budgets and realistically cannot purchase all organic. One way to approach this is to buy seasonally. Produce in season is always a good value. Buy organic for the foods that you eat each day and are the mainstay of your diet. If eggs, bread, and dairy are foods you consume daily, try to purchase organic. Remember to eat in moderation. We do not need huge quantities of food. Your budget will go further simply through choosing quality organic foods in smaller amounts. Quality over quantity. Consider not only the source of your food, but the consequences to your health. For maximum nutrition, we are better off eating as close to the source and relying on Mother Nature. Remember that when something is taken out, something else is added. For example, when fat is removed in yogurt, sugar is usually added to improve flavor.
A little knowledge goes a long way in making food choices. Ultimately life is a series of choices – one at a time. Every choice nourishes some part of us, whether physical or emotional. The goal is to accurately identify the need and then nourish it as best as possible. Fill your kitchen with nourishing foods so that you cannot help but make a healthy choice. There are abundant choices of organic foods at the market, although not all are created equal. Choose those that meet your needs! Only you can assess the importance of choosing organic food for yourself and your family.