In celebration of National Organic Week, which takes place from September 16 to 24, I have dedicated a series of blog posts to the importance or organic foods and my food philosophy. I encourage everyone to eat organic and support their local farmers when possible.
As a holistic nutritionist, I get asked frequently why people should eat organic foods. Call me old fashioned, but I love building a companionship with plants. I love touching plants, eating and actually tasting fruits and vegetables that were made in balanced nutrient rich soil and natural bacteria. Well...maybe that’s the Italian in me. From an early age, I had a love for plants and an appreciation for vegetables and homemade sauces and soups. I remember every late August to early September I grew up making home-made tomato sauce or sugo, as we call it in Italian, and eating summer salads with green onions, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers, picked fresh from my grandfather/Nonno’s garden. I promote and eat organic foods, as it is clean, wholesome food with little to no chemicals and, if it’s packaged, less ingredients. When I started to make a shift towards eating a healthier diet, food started to taste really good. Even my clients agree, that when you start eating healthier food, you actually stick to eating healthier food.
When it comes to food and our health, everything starts from the inside out. Your health shows on your face and your body. The food that you eat will either make you look good and feel good, or provide the opposite. With a simplistic approach, I believe organic food can be used for more than just your kitchen,and to fill our bellies, but also applied to beauty enhancements - again making you look good, with raw honey face masks or coconut oil hair treatments.
While everyone’s health and wellness journey is different, there is no one-size fits all to why people should eat organic. I always say it’s about options not rules.
Below I’ve included my top 5 tips to eating organic food:
Shop Local - Get out in your city and find your local farmer’s market. You can purchase local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. It’s essentially like having exclusive access to get the best produce each week or month. Ask for tips on how to best prepare these ingredients, investigate where your food is coming from and talk to the people who actually grow it. PLUS having a guaranteed box of hand-picked veggies every week helps you stay on track for your health and wellness goals.
Keep It Simple - Eating organic doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s okay to cut corners sometimes and whip up a pot of organic vegetarian friendly chili or vegetable soup and eat it for a few days, rather than order pizza or takeout. Fresh fruit from the farmer’s market is another one of my favourite last-minute snacks or to use in easy peasy smoothies. Organic berries are great to freeze immediately since they often go bad quickly in the fridge or use them in your smoothies instead of ice.
Eat Seasonal Foods - Fruit is a cooling food. Foods such as these reduce our body temperature and should not be eaten during a cold time of year. Our ancestors ate seasonally because they had no choice. Fresh greens grow in spring and summer, fruit ripens and is best enjoyed in the summer, while root vegetables are available during the fall. Eating locally grown food in accordance with the seasons, will help your body live in harmony and balance with the earth.
Eat Real, Whole Food- We need to start establishing a connection with whole food again. In Michael Pollan’s philosophy, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, he asks Was it picked from a tree, pulled from the ground or caught in the ocean? Where exactly did your food originate from? Choose more fresh fruits and vegetables - the don’t come with a calorie count or labels or marketing healthy claims. Eating whole, real foods are guaranteed to energize you and improve your mood. *Go With Your Gut Tip - Whole Foods don’t have an ingredient list (think apples, avocados, etc.) or choose foods with a short list of ingredients that you can pronounce but more importantly, understand!
Get to Know Your Labels - For a food to be labelled certified organic the food is grown and processed according to federal guidelines that prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics and genetic engineering. Conventional foods (non-organic foods) don’t follow these restrictions, meaning they carry and/or contain antibiotics, herbicides, pesticides and other toxic chemicals that are harmful to our bodies. A word of caution - if a packaged product is labeled organic, it doesn’t mean that the entire product is organic - only some of the ingredients are organic - so ready closely and look for the certified organic seals on the package as well as the number 9 on fresh product stickers to ensure the food is organic.
Eating clean, organic foods, means nothing is processed or from a box or can. That means no gluten, dairy, soy, GMO corn - some of the top allergens, no refined sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no refined food, hydrogenated oils (canola oil, margarine, grapeseed oil, corn oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil).
For me, my rai·son d'ê·tre for eating clean, organic foods, was to help reduce symptoms for IBS and inflammation in my body. I started to remove all the toxins I was ingesting from a daily basis when eating conventional products. My body had to work twice as hard to process all the chemicals and antibiotics that were hidden in my food.
I urge you all to educate yourselves on the EWG's 2017 Shopper's Guide to help you make informed choices about the produce you buy. Check out our 'Dirty Dozen' and 'Clean 15' lists to shop smarter here. As you transition to eating organic, and celebrate this new way of eating, it is crucial to keep in mind that you are nourishing not depriving your body. Eat foods that make you look and feel your best. If you don’t like spinach, no sweat. Substitute it for another favourite organic fruit or veggie. Don’t be shy about eating organic fruits or vegetables, try aiming to eat a variety a day. They’re so rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, have numerous health benefits (in fact way too many to list here) and can promote detoxification as well as help reduce inflammation. So….whatchu waitin’ for? Celebrate Organic Week with me, shop and eat organic!
To help inspire you, I’ve included my favourite place to stock up on all my organic fruits and veggies: Organic Garage located in various areas across Toronto and the GTA. Visit http://www.organicgarage.com/locations