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what foods SHOULD you buy organic?

26 Oct

I read an article a few months ago in TIME magazine about organic vs. conventional foods and which organic foods are worth buying. This is something that crosses my mind every time I go to the grocery store, and it is probably something that you should be thinking about as well. Now there are the people who say that organic is ALWAYS better, and worth the extra bucks…but I disagree (and so do many others). But the important thing to realize is that there are some foods that you really should buy organic, if you can afford it of course! Luckily, the list of organic foods that are better for you and better tasting is not very big.

Let’s talk eggs, dairy and meat products first.

EGGS. With the recent MASSIVE nationwide egg recall, people suddenly became more aware of the consequences of factory raised chickens. You really can’t expect for animals living in extremely cramped conditions to not get sick and spread the sickness along to their neighbors. By purchasing free range, organic eggs, the risks associated with the cramped living conditions of factory raised animals is greatly reduced. But it is important to note here, the difference between organic and FREE RANGE eggs. When you buy organic “free range” eggs at the grocery store, often times this just means that the hens have access to the outdoors. They are still living in cramped conditions, but definitely a little more humane than their “conventional” sisters. On the other hand, if you go to your local farmers market and buy free range eggs (even if they don’t say they are organic) you can pretty much guarantee that these hens are actually running around in the grass, eating bugs all day. My mother has chickens who are not fed organic feed, but they do roam freely in the grass and spend their days pecking at the wonders of natures bounty. If you were to crack open and compare my mom’s free range but NOT organic chicken eggs to free range organic eggs you bought from the store, you would notice that my mom’s chickens lay eggs with much darker, deeper orange yolks (than the free range organic eggs from the grocery store). But that said, if you did the same comparison between organic and conventional grocery store eggs you would see the same thing, darker yolks in the organic version. So to make a long story short, buy free range eggs from the farmer’s market if you can and if you can’t then go for their grocery store counterparts. They just taste better.

MILK. You don’t want to be consuming the hormones and chemicals that conventionally raised cows are given to keep them from getting sick (again due to the literally “crappy” conditions that they live in). Buy organic. It is a little more expensive, but worth it. Think about it, neither women or men should be consuming extra hormones with their granola!

BEEF/MEAT. ” Grass-fed cattle have a higher ratio of omega-3 acids, which may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. There may also be a lower risk of E. coli transmission thanks to reduced crowding.” (Time magazine)Your best bet will be going to the local farmers market or a butcher shop that sells local meat. Otherwise opt for grass-fed organic from the grocery store. In my experience, there is usually organic meat on sale a few days before the store must take it off their shelves. If you happen to be at the store on a day when there is a bunch of meat on sale, buy it and put it in the freezer when you get home…bingity bang! You just saved some money and have a freezer full of organic meat 🙂

Now fruits and veggies…

As a rule of thumb, the fruits and veggies that have a tough skin, especially ones that you peel off before consumption, are fine to buy conventional. The big concern in buying conventional is the use of harmful pesticides, but with a fruit/veggie that has a tough skin, like a banana or avocado, you don’t have to worry too much about the pesticides soaking into the fruit. Check out this list of top offenders from Consumer Reports.

Cranberries Green beans
Nectarines Sweet bell peppers
Peaches Celery
Strawberries Cucumbers
Pears Potatoes
Apples Tomatoes
Cherries Peas
Cantaloupe Lettuce

So keep this in mind next time you go grocery shopping. And if this is something that interests you, I suggest you check out any of Michael Pollan’s book’s… Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual is short and sweet and sums up Pollan’s ideas on eating healthy and sustainably. For something a little more substantial (but so fun to read) check out In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto or for something really in-depth The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.


My New Life, Round Dos!

1 Sep

So here I am at the start of my “new life” and I find myself wanting to share my journey with you all.. and you may wonder what I mean when I say my new life, well read on!

I went through a mini life crisis during my sophomore year of college. At the time I was taking a basic Biology/Science course, which the instructor lovingly nicknamed “Awaken 101.” This course introduced me to environmentalism and the idea of holistic living, including the dangers of our food system.  In an effort to take action, I vowed to cut high fructose corn syrup out of my life, which essentially meant no more processed and packaged foods for me.

I was also incredibly unhappy with my studies and decided to take a “leave of absence.” Flash forward a few months. I was visiting my favorite aunt in the San Francisco Bay Area and came across a Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts School. The programs at the school are based on eating whole, local, seasonal and organic foods to replenish your body, mind and soul. I was so excited about the program and enrolled right away. Within a few weeks I was accepted to begin their Nutrition Educator program. I packed my bags and moved to Berkeley, California where the school was located. Over the next few months I learned so much about food and how it influences every aspect of ones health. Suddenly all of my little aches and pains and daily bothers (you know headaches, stomachaches, moodiness, menstrual issues etc) were gone!

I left California in the spring of 2009 and moved back to Pennsylvania. After debating what to do in terms of finishing my Bachelors Degree, I decided to head back to Penn State and give their nutrition program a try. It wasn’t for me so I switched my major (yet again) to Sociology. I was happy with this switch and enjoyed my studies, but had lost myself in the college-lifestyle –too much partying, pulling all-nighters and everything else that one associates with typical college behavior and my health was paying the price. I was not eating healthy, whole foods all the time nor was I doing any exercise.  I was splurging one too many times on chicken-fingers and fries, pizza and all the other wonderfully bad for you foods that we all enjoy so much.

Now I am at the start of my senior year (yippie!) and am carrying what I had previously called my “freshman 10” pounds, yet again. And the little aches and pains and daily bothers are back lurking in my daily life. I asked myself how I let this happen, why I let myself forget about the wonders of food and how good it can actually make you feel! Well the question can be pondered no longer. Action must be taken. I invite you to follow me on my journey back to optimal health! I will be posting tips along the way and encourage you to ask questions about eating well and how you can combat the college lifestyle with me!