At some point in the past few years I’ve become very aware of what we eat and what we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Maybe it’s the talk about pollution, or the constant recalls of commercially produced foods and prescriptions, or the possible long term health effects of eating antibiotic laced and hormone injected meat…the list goes on.
Whatever the reason, I’m aware and trying to reduce my exposure. I’ll tell you a huge part of my concern stems from the fact that I work in an industry where chemical exposure is the norm every day with most people making little effort to minimize that exposure.
So, where to start? How about FOOD! There are so many different aspects of food toxicity. I will break it down including the points I find most important for me in a few different posts so check back for the rest.
I remember years ago when eating organic was the new fad. I was still very young and convinced it was a new scheme to lure people into spending more money for a product, be it peppers, cheese, you name it, that didn’t taste a whole lot different than the “regular” version. So what gives?
It’s not just about taste. You’re paying for the conditions in which the food is produced.
There are numerous agencies; you probably recognize the USDA Certified Organic logo on many products, which inspect every company that wishes to label their products as organic.
So, what is Organic?
To produce something organically it must be grown/ produced without antibiotics, hormones, synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, irradiation or genetic engineering. Organic farmers have strict guidelines they must adhere to regarding water conservation, soil management, and the humane treatment of animals.
The are a wide array of benefits from eating organic.
There are added nutritional benefits:
Organic produce can have up to 40% higher levels of some nutrients according to a 2007 study done in the United Kingdom.A review of nearly 100 studies in 2008 by the Organic Center concluded that organic plant-based foods are generally more nutritious than their non-organic counterparts.
You’re also supporting air quality and reducing your negative imprint on the environment. In all likelihood you’re also supporting a small, independently owned or, better yet, a local family owned farm.
The Toxic Stuff:
Pesticides: According to the EPA pesticides may be carcinogens, pose a threat to the nervous system, and/or affect the hormone or endocrine system. On top of the pesticides that are used in our country, some pesticides which have been banned in the USA are still used regularly in other parts of the world. We then import this produce and are still consuming those nasty pesticides. This is yet another reason to buy local.
Antibiotics: We all know the detrimental effects of overusing antibiotics in humans; we hear it all the time- superbugs. Health officials are concerned about a trickle-down effect of handling and eating antibiotic laced animal products as well. A large portion of commercial farmers regularly give livestock doses of antibiotics, whether the animals are sick or not, to prevent diseases from spreading.
Hormones: Animals are regularly pumped full of hormones to speed up growth making the animal grow faster and larger than it would naturally. We then eat their meat, drink their milk, or consume some other form of animal based product. The effects of these growth hormones on humans may cause early onset of puberty, increase cancer risks, and cause hormonal imbalances.
It’s my understanding that the potential risks have not been conclusively linked to the use of pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones in our food supply but there is substantial evidence pointing in that direction, just do some research if you’re skeptical. And what’s even more alarming is that the effects of these substances are magnified in children.
The downside to eating organic is felt in the pocketbook. It’s pricier, especially when it comes to animal products. We’ve greatly reduced the amount of store bought meat we consume and have substituted with wild game which isn’t touched by the harmful hand of humans during their lives (until they’re hunted of course). If you’re familiar with our blog, you know that we also have an ever expanding garden and dreams to one day provide a home for some chickens.
My thought is this- Why expose myself and my family to these potential risks when they can be easily avoided? In time, I’m sure the true, long lasting effect of what we’re doing to our food sources will be fully known. In the mean time, it’s your responsibility to know where your food is coming from, how it’s grown, and what is in it because you are what you eat!
What you can do:
I believe nearly everyone can provide themselves with home grown produce. If all you have room for is a potted tomato plant or two on your patio, do it.
Buy from local farmers markets whenever possible. This produce is organic a lot of the time and again, you’re supporting local farmers.
Get involved with co-ops. A lot of communities offer these, ask around. Pay a monthly fee and get your hands on produce grown by other members.
If you live in an area with small farms, talk to the farmers. This is a great way to get eggs, milk, etc. Some organic live stock farmers offer options to buy whole , half, or quarter animals directly from them. Some even coordinate with butchers. Just make sure you have the space in your freezer. If you go this route, it’s important not to get too hung up on the “certified organic” label. Many small farmers simply cant afford the fees associated with becoming certified but follow many of the same practices. Talk to the farmer, ask for a tour, ask questions. It will be obvious if safe and humane practices are being followed.
I highly recommend this site as a resource. www.localharvest.org . Enter your zip code and see whats available to you! You might be surprised whats in your community.