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Activism Green Living Kids & Family Real Food

Organic Is Only Part Of The Story…

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We hear a lot about organic this and organic that…but I think the most confusing thing is that a lot of people believe just because something is organic, it must be healthy…

Right?

It’s true that to be assured you are getting something that is at least 95 percent organic or better, you should look for the USDA symbol on the package or food you are buying. It is a green and white label. But is that the only thing you need to worry about when choosing food?

That can be a really tricky question, and one that needs a bit of discussion since organic, by its very mention, sounds like it’s all good and healthy.

Processed foods with “organic” on the label

Good examples of processed foods are cereals, crackers, cookies, or other similar products.  Does the organic label make these foods healthier? Why or why not?

These and other foods like potato chips, tortilla chips, rice cakes, granola and food bars, pretzels, and other snacks are processed foods whether they are conventional or organic. They are almost, if not equally as processed, as their conventional counterparts.

There’s no room for fudging on this one. If you don’t believe me, just read the ingredients. What you’ll find in these products are a lot of unhealthy, rancid vegetable oils like canola oil, sunflower, safflower, soybean and cottonseed oil. These oils, besides being rancid because of the high heat they are subjected to during processed are also too high in Omega 6s – a major cause of inflammation in the body and one of the major sources of disease and illness we have in the modern world.

You’ll also find a lot of other junk like hydrolyzed vegetable and soy protein (sometimes called soy protein isolate), whey protein (which is healthy if eaten from real whey, not the processed kind),  rennet (which, if not animal-sourced – and there’s probably no way to tell if it is – can be derived from ingredients like soy), non-fat milk, skim milk, powdered milks or cheese, and even undesirable sweeteners like dextrose, fructose, sucrose, corn syrup, agave nectar, or high fructose corn syrup (whoever heard of organic corn syrup? Horrifyingly enough,  yes, it exists!).

Many ingredients contain soy, corn, wheat, or other highly allergenic and processed substances that are not easy to discern by reading. All products containing any type of grain, “granola”, muesli, or other similar substance – unless noted, are most likely extruded. These are not real foods. If you come across something like this, avoid it like the plague!

Unless the food has been made that day with freshly ground and soaked flour, for example, most of these kinds of foods go through something called an extrusion process whereby grains are forced through a little hole at high temperature and pressure. The process effectively strips nutrients out of the grains before they are put in the package. Then, the manufacturer adds synthetic nutrients back in to be able to claim the food has anything worthwhile in it. We all know synthetic vitamins and minerals aren’t something your body knows how to use.

Consuming extruded foods not only fails to provide the nutrition claimed on the label, it also contributes to nutritional deficiencies where minerals are leached from the body. Read more about why processed grains actually leach vitamins and minerals from your body in What Are Sprouted and Soaked Grains?

Organic milk

Is it healthier because it’s organic? Unfortunately, that probably isn’t the case. Organic milk, by organic standards, may not contain growth hormones, antibiotics, nor genetically-modified ingredients. However, at the very minimum, all milk sold in commercial environments is pasteurized, which destroys the valuable lactase enzyme, among others, and renders the milk indigestible to humans. Lactase is one of the main enzymes necessary for digestion of proteins and fats in milk. Many organic milks are ultra-high temperature pasteurized (usually labeled as UHT), which destroys even more of the essential bacteria critical to the digestion and absorption process.

Lactose-intolerance? If you or someone you know is “lactose-intolerant”, it is probably from consuming pasteurized milk. My son and husband were both diagnosed with a dairy “allergy” some years ago. My husband had congestion every day of his life for over 15 years. When he stopped consuming pasteurized dairy, his allergies went away. When we started consuming raw milk and other dairy, we have never had any issues whatsoever. For more information on the health benefits of drinking raw milk and consuming raw milk products, read The Truth About Raw Milk, Part I and Part II.

People can still have lactose intolerance or problems that result from consuming pasteurized dairy. They may not realize the connection between a symptom they believe is just “normal” or simply may not associate a health problem at all with the intake of pasteurized products.

How pasteurization destroys nutrients    High heat temperatures applied to milk actually completely destroy or denature important vitamins like A and can remove around 38 percent of B vitamin content. Heat also weakens or destroys Vitamin C. The enzyme phosphatase, necessary for absorbing calcium, is also destroyed. It changes or destroys many amino acids, reducing the digestibility of milk protein by about 17 percent. These modifications of the milk protein are responsible for causing an immune response. This response by the immune system causes allergies and digestive difficulties. It also contributes to many other health issues from eczema to osteoporosis to heart disease.

Milk naturally contains beneficial bacteria or probiotics necessary for digestion and health. When milk is heated, these beneficial bacteria also become denatured. This bacteria aids in keeping milk from going sour too soon. That’s why when raw milk finally does go sour, it is still a living food that can be used for all sorts of purposes – cooking, buttermilk, yogurt, clabbered milk, cheese, and the list goes on. If you drink pasteurized milk past the date on the label, it will be completely rancid.

And now, milks are not the only foods that are pasteurized – nuts, juices, pickles, and some canned foods as well. Pasteurization is an affect of our modern society’s need to control “bad” bacteria by heating up and “sanitizing” everything and anything possible. The bottom line is, this process removes all bacteria and leaves you with nothing except dead bacteria and no nutrition.

Homogenization   In this process, fat particles are broken down into even smaller pieces to allow them to be suspended. That’s why you don’t see the fat in homogenized milk – it’s been broken down by this process. Then, when the pasteurization occurs and the milk is heated, the fat becomes oxidized. Oxidized fat is rancid fat. Consuming rancid fats contributes to health problems like weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

What the cattle are fed    Even organic milk often comes from cows on feedlots who are still eating grain, soy, and/or corn.  The practice of feeding these substances fattens the animals up quickly, but they are not natural feed for cattle, who are ruminants and should be on pasture most of the time. Cattle that regularly consume something besides grass and pasture plants develop health problems which start in the gut. Corn, soy, and grain contribute to a variety of issues that make the digestive tract acidic and adversely affects the overall health of the cow and its milk.

For more information on real milk and the benefits of consuming it, visit the Real Milk site.

Meats and dairy products

In the past, organic did not specifically mean meat and dairy products were 100 percent grass-fed, pasture-raised, or humanely-raised. Organic meats and dairy products could still have originated from feedlots, as long as the animals or birds had outdoor “access”, which was vague.

For years, the organic label has meant only that animals raised for food could not be fed genetically-modified organisms, or administered hormones or antibiotics. Fortunately, things are starting to change. According to the Organic Consumers Association, organic milk will now be required to originate from cows on pasture eating grass, engaging in natural behavior and getting access to sunshine.

“We’ve been trying to get the pasture rule clarified and educate consumers about the organic frauds going on,” said Honor Schauland, campaign assistant at the Organic Consumers Association. “This is a big victory for us.”

This occurrence comes after a five-year consultation process and over 25,000 comments submitted by farmers, retailers and trade associations. New regulation laws now require access for dairy cows to grass for a minimum of 120 days during grazing season. Previously, the language stated it had to be merely “access to pasture”.

“There’s no longer this gray area of ‘what is the requirement’,” Schauland said. “The next step is enforcement.” While this change is definitely a move in the right direction, this is still not the most ideal situation available for animals being bred for meat and to produce milk. Why not allow the animals access to pasture most of the time, weather permitting, to allow for healthier conditions and consequently, healthier meat and milk?

However, because labeling is still vague and conditions where animals are raised are largely unknown when you buy meat and milk from somewhere you don’t know much about, the best solution is to know your farmer and buy meat and milk locally.

Canned, packaged, bottled, and frozen foods

These foods are what I would call a gray area because depending on what you are buying, they are processed to a certain extent. If you are talking about canned “meals” like soups, broths, boxed macaroni and cheese, salad dressings, syrups, mayonnaise, frozen dinners or breakfasts, side dishes, burritos, breakfast sandwiches, pizzas, and any other prepared food, these should always be suspect.

Vegetables, fruits, jams, sauces, legumes and other foods in cans or packages are also somewhat of a gray area. Many of these products, although organic, may have had something added to them that is not natural. To make certain they are just the whole food and nothing else, you have to check the label.

Many canned, jarred, and other types of packaging contain the chemical Bisphenol A – a hormone-like chemical that acts as a xeno or false estrogen – and therefore are subject to the contents being leached with this dangerous chemical. Adding additional estrogen to your body from an artificial source contributes to disease and illness – especially the development of cancer:

According to Greenhouse from USA Today, “Research has linked the chemical to cancer, heart disease, Type-II diabetes, obesity, sexual dysfunction and early-onset puberty. FDA officials said they are especially concerned about its developmental  impact on fetuses, infants and young children.”

“BPA, used to harden plastics, leaches from containers into food and drinks, even cold ones. It’s so ubiquitous that more than 90% of Americans have traces of it in their urine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Liz Szabo, a reporter from USA Today said that FDA said it has “some concerns” about health effects and “encouraged people to limit their exposure”.

Food in jars can also be sealed with BPA in the lid, so those are not always safe solutions. The only company I know of that doesn’t use BPA in their cans is Eden Organic.

Frozen foods can be an okay way to go as long as the food is just food, and no additives or preservatives. Check labels! Organic frozen food won’t contain pesticides or other chemicals, but can be more expensive and sometimes may have questionable packaging (again, think BPA). So look for sales, and also check the Dirty Dozen list to find out which produce should be bought organic and which are less critical.

What about truly organic foods with no preservatives, chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, or anything harmful?

I’ve looked at a lot of different brands of organic packaged foods like Amy’s, Cedarlane, Nature’s Path, Newman’s Own, Earth’s Best, Cascadian Farm, Walnut Acres, Eden Organic, Ezekiel grain products, and many others. These foods may be somewhat healthier than their conventional counterparts in varying degrees. In order to know the net load of your purchase, you must know the real expense of buying any processed food – which comes down to the following:

  • the upfront cost you pay at the store
  • the quality of the food you are getting versus what it does for your health
  • the after cost of the product – how it affects your health and how much it costs to dispose of the packaging

Cost of how it impacts your health down the road and cost of disposal of packaging is critical. To me, those are the real determinants of the effect the product you are buying has on your pocketbook, your well-being, and the planet. Remember that even foods that are completely healthy on the label may have some ingredients you really don’t know anything about as well as the packaging may be toxic in more ways than one.

Impact on the environment

It may seem as though organic foods have less impact on the environment than conventional, and in general that is true. However, when you support the processed food industry, you are really just helping to contribute to more pollution and toxicity. Processed organic foods have to be packaged and sold in boxes, cans, plastic, and other containers – some of which just end up in landfills and pollute our soil, water, and air.

Those same packages also require transportation dollars and create emissions and pollution to be shipped all over the world. So that means the use of more petroleum and other forms of energy expended to bring those products to their destination.

Recycling helps these issues, but in my opinion reducing your overall use of containers that cannot be recycled, those which have a long disintegration cycle, and those that don’t get recycled has a better overall impact. Avoiding processed foods as much as possible, whether organic or conventional, will reduce the overall toxic load of our planet.

Visit the EPA Waste site for What you Can Do to learn more ideas about reducing the amount of waste you and your family produce.

What’s really in your organic food?

Even if your food is truly sustainable and organic, you are not getting benefit from your food without the all-important presence of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Dr. Weston A. Price who traveled the world in the 1930s to various locations discovered that all healthy populations had something specific in common – they consumed these nutrients in greater amounts than those living in developed countries such as the U.S. – in some cases, TEN times the amount.

This meant that the foods those people consumed were high in real fats - raw dairy foods like butter, milk, and cream from pasture-raised cattle, fish roe (eggs),  animal fats such as lard, tallow (beef fat), chicken, and others, organ meats, cod liver oil, egg yolks from hens raised in the open and eating a natural diet, seafood, and grass and pasture raised meats and poultry.

These foods have not only sustained but allowed civilizations to thrive and have robust health. These foods support conception, pregnancy, and nursing mothers, and also their unborn fetuses and children.

Today, the emphasis on health that comes from nearly all angles is on processed, low-fat foods. When you lose the fat, you lose nutrients. As a result, your health will eventually decline and you will experience chronic disease.

So even though something says organic, it won’t support your health unless you include with regularity these critical components of overall health – nutrients that support digestion, immunity, reproductive, excretory and detoxification, circulatory, pulmonary, endocrine (hormonal), brain and nervous system health; these essential fat soluble vitamins that Dr. Price discovered in all healthy populations worldwide.

Conclusion

Because many foods labeled organic do not meet the kind of standards you would expect, the best policy is to avoid processed foods as much as possible and buy food in the most whole form available. This means making efforts to buy your food direct from the source whenever you are able.

Other healthy choices include foods that are produced sustainably without chemicals, hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics. You can find good choices in this category by knowing where your food comes from and how the farmer or food producer uses farming practices. If you are buying something that is not local and you’ve checked the ingredients, the best thing to do is some research by contacting the company or food producer where the food is made if you want to be assured the food is safe and nutritious to eat. You can also find out about packaging and materials used to package your food.

To review, here’s how to make sure what you are eating is safe and healthy:

  • Learn about where your food comes from – for more information, read How Well Do You Know Your Food? Find Out!
  • Support local agriculture and farming efforts by looking on the Internet, Craigslist, and checking out your local farmer’s market
  • Avoid packaged and processed foods to save money and health – read Reading Labels in The Store – Don’t Be Fooled By Marketing Lingo!
  • If you aren’t doing so already, learn to cook and make foods at home from scratch so you know what you are putting in
  • Make a food budget – use creativity and prioritize to save money on healthy food; create schedules and plan your cooking and food preparations
  • Embrace and perfect your home-keeping skills
  • Use networking and resource opportunities with others – in real life and on the Internet – to make this process easier. Start a blog or get on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. You can find like-minded people on these sites to help find the things you are looking for.
  • Learn to can and jar fresh foods for later use in winter months. Check out Marisa’s site – an excellent resource for this process!
  • Plant a garden or plants in pots to enable yourself to save money on food, or get involved in a local garden effort in your area
  • Start a compost bin to enable your garden to produce healthier food

Do you have ideas to share? What ways do you save money, your health, and the environment?

Activism Green Living Healthy Living Real Food

Being A Food Activist In A World Driven By Tradition, Control, And Profit

 

Do you wonder about where your food comes from? Are you frustrated by the current system managing our food supply? Do you find that obtaining food from a reputable, healthy source seems difficult and you desire to make a change?

Most importantly: Do you believe everyone has a right to safe food from clean sources? If you answered yes to these questions, you might be a food activist.

Lately, food has become very political and having an opinion on food can actually lead to a great deal of dissension in relationships with other people, groups, and organizations. But through activism, persistence, and education, we really can make a difference and change the way our food is produced for the common good. Being a food activist is not easy, but it’s worth the effort. Here’s why:

What is a food activist?

A food activist is someone who cares about where our food comes from and who makes a conscientious effort to support local and sustainable agriculture whether it be to become an actual sustainable farmer or food producer, or to be a consumer of sustainable products. A food activist also becomes involved in some way with education and dissemination of information about sustainable living and food to the public and wider communities.

Why should we care where our food comes from, and what difference does it make being a food activist?

The loss of local food production has been devastating.  Diminished food production causes the necessity for our food to travel lengthy distances over many days or weeks to reach your dinner table. The result of this travel and toxin exposure is the loss of nutritional density and flavor. Distance traveled by our food also contributes to wastes of energy that can only be maintained by government subsidies and the acquisition of cheaper oil which is dictated by foreign policy. The Worldwatch Institute reports “in the United States, refrigerating, transporting, and storing food uses eight times as much energy as is provided by the food itself.”

Indeed, industrial farming has had widespread implications:

  • The presence of this type of toxic farming has not only led to the destruction of our soil, but also our water, and air.
  • Pesticides sprayed on commercial crops are then fed to animals. This causes health problems for the animals and you when you eat the meat and other products from these animals.
  • The use of medications and antibiotics in animal production is heavy and has contributed to resistant-strain bacteria. We are also finding that increasing amounts of our foods contain chemicals, preservatives, stabilizers, and toxins which cause further damage to our health and the environment.
  • Factory farms also contribute greatly to the overall human-caused component of climate change occurring.
  • The economic impact of industrial farming is also substantial, and it should be noted that the far-reaching implications of all factors mentioned here only add to the weighty economic burden in which our nation now finds itself.

Who stands to gain from all of this?

None other than agribusiness giants such as Cargill, ConAgra, Tyson, and Smithfield, big biotechnology companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, Bayer, food manufacturers, processors, and related corporations, lobbyists, special interest groups, and the government (think revolving door between the corporations and government positions, which is very common). All are pushing and making legal unethical and reckless practices, regulations, and laws in exchange for power and profit.

Who loses in the conventional, industrial food system?

The environment due to the input of massive toxic chemicals, mismanagement of resources, and the accumulation of concentrated animal wastes. Since 1960, half of our topsoil has disappeared. We are currently experiencing the loss of topsoil 17 times faster than it can be replaced.

Farmers industrial farming only pays the farmer 7 cents per food dollar. The majority is paid to marketers, processors, and input suppliers. The result is a dramatic concentration of factory and industrial farmland as well as the loss of smaller, family farms. The region of western North Carolina alone has experienced a loss of 70% of farmland in the last 50 years.

The consumer because the food we consume is now developed and grown for transportation and shelf life rather than for nutrition or taste, we lose control of how food is produced because we no longer have a relationship with the farmers who produce our food. We have experienced a loss of countryside, forests, and of farms. Most significant of all, our health is profoundly impacted by the mechanism of factory, for-profit, and industrial farming. Our life spans are longer, but we are now experiencing degenerative and chronic diseases at a larger and more frequent rate than ever before in history. Our children are also now developing these disorders at younger ages than the previous generation.

The animals in industrial farming, animals are treated in the most inhumane manner and live in ghastly conditions. They are not allowed to behave normally, are exposed to filthy environments, are often subjected to gross abuse and neglect, and by these standards are unable to live happy lives (and sometimes they don’t even get exposed to sunlight). There’s only one question to ask here – Do you really want to support business that makes money in this manner and consume meat coming from animals in these conditions?

What can YOU do to help our food system?

Eat local food! The biggest criticism people have about sustainable and organic food is that there is no feasible way to feed organic, healthy food to everyone. But if each community started supporting their own local agriculture, food growers, and merchants, we’d find that assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth. The whole point of supporting local efforts to grow and produce food is just that – when you support it, it thrives and feeds its community.

Ask your farmer questions, and know how your food is grown and produced.

Buy non-GMO (genetically-modified foods). GM foods are pervasive in our food supply and there is much evidence and data showing just how harmful these substances are for our health and the environment. Read Busting Myths About GMOs and 4 Ways to Avoid GMOs in the Foods You Buy.

It’s really quite simple,  but has become complicated by arcane laws and regulations that were originally put into place to feed massive amounts of people for the cheapest price – and allowing the almighty dollar to be the prevailing factor - which has now completely overtaken our health care and food systems like never before in history. When you place profit over health and well-being, there will always be consequences.

Do research online to locate local, sustainable farmers and food producers. EVERY community has them. Many communities now have weekly farmer’s markets where farmers and merchants come together in one convenient location to offer the best of your community.

Don’t be discouraged by what you hear from others who say that eating healthier is more expensive. Eating healthy can cost more up front, but it doesn’t always have to be incredibly expensive. You can also find economical buys and deals within your local community because the food doesn’t have to travel (remember, food costs more if it has to travel from somewhere else and it won’t be fresh, and will also contain toxins from shipping).

Read:

3 tips for eating organic on a budget

Is cheap food really cheap? The hidden costs of industrial food

Waste not, want not: tips for saving in the kitchen

Proof that real food doesn’t have to cost a bundle, is nourishing, and satisfies!

Learn to do everything from scratch at home soak or sprout your own grains, sprout, ferment, make yogurt, make lacto-fermented vegetables with whey from your raw milk or home made yogurt, etc. If you don’t know how, do a search online – there is a wealth of information available at your fingertips for free.

Don’t forget the hidden costs of eating industrial food environment, economic impact, taxes, the health care system, your own health, etc. These are all costs that must be accounted for – and even if it’s not now, a day will come , whether it is in the near or distant future, when the cost must be paid by YOU.

Join organizations and spread the word! Learn about local and national that place an emphasis on fighting for safe, sustainable food:

Start a garden or join a community garden group. Try the American Community Garden web site. Visit the Backyard Gardener site for a wealth of information about getting started and maintaining your own garden.

Start a blog, write articles, or write a book. There is always more room in the world for good writers who can convey their thoughts to others and motivate people through the written word.

Read books, watch films, and educate yourself on the issues. Here are just a few:

Films:

Food, Inc.

King Corn

SuperSize Me

Fresh

Fast Food Nation

Fat Head

The Oiling of America

The Future of Food – watch online for free!

Farmageddon – coming soon, hopefully to a theatre near you!

Learn about the laws and regulations governing our food, sign petitions (Just Food: Food & Farm Issues and Food Democracy Now ) and contact your congressmen, local legislature, and the President.

The Farm-to-Consumer-Legal-Defense Fund is a non-profit organization that seeks to protect the constitutional right of the nation’s family farms to provide processed and unprocessed farm foods directly to consumers through any legal means, protect the constitutional right of consumers to obtain unprocessed and processed farm foods directly from family farms, and protect the nation’s family farms from harassment by federal, state, and local government interference with food production and on-farm food processing.

Visit the USDA and FDA web sites and contact these agencies with questions and concerns.

This article is featured on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please go visit Kristen’s site and have a look at all the other great real food posts there.

Do you have experiences with food activism that you’d like to share? How have your efforts made a difference? We want to hear from you!