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Aug 28

Healthy foods for the body… keepin’ it simple!

Welcome and thanks for being here. healthy foods

We only get one body in this lifetime, so it behooves us to take good care of it.  When you stop and think about it, the body is truly amazing.  It does so many things all on its own without us even giving it a thought.  If we fuel it properly, it will continue to function as designed.  It’s only when we feed it the wrong things or abuse it in so many other ways that it causes problems for us.  This article will give you ideas of healthy foods for the body to function optimally and last for years.

usda organic sealOrganic

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) now has national standards for the use of the word “organic.”  Consumers buying organic products, whether produced in the United States or imported, can be assured that the foods are produced without antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, irradiation or bioengineering. Organic farmers are required to adhere to certain soil and water conservation methods and to rules about the humane treatment of animals.

There’s quite a bit of debate between scientists about the benefits of organic food over conventionally grown food.  The conventional growers argue that their food is just as nutritious and that organic food contains pesticides even though they aren’t grown using pesticides.  While it’s true that virtually all fruits and vegetables have some residual pesticide, the amounts are considerably higher for conventional food.

Recently, researchers in both the United States and Europe reviewed over 340 studies on the topic of nutrition, and they concluded that organic crops and organic-crop-based foods contained higher concentrations of antioxidants on average than conventionally grown foods. Why might this be important?

Antioxidants are substances that are capable of counteracting the damaging, but normal, effects of the physiological process of oxidation in animal tissue. Antioxidants are nutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as enzymes (proteins in your body that assist in chemical reactions). They are believed to play a role in preventing the development of such chronic diseases as cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, and cataracts.

In addition, the researchers found that conventional foods contained greater concentrations of the toxic metal cadmium.  Cadmium and cadmium compounds are listed as carcinogens because they are known to cause cancer. Long-term exposure to high levels of cadmium can cause lung cancer. There also may be an association between exposure to cadmium and cancer of the prostate, kidney, and bladder.

For a shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce, click here to take you to the Environmental Working Group’s page where they rank 48 fruits and vegetables based on the amount of pesticides found on them.  If you can only buy some organic produce, it’s best to buy those at the top of the list (highest in pesticides).

Just one more thing.  Eating any fruits and vegetables is better than eating none, so if you can’t buy organic don’t let that stop you from eating your veggies.  Do as thorough a job as you can in washing the produce, or remove the peeling.  You will vastly reduce the amount of pesticides and then you can enjoy them.

farmers marketFresh

Have you ever noticed that most of the fruit in the grocery store is hard as a rock?  And that the bananas are green?  It’s because the fruit is picked way before it’s ripe so it doesn’t go bad during its long journey to the store.  By the time it arrives on the shelf, it’s been traveling for days, if not weeks.  It’s not exactly fresh.

As an example, I just watched a video on the Dole website that explains how their bananas and pineapples journey from farm to store.  They make a point to stress the freshness and deliciousness of their produce.  The fruit starts with a brief ocean voyage, then it goes by trucks or rail to the shipyard, then by state of the art container ships, and then finally by truck to the final destination.  The whole time the fruit is carefully monitored and temperature controlled.  What???

This is fresh?  That whole process has to take at least 2 weeks, maybe more.  Obviously the fruit can’t be picked when it’s ripe or it would spoil way before it ever gets to the store, so it’s picked before it’s ripe.  After transport it’s gassed to make it “ripen”, or it’s highly processed in factories using preservatives, irradiation, and other means to keep it stable for transport and sale. Scientists are experimenting with genetic modification to produce longer-lasting, less perishable produce.

OK, so most of the produce in the grocery store isn’t exactly fresh, it’s still better than not eating fruit and vegetables.  But there are some things you can do to improve your chances of it being fresh.

The best option would be to buy your produce at a local farmer’s market.  Not only has most of the produce been picked within days, but most, if not all, of the farmers grow their produce organically.  So you get the best of all worlds… freshness, taste, organic, and you’re helping small farmers maintain their livelihood.  The only down side is that it is typically more expensive the grocery store.  I’ve found, however, that the food tastes so much better that I eat it more often and tend to use it up before it goes bad.  Some store bought produce is just so bland that I don’t even want to eat it and it ends up going bad.

Your next best option is to buy local produce in the grocery store.  Usually the label on the bin or the fruit itself will tell you where it was grown.  If you have the option, buy the produce that comes from somewhere close to you.  If you have a choice between apples grown in New Zealand or in California, you could choose the ones from California (unless you’re in New Zealand).  Here in Texas, I could buy peaches from Texas or California, so I would choose Texas to get a fresher peach.

Wouldn’t it be nice if fruit had “best by…” dates on them, or better yet, “picked on…” dates?  Unfortunately for us, they don’t want us to know.

processedUnprocessed

How do you know if your food has been processed?  Does it come in a box, can, jar, bottle, or bag?  Can it sit on your shelf or in your refrigerator for months without going bad?  Did you buy it from a drive-through window at a fast food restaurant?

Not all processed food is necessarily bad.  Anything that has been pre-prepped for convenience is technically processed, like bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts.  Some foods are processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness including canned beans, tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna.

The foods you want to avoid are those foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors and preservatives) including jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt and cake mixes.  Ready-to-eat foods such as crackers, granola and deli meat  which are more heavily processed should be avoided.  The most heavily processed foods often are frozen or pre-made meals like frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners.

Very simply, most processed food has nothing in it that is good for you and numerous things in it that are bad for you.

There is very little nutritional value in most processed food.  Through the processing, whether it be by cooking, by chemicals, or other means, the nutrients are destroyed.  As if that’s not bad enough, additional ingredients are added to enhance the taste, such as sugar, salt, and monosodium glutamate.  And then preservatives are added to keep it “fresh”.  By the time it gets to your shelf, it can be a tasty but deadly “food”.

Don’t take my word for it.  Go to your cabinet or pantry and read the labels on the boxes and cans in there.  Or the labels on the food in the freezer.  Is there anything in there that doesn’t have sugar?  What about “natural flavors”?  Or any word that you can’t pronounce?  That’s why we’re getting unhealthier and fatter in general.

pasture raisedPasture Raised/Grass Fed

There are plenty of reasons to only eat meat and eggs from pasture raised animals.  Even before we get to the health benefits, compassion for and the humane treatment of animals is a great reason.

It can be very confusing when shopping for meat.  Some grass-fed producers use the term “free range.” All grass-fed and pasture-raised meat is free range, but free range does not necessarily mean the meat was grass-fed and pasture-raised. Free range means not caged. It doesn’t mean the animal was raised on a steady diet of grass and was getting moved around to fresh, clean pastures. “Grass-fed” and “pasture-raised” are the most important terms to look for.

Shopping for eggs can be even more confusing.  I sometimes feel like a deer in the headlights when I’m standing in front of the shelves of eggs.  Terms like “natural”, “organic”, “free range”, “free roaming”, and more can be found on the cartons.  What?  For a great, simple explanation of the terms, you can find a brief guide here at the Humane Society of the United States website.  Most of the terms are referring more to the animals’ living conditions than to what they have been fed.  Just because the hens are vegetarian fed does not mean that they are not caged.

In general, you want to avoid meat that comes from animals who have been fed growth hormones and corn.  Look for labels that say “non GMO” or organic.

Conclusion

I don’t know about you, but this subject can make my head spin.  Let me summarize the basics:

  • Buy local
  • Buy organic
  • Avoid boxed, bagged, canned, frozen, jarred or from a fast food restaurant
  • Look for pasture raised, grass fed, non GMO

I hope this has been helpful to you.  Please leave a comment below with any ideas, questions, tips or stories of your own.  I’d love to hear from you.

here's to you

 

 

 

 

Here’s to you!

Alice

alice@loveyourhealthcoach.com