Eating Local and Organic
|The Benefits of Organically Grown Food
Food that carries the "USDA Organic" label is required to be grown without artificial pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer. Instead, organic farmers rely on compost and other all-natural fertilizers to provide nutrients to their crops. Organically raised poultry, cattle and other livestock are never given antibiotics or growth hormones. Their diet is organic - either organic pastures or feed from organically raised crops.
Organic vegetables and fruits that are locally grown contain substantially higher levels of antioxidants and other nutrients compared to produce grown via other methods. Antioxidants are powerful, health-promoting biochemicals which assist in the prevention of a wide variety of diseases, including inflammatory diseases and cancer. Local organically grown food not only tastes much better but it's also much better for you (and the environment), which of course is good for all of us.
Some small local farms may follow or even exceed the practices necessary for organic certification, but may not go through the expensive certification process because it just is not cost-effective for a small farm. If in doubt, ask. Most small family farms welcome questions about their growing practices and may even allow farm visits so you can check it out in person. This is especially common with CSAs, which develop more of a personal relationship with their members.
There is a lot of truth in the saying "you are what you eat", and it's important to realize that the food of today is very different from the food of yesteryear. These days, we have to make a special effort to consume the amount of nutrients necessary to help keep us healthy.
Our genetic heritage was not designed for our typical modern American diets. For example, our digestive systems were not optimized for a diet that is high in starch, grains, canned fruits and vegetables, fast food and other processed items. During our hunter/gatherer past, our energy requirements were obtained from wild plants and animals rather than grains, potatoes, dairy products and processed oils. Back then, there were no such things as processed flour or sweeteners.
Up until the agriculture age began around 10,000 years ago, protein sources were primarily derived from the local fauna - the birds and beasts that were common to an area. These animals were not kept in tiny cages with no room to move around and no access to pasture and sunlight like most livestock animals are today. They weren't fed unnatural diets of genetically modified grains to fatten them up, or given the antibiotics that factory farmed animals receive. Instead, they roamed freely over wide stretches of open land. Because of this, their food source value was extremely high compared to today's factory farm animals.
These days, our food supply is significantly compromised. We now have to make a significant effort to obtain the benefits of higher quality food that our ancestors took for granted. If you shop at a typical grocery store, the overwhelming majority of produce you see had to travel very long distances over many days to reach the store. The nutritional value of these vegetables and fruits is substantially depleted during these long journeys. Similarly, the nutritional value of various commercial sources of protein - meat, fowl, eggs, dairy, and fish - are also significantly degraded by antibiotics, chemical additives, and the draconian living conditions in which the birds and animals are raised.
Fortunately, the last thirty years has seen a growing movement to improve food production methods, making it possible for the mindful consumer to put high-quality food on their tables again.1,2
More and more people are becoming aware of the importance of "eating locally", and most cities and suburbs now host popular farmers markets where you can buy produce at the peak of freshness. Recent years have also seen the increasing popularity of CSAs - Community Supported Agriculture - which allows its members to share in the bounty of their local farms. Joining a CSA or shopping at your local farmers market not only drastically improves the quality of the food you feed your family, but it also supports small, local, family farms that use organic and sustainable growing methods and raise their livestock on pasture the way nature intended. Check out LocalHarvest.org
to find farmers markets and CSAs in your area.
These days, at least some organically grown food is even available at supermarket chain stores, though the produce will usually not be as fresh and tasty as produce that was grown locally. We have increasing options for healthy food available, but we need to make an effort to seek it out. In order to reverse the obesity and diabetes epidemics that are so prevalent in countries like the United States, we need to continue to get away from factory farmed and processed foods, and back to eating local and organic whole foods. It is possible to restore health and well-being to millions of people across the globe. Chiropractic care can be of great assistance in this process. Your Millar chiropractic physician is a nutritional expert and will be able to help you design food plans that are appropriate for you and your family.
1Wang SY: Fruit quality, antioxidant capacity, and flavonoid content of organically and conventionally grown blueberries. J Agric Food Chem 56(14):5788-5794, 2008
2Dani C, et al: Phenolic content and antioxidant activities of white and purple juices manufactured with organically- or conventionally-produced grapes. Food Chem Toxicol 45(12):2574-2580, 2007