Food Is Not Your Enemy

Does “Organic” Mean It’s Healthy?
February 8, 2011, 10:36 am
Filed under: food politics | Tags: , ,

Organic foods used to comprise a miniscule percentage of food sales. But no longer. As the amount of money spent on organic food in the U.S. has risen over the years, food marketers have started to pay attention to the potential of this part of the market. Ping! Cue cartoon man with his tongue hanging out and dollar signs in his eyes.

So, no surprise, we’re now seeing more and more foods in the supermarket trumpeting on their packaging that they’re ORGANIC. Seems like a good development, right? Not so fast. The organic label, according to the USDA National Organic Program, signifies the following:

“Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled ‘organic,’ a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.”

What’s not to like? Well, there’s plenty to like about organically grown whole foods–things like fruits, vegetables, unprocessed meats, milk and cheese, nuts, whole grains, beans, and the like. These foods not only meet the criteria defined above, but they’re also healthy, nutrient-rich foods.

But the problems start with products that are essentially junk foods that happen to be processed from organic ingredients. A perfect example: the soft drink known as “Honest Kids.” These soft drinks are pushed as healthy, and I’ve seen many health-conscious parents buying these for their kids. But these drinks contain only 10 percent juice–the rest is sugar water. The grape flavor, for instance, has water and sugar as its first two ingredients. Yes, the sugar is organic. That doesn’t make it a healthy choice, however–it simply means the sugar cane was grown without pesticides. Organic sugar has the same number of calories and the same negative effect on our blood sugar and health as conventional table sugar.

And it doesn’t stop with soft drinks. There are organic chips, cereal bars, cookies, crackers, and countless other types of junky snack foods now that happen to be produced without pesticides. Are these products better than non-organic snacks? Sure. But are they good for you? Not really.

So don’t be fooled by all these new products; stick with what you know is true healthy food–the stuff that didn’t require a factory machine to make it.

Another Reason to Hit the Greenmarket: ADHD Linked to Pesticide Exposure
May 18, 2010, 9:53 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease, food politics, Fruits, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Tags: , , ,

People love to pooh-pooh organic or famers market fruits and vegetables, saying it’s just not worth the higher cost. But would it be worth it to you to pay more for produce if you knew it would protect your child from developing ADHD?

According to CNN, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that children with above-average levels of one common pesticide byproduct in their urine had roughly twice the odds of getting a diagnosis of ADHD.

Pesticides kill bugs by causing a toxic effect on the nervous system, and unfortunately, those effects can occur in humans as well if they eat conventionally grown produce treated with pesticides.

Consuming organic produce will certainly help. And national surveys have found that the non-organic produce sold in greenmarkets tends to have a much lower level of pesticide residue than the produce sold in mainstream supermarkets.

By all means, do not stop eating fruits and vegetables over this issue. If you can’t afford all organic, all the time, use this list from the Environmental Working Group, which details which conventionally grown produce is the “cleanest” and which tends to be the most contaminated by pesticide residue.

7 Surprising Things That Can Make You Gain Weight (and Most Aren’t Even Food!)

You eat veggies and whole grains. You hit the gym. You’ve got your portions under control. So what’s the deal with those last few stubborn pounds? Seven unexpected weight saboteurs could have something to do with it. Check out my first article on for more.

America’s Food Crisis and How to Fix It
August 20, 2009, 11:31 am
Filed under: food politics | Tags: , , , ,

There’s a great article in the latest issue of Time magazine about the problems with the way the U.S. produces food–and what we can do to change things for the better. Check it out.

America’s Most Influential Farmer on the Future of Food

Treehugger has published a great, in-depth interview with Joel Salatin today. If you’ve read Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” you’ll remember Salatin as the plucky farmer who refused to ship Pollan a steak in the mail and who extolled the virtues of the self-sufficient, multi-crop and multi-animal farm.


“The food industry views everything through the skewed paradigm of faith in human cleverness rather than dependence on nature’s design. … But this hubris seems to relish the fact that we can irradiate food to sterilize poop, rather than slowing the processing down enough that we can wash the poop off before it gets in the food.

Which opens up the next big problem: safe food. And this runs the gamut from nutrition to outright danger. The food industry actually believes that feeding your children Twinkies, Cocoa Puffs and Mountain Dew is safe, but drinking raw milk and eating compost-grown tomatoes is dangerous. The industrial food system depends on dredging up horror stories from the early 1900s as food was just industrializing and rural electrification, stainless steel, and sanitation understanding were not available to continue demonizing, marginalizing, and criminalizing back-to-heritage foods in the modern day. Using its political clout, industrial food is waging war on local, nutrient dense foods as surely as the U.S. Cavalry hunted down native Americans earlier in our culture’s history.”

Dirty Birds

“Poultry was the most commonly identified source of food poisoning in the United States in 2006, followed by leafy vegetables and fruits and nuts, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

This story, from The New York Times, underlines why 1) We need better government regulation of our food supply and 2) We should not eat factory-farmed chicken.

Thankfully, the Obama administration is actually paying attention to food-safety issues. As far as chicken goes, it’s really no wonder that the commercial chicken is infected. The birds are literally stuffed into small cages, living their lives on top of each other, their beaks cut off so they won’t injure each other, their feathers falling out. The chicken that costs 98 cents a pound in the supermarket comes from sick animals. And no surprise, sick animals can make humans sick.

Vote with your pocketbook to stop this practice. If you spend a little more for organic/free-ranging chicken, you’ll be getting a healthier, more humanely treated chicken that tastes better and is better for you. If enough Americans make the switch to organic chicken, it sends a message to companies like Perdue and Tyson that we’re no longer interested in consuming dirty birds.