Monday, September 13, 2010

Going Organic

I love the idea of eating healthy and staying fit (though I hate to exercise in general. Something about sweating profusely grosses me out) and I thought I had accomplished this. My family eats tons of vegetables and lean protein, whole wheat and low sodium, all the things that make eating a benefit and not a burden. Then I watched Food, Inc., a documentary on the source of American food. I watched chicken living in their own feces, cows ankle deep in muck and manure, pigs slaughtered by the dozens in what looked like a machine you would use to press old, junky cars together to form those tight little boxes of scrap. I was disgusted. The worst for me was watching a mother explain how she fed her 2 year old child a burger from a fast food chain and it ended up killing him 12 days later because it was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The little boy bled internally and his kidneys failed. He was put on dialysis and then died. My son is only a year younger than that boy had been and I have fed him fast food before. The E. coli comes from feeding cows corn instead of grass. Why we feed cows corn is questionable since I assume grass is cheaper... and considering the health benefits to the animal and our diets, why anyone would stray from this logic is beyond me.

You really have to watch the movie. There are a lot of things that would horrify you. I showed Sam (my husband) this movie after I had watched it and he (who loves his bacon burgers from Wendy's) hasn't eaten fast food since. But now we have decided that the best way to eat is organic. It simply means pure from the source. No chemicals, hormones, antibiotics. Nothing homogenized. No chicken or beef pumped with steroids to enlarge and quicken the growing process so it gets to the consumer faster.

[Image from the documentary Food, Inc.]

Food is fast becoming an epidemic rather than a remedy. All of our health problems (obesity, heart disease, thyroidism, diebates, cancer, etc.) can be, but not only, linked to the foods we eat. Ever wonder why so many people these days have diabetes? Eating Twinkies and guzzling soda, piling on Hamburger Helper and fast food. All that fat, grease, carbohydrates and chemicals. No wonder! If we all made an effort to eat organic, then maybe the companies that produce most of the food we eat in America will go back to the way food was meant to be, pure and natural, without our health taking the bullet and without costing us an arm and a leg so that it won't. Maybe America's most prominent health problems would be cured so that my generation and the future generations to come don't have to suffer from such diseases. Lets look at the cost to stay healthy: A conventional whole chicken at the grocery store costs roughly 90 cents per pound. I bought a whole organic chicken for almost twice that amount. To have less in my food I had to pay more for it. Does that seem right to you? Food has become an express science. Everything made quick and cheap with so many additives that its near impossible to find any real ingredient in the product. It's so hard to find anything conventional without some type of altered food byproduct in it. Soy and corn being the most popular. Next time you buy something from the store, read the ingredients label, and I bet you find something in it with one or both of those ingredients listed.

We pay out of our noses to eat organic. In turn we have also been eating less as a result. Am I withering away? No. I am losing the weight I set out to, just by changing a few things in my diet, like eating 100% whole grain stone ground breads without sugar instead of breads that don't say 100% whole wheat on them. I shaved off at least 500-700 calories a week just eating a different bread. Who knew? Something so simple... and I lost 5 lbs. I buy vegetables in organic whenever possible, though they do cost a fortune at time. Frozen is the best way to go, because then you wont waste anything. But in all honesty it is impossible to get everything in organic living where we do and not having farmers markets or growing co-ops around. I have to travel 45 minutes out of my way just to get to a Fresh Market for organic foods there. But the cost of gas is a strain on the wallet as well. Some stores carry some things organic and they aren't too unreasonable. But the selections are limited and you hardly see coupons for those items. I get milk and yogurt with coupons from the distributors like or and that helps a great deal. Try buying organic cereals without a coupon. Though what I pay for a box of multi-grain Cheerios I can pay for a box of organic cereal. So it's all a matter of looking in the right places.

When buying organic I try to consult the dirty dozen or the clean 15 lists. It's a list of organic and non organic fruits and vegetables you should and shouldn't buy. Obviously the dirty dozen list has the ones to buy organic. The clean 15 list has the ones you don't have to buy organic. Here's the list.

[Dirty Dozen: The fruits and vegetables on “The Dirty Dozen” list, when conventionally grown, tested positive for at least 47 different chemicals, with some testing positive for as many as 67. For produce on the “dirty” list, you should definitely go organic — unless you relish the idea of consuming a chemical cocktail.]
  • celery
  • peaches
  • strawberries
  • apples
  • domestic blueberries
  • nectarines
  • sweet bell peppers
  • spinach, kale and collard greens
  • cherries
  • potatoes
  • imported grapes
  • lettuce
[Clean Fifteen: All the produce on “The Clean 15” bore little to no traces of pesticides, and is safe to consume in non-organic form.]
  • onions
  • avocados
  • sweet corn
  • pineapples
  • mango
  • sweet peas
  • asparagus
  • kiwi fruit
  • cabbage
  • eggplant
  • cantaloupe
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • sweet potatoes
  • sweet onions
*[Information acquired from]

[Below: Photo of a Whole Foods grocery store]
I find the list helps tremendously when buying food on a budget. Of course, it still ends up costing a lot of money but we stopped buying pointless things we don't need in order to nourish our bodies, like quitting smoking and drinking. We drink wine now. No beer. No liquor (except the celebratory Patron shot every once in a while). I don't buy meaningless crap for the house that ends up never being used like the dozens of scented candles laying around or the endless surplus of hair care products that I don't use (amazingly, I don't need to either). I say to hell with it all because in the end, all these things wont save my life or make it longer. So we spend the extra money to feed ourselves and our child the absolute best we can. The best way to save money on organic foods is to buy locally from farmers markets, co-ops, and local farmers themselves. If only they existed here!

I just hope that soon restaurants will start using organic food. I still like to eat out once in a while!