If you are a health conscious person, you probably are very selective of the types of food you eat, and the stores from which you buy them.
And, if you’re not, then this blog might convince you to start taking a closer look when it comes to the food you’re buying.
Whether you try to be health conscious or not, I invite you to take a moment and ask yourself: do you really know where your food is coming from? Our food landscape today is vastly different than it was just 50 years ago, and in the modern food industry it is very easy for food to come from all sorts of unknown places.
A huge component to conscious health is being conscious not just about what you’re putting in your body, but where it’s coming from. It goes without saying that we want to try our hardest to avoid packaged and processed foods, but today I want to share with you four important tips to keep in mind when grocery shopping so that you can have a better idea of where your food is being sourced from.
Buying Organic Meat: Grass-Fed vs. Factory-Farmed
Not all meat is created equal, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid consuming meat completely. Rather, it means we need to be mindful of where our meat is coming from.
Factory-farm animals are fed unhealthy foods like GMO corn and grains, they’re given antibiotics and hormone injections to make them fatter, and they’re kept inhumanely in a tiny cage with no ability to roam freely outside in their natural habitat like they are supposed to.
When we eat these animals, we are also eating all the toxins that have accumulated in their fat deposits due to their unhealthy diets and stressful lifestyle.
On the other hand, when we eat cows that were fed their normal diet of grass, were not given any hormones or antibiotics, and were not exposed to a stressful environment, we are eating healthy cows.
Another important reason to eat grass-fed meat is because it has the proper ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. When these proportions are out of balance, like they are with grain-fed meats, it causes inflammation in the body and can lead to the development of obesity and diabetes. Both of these fats are essential fatty acids that the body needs, with omega 3 actually showing promise in obesity management and prevention. However, these fatty acids cannot be made by humans and must be derived from the diet, and the modern food industry produces foods with far too much omega 6 acids and too few omega 3’s. Proper proportions are supposed to be 1.5: or 1:1 (omega 6 to omega 3) but conventional meat has ratios up to 20:1!
Additionally, it is important to recognize the difference between organic and grass-fed. Meat can be organic and not grass-fed if the grains that were fed to the cows were organic. This is still a better alternative to regular meat, but the best option is to go grass-fed! If cost is a factor, you can opt for grass-fed organ meats, which can easily be made palatable by masking in meatloafs and stews, and are less expensive than filets and more traditional cuts.
As a general rule of thumb, any grass-fed system is much better than a grain-fed one. In fact, a study found that switching cows from a grain-based diet to a grass diet resulted in a 1000-fold reduction of E.Coli in their guts, over the course of just five days! Additionally, grass-based diets were found to significantly improve the fatty acid (FA) composition and antioxidant content of beef, which has tremendous health benefits for those who consume it.
Buying Orgnic Seafood
Seafood is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, however there can also be a downside to consuming fish if it is not coming from the right place. Modern commercial farming techniques, cooking methods, and how the fish are caught are all factors that can potentially detract from the health benefits of fish.
In general, it is best to avoid farm raised fish and choose the wild caught option instead. However, there are some fishing methods that are questionable and not environmentally-friendly, so if you want to ensure you are both eating healthy fish and not harming the environment in the process, you can download a great brochure for guidelines on buying and ordering fish, or check out The Marine Stewardship Council.
Other fish to avoid include those imported from Asia (both farmed and wild caught), because they tend to be contaminated with chemicals and do not have the same regulations as we do here in the US. Additionally, you should also stay away from fish that are high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, and king mackerel, as well as frozen processed fish products– check your labels and see how long the ingredient list is!
Buying Organic Produce
Another reason why we need to be conscious of where our food is coming from is because of micronutrient depletion.
In an ideal world, we’d be able to do what our ancestors did and simply get all the nutrients we need from real, whole foods; however, our environment is vastly different today and unfortunately this is no longer possible. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study, more than 96 percent of Americans are not getting the micronutrients they need from food alone. So, I wanted to share 3 reasons why our food landscape is different today than in the past.
- Depleted soil. Our food just doesn’t contain the same nutrients it used to. Research has found that North America’s farms and rangelands show up to 85% mineral depletion. So, what does this mean? This means that the same apple consumed today has far less nutrients than 100 years ago, but the same number of calories!
- Global distribution. Our food is traveling farther distances. Back in the day, we ate what could be found in our backyards so to speak. Today, our food often travels hundreds or sometimes thousands of miles before it gets to us. Heat, light, and air all deplete nutrients, so by the time food gets from its point of origin to our plates, it is significantly less nutritious.
- Premature picking. Produce is often picked before it is fully ripe to prolong its shelf life, thus not allowing the full amount of nutrients to develop.
So, one of the best ways to ensure your food has as many micronutrients as possible is to shop locally at your farmer’s market. If there isn’t one by you, or because of convenience it isn’t an option, then you can try to select produce items that are geographically close to you. Most stores list where the fruits and vegetables are from, and if not then you can ask.
For more information about why we’re not getting the micronutrients we need on a daily basis, even when we’re eating healthy, check out the book The Micronutrient Miracle by Dr. Jayson and Mira Calton.
This hidden danger in most produce is something you may not have even heard of, but it is really important to be aware of whether or not it is in your food. So what is glyphosate? Glyphosate is the main ingredient in herbicide aka Roundup, and it’s residue is found in most genetically modified soy, corn, sugar, and wheat. Research suggests that consumption of this harmful chemical is partly responsible for the increasing prevalence of chronic illnesses in the Western world. Glyphosate can hinder the functioning of the human microbe, which can lead to a buildup of toxins and inflammation, which can set the tone for the development of disease. To ensure your foods do not contain Glyphosate, buy foods that are certified organic.
I know organic can be costly, so it is best to prioritize purchasing organic for produce that are known for being high in Glyphosate, such as tomatoes, apples, and potatoes. The top pesticide-laden foods are known as the “Dirty Dozen,” and you can find the list here to help you select which foods you should be buying organic. To stay up-to-date with the most current list, check out the Environmental Working Group’s list , and to learn more about the harmful effects of glyphosate, check out this article.
The food landscape of today can be a bit of a mystery, but it doesn’t have to be scary if you have the right resources! Check your labels and ask questions when you’re shopping to understand where your food came from, and you will be able to eat safer, and smarter!
About The Author: Simone Krame
Simone Krame is a lifestyle coach and founder of Conscious Living & Lifestyle, a lifestyle coaching business that helps people achieve their fitness, nutrition, and spiritual/emotional goals by creating a synergistic relationship between mind, body, and soul. Simone graduated Cum Laude from the University of Florida with a Bachelors degree in Finance and concentration in Spirituality and Health. Currently, she is getting her Masters in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on the mind, body, spirit connection. Simone is a Certified Primal Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, Balanced Bites Master Class Certified Practitioner, and has participated in a variety of mind, body, spirit courses, workshops, and webinars that, coupled with her life experience, allow her to be confident in her knowledge and approach to coaching clients.