by Shayleen Pastick, LPT, Elite Trainer and Owner at Vitality Personal Fitness Inc.
Food choice does matter. There are “right” and “wrong” choices to be made when it comes to the food you eat on a daily basis. We can have a tremendous positive effect on our local economies, the health of our family and friends, and the quality of local water and land by the choices we make. Pick your battles, but please stop consuming blindly. It is difficult to change your lifestyle and it is difficult to at times do what is healthy for you, especially when it means not eating fast food ever. But it is important to educate yourself and to prioritize these issues however is practical for you. Here are some important issues that I’m always paying close attention to.
“Organic, USDA certified products”. You can’t go wrong nutritionally. Organics have come full circle and now most of us have the choice to consume from small, local, organic sources and/or from large, commercial, organic farms as well. It’s no mystery! Read an article about the quality of organic food and regardless of what product we’re discussing, it is found that the micronutrient contents of organic foods are consistently higher, sometimes upwards of 60,000x more than its conventional counterparts.
Translation. Flora and fauna grown and cultivated in the way that nature intended, especially when fresh, or frozen fresh, is amazingly nutritious. It’s not all about calories when it comes to long term health and nutrition. A USDA Organic label on a product not only ensures that you are getting the best food quality but also that it is devoid of thousands of ingredients that can potentially be in your food and that are proven to be harmful to your health. These include flavorings, preservatives, enhancers, etc. Read a label; if there are more than 6 ingredients in your yogurt, buyers beware!
“Local”. Freshness is nutrition. The bioavailability of what you are consuming diminishes daily from the time it is harvested. Bioavailability is referred to as the amount of micronutrients present in foods that is available to us as consumers of that food. There is not a significant difference between organic and conventional foods regarding levels of macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, fat, etc. But there is a major difference regarding the levels of micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals (naturally produced by plants), etc. Economical issues and the carbon footprint of your food are factors that greatly impact the bioavailability of such products. I am always looking for food that is cultivated and produced as close to me as possible.
“Animal rights”. Unfortunately, USDA Organic doesn’t mean humanely treated animals given that many of the available organic food products now come from commercial organic farms. Some companies that are USDA Organic certified are abusing their animals, confining them, modifying their bodies to sustain the stress of their enclosed environments, forcing food upon them that nature didn’t intend for their species to consume and raising them in filthy environments with only metal grates at their feet and toxic amounts of ammonia in the air. After some research on commercial organic farms and animal wellbeing, I was extremely disappointed to learn about the farming habits of my go-to brand for organic chicken. The food quality will still be there nutritionally in most instances but not with the “food karma” that I’m looking for. Look for “Step 4” or higher on the new “5-Step Animal Welfare Rating” in your local Whole Foods market. Notice it is hard to find Step 4 chicken. Step 4 represents local, humanely treated, naturally raised, hormone free, free-range in most instances, and humanely killed chicken. Look to the Berkshires for fabulously treated, good tasting, natural sources of pork. Local seafood is readily available as well; you have to ask though if the seafood is truly local and therefore “wild”. I did that on a trip to Savannah recently and found that the only local seafood served by the “local seafood restaurants” was the shrimp. Even the crawfish are farmed. On a local level, I’m excited to visit Owen’s Poultry farm this spring. I’ll post on our fan page about what I find. I’ve heard great things.
Animal welfare is no longer the only important issue when it comes to our modern sources of meat, fish, eggs and dairy. The choice we make when it comes to animal products is one that I consider to be the most important health choice Americans still make, and don’t always pay close attention to. Due to the chemical bombardment leafy greens and other produce experience conventionally, most of our clients at Vitality report taking the plunge when it comes to organic greens. Some people have even been sold on all organic eggs due to the superior color and taste. But pay an extra $60 for your organic Thanksgiving turkey and people think you’re nuts. Sorry Mom for being made fun of at school when the other teachers found out what you paid for your Turkey that year, that is hysterical though. In my mind, this is just as important, if not more important to get the best quality meat you can afford. We always turn that turkey into soup and all kinds of fun things after Thanksgiving. Nothing is wasted, thanks to Jax and Lily my hounds, who are also my two favorite, most lovable “garbage disposers” on the planet.
“Natural” or “Naturally Raised”. Be careful here! On a local level it can mean a farm that is on its way to becoming USDA Organic Certified, but isn’t quite there yet. On the other hand, on a marketing level, even chemical flavors derived from a natural source can be called “Natural”. Take as much time as you want to research each product that you normally put on your family’s table. In my opinion, it is always time well spent.
There is an overwhelming direct correlation between conventional, processed meats, cancer and heart disease. Not to mention, no long-term studies have been done on combinations of food additives and their relation to the long-term health of humans. Watch out for nitrates and nitrites, if you are going to have an occasional chorizo or bratwurst in your diet. These are unnecessary preservatives found in sausages, bacon, cold cuts and hot dogs and other meat products that are well know carcinogens.
Take a look at the population statistics for people that are sedentary and make poor food choices to see the results of the epidemic health problems our society currently faces. These include diabetes, obesity, joint disease, and heart disease, to just name a few. We eat protein at least twice a day in my family. A clean, natural and whenever possible organic protein source can be the most expensive aspect of any family’s nutrition, but again, in my opinion, it’s money well spent.
“Antioxidants”, also know as the cancer preventing, naturally occurring micronutrients found in most fresh vegetables herbs and fruits. My family’s favorites are blueberries, acai, chocolate, and coffee, to name a few. Add the USDA organic label to this category, and name your price, I’ll pay it and I usually do.
The picture in this blog is me in the middle of the fields of http://www.sitiodomoinho.com, Dick and Angela Thompson’s all organic farm in Brazil where we luckily vacation whenever we get the chance. Beijos!