Since childhood, we have been told to “eat everything on our plate,” or “drink your milk, it does your body good.” Many of us have grown up without ever really giving serious thought to the foods we put in our body. Children are being raised on fast food and microwaved convenience meals. Once the immediate pangs of hunger are relieved, little more is thought about food. Even if we manage to avoid the nutritional traps of ready-made fare, what are we really eating?
Non-organic produce is the norm in groceries stores all across America. Most fruits and vegetables are coming from far-away lands, grown with pesticides to maximize yield, sprayed with chemicals to ripen faster, and waxed to delay spoiling while it makes its 1000+ miles trek to the store. All of these chemicals make their way into our body systems.
“Certified Organic” produce, on the other hand, must be grown without added pesticides, hormones, or growth enhancers. Farms and fields are inspected, soils are tested, and water standards must be met. Additionally, no genetically modified organisms (GMO) are allowed to be certified as organic. Genetically modified organisms are plants or animals whose genes have been manipulated in the lab by scientists to improve their ability to ward off disease, grow faster, or some other desired trait. While that sounds good in theory, nothing is known about the potential consequences and long-term effects of eating such modified organisms.
The soybean crop in the United States, for example, is estimated to be approximately 90% GMO. Soy is touted as a complete protein, low in calories, helpful in reducing cholesterol, or heart attack rates. The media have portrayed soy as a natural health food, but in actuality, it has a high level of toxicity due to the enormous amounts of pesticide used during its growth. Soy has become prolific in American foods and cosmetics, showing up in everything from hamburger patties to medications.
How, then, do we begin to change the way we feed our family? An easy way to start is by eating locally. Summer is upon us, and virtually every town, small or large, will be having fresh roadside produce stands or farmer’s markets. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will be organic in nature, but the farmer or grower will be on hand to ask these important questions. Car rides through the countryside are frequently dotted with little farms, with chickens in the yard, and a sign advertising fresh eggs for sale.
It isn’t too late to start even a small garden. There is nothing like the satisfaction that comes from growing your own food. Even a single tomato plant produces an amazing yield. City dwellers can use containers on a balcony or patio space to raise some easy growing basics, like salad greens or fresh herbs.
It took a long time to develop our unhealthy eating habits, and changing that won’t happen overnight. But with an increased awareness, subtle changes eventually lead to new habits. While organic foods can be more costly, the peace of mind that comes from knowing we are eating unadulterated foods that are free of poisons and chemicals is worth it in the long run.