There is the old saying “you are what you eat”. I am not in the medical field. I have zero formal education on health and wellness. However, I have a strong passion (and for those of you who personally know me, a large soap box!) for healthy eating and nutrition. Most of my life I have been a picky eater. In my adult years my pickiness has become much worse. Especially as I do my own research and educate myself more on the food practices of our country. Like any controversial subjects there are many opinions on the subject at hand and this is just one. It is my opinion and it is how I personally live my life. Take this post with a grain of salt. Use what you want from my beliefs and lifestyle, or completely disagree with me. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
I started getting super selective about organic produce over ten years ago when the “dirty dozen” list came out (check it out). The EWG (Environmental Working Group) is an organization that is dedicated to research and advocacy around toxic chemicals. They have produced the list the “Dirty Dozen”. The “Dirty Dozen” is a group of foods that are susceptible to have the highest concentration of pesticides found in them (see their article on berries here). Usually the produce found on this list have soft skin which allows the pesticides to be absorbed into the fruit or vegetable. Berries are always top on the list. The one thing that surprised me when I first started learning more about the dirty dozen is that potatoes are on the list. I thought the thick skin of the potato would act as a barrier. I guess I was wrong.
People ask me a lot about buying organic. Unfortunately yes, it is more expensive. But there are ways to save money. We buy all of our berries frozen and when bought in bulk they are cheaper. Costco and warehouse stores are stocking up with more and more organic produce. Another positive of buying frozen is the produce doesn’t go bad. I have strawberries in my smoothie every day so a ten pound bag does not last very long in our house.
But buying in bulk helps save money. I get most of my grains, flour, nuts, etc in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods. More and more stores are starting to carry their own brand of organic canned goods and pasta. Even large supermarkets like Kroger and Meijer. These are items that you can stock the pantry with when there are sales to help save even more. It is significantly cheaper than buying off the shelf. Also if having a 100% organic grocery bill freaks you out, start with the Dirty Dozen. These foods most loaded with pesticides. Also check out the “Clean 15” list found here.
While I do not eat a ton of meat (my diet is about 50%-60% vegetarian) when I do, I am very selective about what I buy. Think about the saying “you are what you eat”. If an animal or bird eats food loaded with pesticides, these toxins will circulate through the animal’s body. This is why fish have such a high concentration of mercury. Large fish eat medium fish that eat small fish. The small fish have a large concentration of mercury in them. So the concentration of mercury increases and increases up the food chain. By the time you eat a fish that has eaten a ton of little fish that are full of the toxins, the fish on your plate is loaded with it.
Like the fish, animals that are fed corn or feed that has been sprayed with pesticides suffer the same side effects. Think about a cow that is fed pesticide laden food. Not only is the meat from the cow contaminated, so is the diary. Even though the milk we drink maybe hormone free, it also can be loaded with toxic chemicals. While we do not consume cow milk I do make sure my yogurt and cheese I buy is organic for this reason.
According to the USDA Organic Livestock requirements (here), animals deemed “organic” must be fed 100 percent certified organic feed. Unfortunately organic meat is more expensive. Warehouse stores are starting to carry more organic meat and if you buy in bulk it tends to be cheaper which you can freeze and use at a later time. Also you can approach your local farmers and buy directly from them which cuts out the middle man and decreases costs as well.
Personally I buy 80% of my food at Whole Foods due to the sheer convenience of it (a half a mile from my house and Detroit does not have many stores in the city itself). But there are several other stores that offer organic at cheaper prices. I LOVE Trader Joe’s and I have several friends that get organic produce at Aldi. There are more and more online stores popping up in which you can order organic products like Thrive Market. Your groceries do not have to be the same price as your mortgage.
Another easy way to make a change in your diet is to read food labels. A great rule of thumb is if you can’t read it or understand it, don’t buy it. I look for real ingredients. I don’t eat too much sugar but when I do I look to make sure the label says “sugar” versus “high fructose corn syrup”, “sorbitol”, “xylitol” and “zylose”. More and more we are heavily processing our food that involves chemicals. I would prefer the food in the most natural state possible. It does take a little more time at the store to review the ingredients. But if you don’t shop in the middle aisles at the store much and buy mostly fresh food you won’t have too hard of a time with it!
People say “everything is going to kill you someday, live your life” and I agree. We are all going to die. Fact. But I choose to take care of the one body that I have and do what is in my control to prevent disease and illness from happening. I truly believe we are what we eat. When I eat clean I personally feel better. And while shopping organic can be expensive there are ways to make it cheaper like buying in bulk or getting items on sale. Or at least starting with the worst of the worst. Again, this is just one yogi’s opinion on how I personally live my life. Thank you for continuing to let me get on my soap box!
If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear from you. My sister is a registered dietetic technician. She can help me answer anything I am not certified to answer. Either leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.