Tag Archives: organic food

Think globally, eat locally.

Since Earth Day just passed, this is a good time to think about the impact we have on our environment. We should also think about what we can do to reduce that impact. The good news is there are ways we can “go green” that are good for our health and the health of our planet, as I explain in my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

Farmers_Market


You can go green by eating green—more vegetables and fruits. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber and most are low in calories. At a minimum, you should eat five servings per day, but more is better especially green leafy and brightly colored vegetables. Ideally, you would eat fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, but frozen is a good alternative.

Eating locally grown food is good for you and the environment. Food production and delivery is second only to cars for fossil fuel use  and is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. According to one estimate,  the food items that make up a typical meal travel about 1,500 miles each (as much as 100,000 miles for a whole meal in some places) to get to your table? Food from local farms is associated with fewer “food miles” and a lower environmental footprint.

Additionally, produce grown locally is picked at the peak of freshness, meaning it is richer in nutrients, not to mention flavor. By contrast, produce that is grown far away is picked before it is ripe, resulting in lower nutritional value. As an added benefit, the money you spend on food from local farms stays in our area, supporting farmers who live in our community.

Since you are eating more veggies, you can eat less meat. Raising animals for meat, milk, and eggs has a major impact on the environment. Over a quarter of land is dedicated to raising livestock, and almost 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock. These animals also produce tons of manure every minute, at least some of which ends up polluting water supplies.

What about organic? Organic food, including produce, milk, and meat, are becoming more popular among consumers each year. There are many reasons to account for this increase, including potential health benefits and environmental impact. Despite the popularity of organic foods, there is little evidence that eating organic has significant health benefits.

There are some studies that show that organic fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants, but this finding is not consistent. Organically produced milk and meat may have higher level of omega-3 fats, which are associated with heart health. The take-home message is that organic foods are at least as healthy as conventional foods.

Although reduced exposure to pesticides is a common reason to go organic, there is no direct evidence that consuming organic food improves health or lowers the risk for disease. But they do note that organic foods, with lower pesticide levels, may be a smart choice for children who are more likely to be harmed by chemical exposures.

But there are other reasons why you may choose to buy organic beyond the potential health benefits. Organic farming may be better for the environment due to reduced water contamination by pesticide run-off and healthier soil. Pesticide application also poses potential risks for farm workers. Additionally, there are issues of animal welfare that some consider important. Many people also feel that organic farming is more traditional and the way food “should be” produced.

So, as you reflect on the meaning of Earth Day, try to eat locally to improve your health and reduce your impact on the environment. Most importantly, make sure your food choices are part of a lifestyle that includes and regular physical activity getting enough sleep.


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How Square Watermelons Get Their Shape, and Other G.M.O. Misconceptions – The New York Times

Earlier this week I wrote about organic food and whether it is really healthier. To be sure, organic food can be a healthy alternative to conventional food, but many times the difference may not be as great as commonly believed. In some cases, organics simply may not be the smartest choice.

GMO corn

One reason why people choose organically produced foods is that they don’t contain GMOs, or genetically-modified organisms. Many people believe that GMOs are dangerous or, at the very least, make foods less healthy.

Unfortunately, just like with organic food, there is a great deal of confusion about GMOs in food. An article in the New York Times addresses some of the misconceptions about GMOs.
In an effort to inform consumers about the presence of GMOs in their food, the U.S. Senate recently passed GMO-labeling legislation that has received much criticism. No doubt this is something we will hear more about in the future.


Nutrition, exercise, and health information can be confusing. 
But it doesn't have to be that way.
What can I help you with?
 drbrianparr@gmail.com | http://twitter.com/drbrianparr

Should you go organic?

Organic food, including produce, milk, and meat, are becoming more popular among consumers each year. In fact, sales of organic foods now account for over $40 billion per year and further growth is expected. There are many reasons to account for this increase, including potential health benefits and environmental impact. Despite the popularity of organic foods, there is little evidence that eating organic has significant health benefits. But organic foods may still be a good choice for you and your family. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard  this week.

Good food display


A review of over 200 studies of organic foods published in 2012 suggests that organic produce, milk, and meat are not necessarily healthier. This study received a great deal publicity, much of it critical of the conclusions of the report. There are some studies that show that organic fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants, but this finding is not consistent. Organically produced milk and meat may have higher level of omega-3 fats, which are associated with heart health.

These differences may not be completely attributable to organic farming techniques. The higher vitamin content in some fruits and vegetables may be due to ripeness, since organic produce might be more likely to be picked at peak ripeness than conventional fruits and vegetables. This is not always the case, though, since some organic food is shipped a great distance—literally halfway around the world in some cases—meaning it was picked before it was ripe. The elevated omega-3 fats in organic milk and meat may be due to the fact that most of these cows get more time to graze on grass than cows on conventional farms that eat more grain.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report on organic foods for children which presents a balanced review of organic foods and sensible advice for adults and children. After reviewing the research, they concluded that there is no direct evidence that consuming organic food improves health or lowers the risk for disease. But they do note that organic foods, with lower pesticide levels, may be a smart choice for children who are more likely to be harmed by chemical exposures.

The take-home message is that organic foods are at least as healthy as conventional foods. But there are other reasons why you may choose to buy organic beyond the potential health benefits. Organic farming may be better for the environment due to reduced water contamination by pesticide run-off and healthier soil. Pesticide application also poses potential risks for farm workers. Additionally, there are issues of animal welfare that some consider important. Many people also feel that organic farming is more traditional and the way food “should be” produced.

Given that this information about organic food, what should you do? First, eat fruits and vegetables in abundance, whether they are organic or not. There is substantial evidence that fruit and vegetable consumption is essential for good health. The same is true for whole grains and lean meat. Second, given that organic foods tend to be more expensive, be selective about what you buy, such as organic versions of foods that tend to be higher in pesticides (you can find lists of the “dirty dozen” and the “clean fifteen” online). Wash all produce before you eat it whether it is organic or not. Finally, make sure your food choices, organic or otherwise, are part of a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and regular physical activity.

 


Nutrition, exercise, and health information can be confusing. 
But it doesn't have to be that way.
What can I help you with?
 drbrianparr@gmail.com | http://twitter.com/drbrianparr