Friday, March 8, 2013

You are what you (artificially) eat

We all eat. We like some things better than others, and sometimes we try to change our diet to lose weight, health reasons, our of favor, or just the will to eat better. But last year, there was a story that stated that a study had showed that organic produce and non-organic produce contain the same nutrition information. The instant reaction by some was to call organic products a scam.They laughed that they knew it was all bunk, and that you just pay extra for the same thing. Do you though?

The main problem with calling organic products a scam because of that study is that the purpose of organic produce wasn't because it was more nutritious. When someone says that organic is better for you (and the environment), it's because of other factors. Conventional produce is fed with chemical fertilizers and are sprayed with chemical insecticides and herbicides. Non-organic products may also come from livestock fed artificial growth hormones and antibiotics. Many conventional products will contain plenty of preservatives and artificial sweeteners as well.

Conversely, organic produce is fertilized naturally and use natural methods of controlling insects and damaging weeds. Organic milk will come from cows that aren't fed growth hormones. Also, no artificial sweeteners or loads of preservatives. Granted, the pesticides used on conventionally grown crops is below the recommended levels for consumption, but I still like the idea of limiting my exposure further. Another consideration is that not using chemical pesticides and fertilizers means that there is no worry of pollution from run-off.  In my opinion, the true selling point of organics is freshness, environmental responsibility, and to limit additional exposure to chemical agents. Hell, I think organic produce tastes better as well. This is probably due to the freshness, and would explain what why what I grow in our little garden always tastes so much better than what's at the store. So no, I don't agree that organics are a scam. Rather, I think those making that claim need to learn the actual goal of organic foods actually is before scoffing and downing some chili-mac.

And on that discrepancy of freshness... Just how fresh is the 'fresh produce' at your local grocery store? Apples, look nice don't they? Too bad they are shiny due to a coat of wax. Then there's the fact that these conventionally grown apples may be 6-12 months old! Potatoes? 2-12 months. Carrots? 1-9 months. Luckily there are some items like bananas and lettuce that have a short life no matter what, so they have to be relatively fresh when you get them at the store. But I'll take the organically grown carrots from my garden that will be at most two weeks old before we must discard then, than thirty-six week old carrots. Better yet, when the farmer's market opens up again, the freshest of the fresh will be available, and taste all the better.

A new troubling development comes from the milk industry... The national milk industry is actually lobbying the FDA to change the definition of milk. Yeah, you read that right; change the definition of milk! I hope I'm not the only one that thinks that sounds crazy. What they want to do is define milk in such a way that they can include artificial sweeteners in any milk or milk based products without a need to state as such on the label or even list it in the ingredients. Personally, if you want to put an artificial sweetener in my milk, you better tell me clearly! I do not want milk with aspartame in it! Milk is supposed to be a drink that is good for you, so why put sweeteners very well may not be good for you?

The claimed reason is kids. They say that if they add artificial sweeteners, it will make the milk more appealing to kids. Kids in turn will drink more and then drink regular milk. I disagree. As a former child, I can tell you that if I am drinking this sweet milk, and like it because it is sweet, standard milk just isn't going to cut the mustard. What it will do is build a taste for sweet food items. If they like the sweet milk, they will build a taste for sweet items. Rather than transitioning to a healthy habit of drinking milk-milk, they will travel from sugar high to sugar high. Quite the opposite of the healthy lifestyle influence they are arguing for. In my opinion, it's the make money, plain and simple. Same with an apple product that I've seen sold at my local grocery store. It's an apple sealed in a plastic bag. But it's been soaked with preservative and artificial sweeteners and also artificially flavored. Who's for a super sweet bubblegum flavored apple? Not this guy! But again, they claim that this is also to get kids to eat apples. No! If you make an apple taste like candy, it will give the kids a taste for candy, not apples.

Now, I realize that organic products can be comparatively expensive. That's part of why I have to pick and choose what I buy organic or otherwise. When it comes to produce, we buy organic when we can. We purchase hormone-free milk, and cage-free eggs. If we need to sweeten a drink, it's honey or Stevia for my wife and I. I used to drink soda all the time, but now it's a rarity and I couldn't be happier with that choice. And that's what I think it's all about. Little choices here and there, that add up to happier and healthier life.


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