The Clean Method stands for simplicity, minimalism and freshness in everything we consume, wear and do. But what does it mean to "eat clean?" We see this slogan everywhere now...from the cover of SELF magazine to slogans for fast food chains. (Ironic, huh?)
In the coming weeks, we'll be sharing many of the ways in which we maintain a "clean" diet (including some insider knowledge on what we've been eating and sipping on) but we wanted to begin by divulging one of the most important principles to us in maintaining a "clean lifestyle" and that's eating organically.
Before we delve into how to eat organically -- including labeling, produce that should be purchased organically and how to eat organically on a budget -- we wanted to first educate you on what it means to "be organic." Since there's so much confusion out there surrounding what's considered "natural" and "organic," we hope to break it down for you into its simplest parts...and to share some of the research behind the potential adverse effects of not adhering to an organic lifestyle.
Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are not administered antibiotics or growth hormones.
Even more simply stated, it is food produced without chemically-formulated or artificial substances.
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as, “…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.”
In order for a product to be labeled as "organic," a Government-approved certifier is responsible for inspecting farms to ensure the farmer is following standards presented by the USDA.
What are some of the benefits of eating organically?
Some of the benefits include: greater antioxidant value, reduced pesticide exposure and reduced antibiotic exposure (more below.) Those that eat organically claim to have greater energy and feel better, overall.
Are there health disadvantages to not eating organically?
The consumption of animals infused with antibiotics and growth hormones remains a controversial topic amongst the consumer, medical, food and commercial communities.
Hormones and steroids are given to livestock to improve dairy and beef production. Since the 1950s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a number of steroid hormone drugs for use in beef cattle and sheep, including natural estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and other synthetic versions. These drugs are proven to increase the animals’ growth rate and the efficiency by which they convert the feed they eat into meat.
One of these approved hormones is called rBGH, which is suspected to cause higher levels of IGF-1 in milk. Assuming that humans can absorb the extra IGF-1 from milk, a study from NYU Langone Medical Center suggests that higher levels of IGF-1 in the blood may be associated with an increased risk for certain cancers.
And what about the effect on animals? Is giving them health and hormones really fair?
Given the confined, crowded, and unsanitary conditions commonplace to factory farms, animals are stressed and prone to sickness. The antibiotics factory farm owners add to animal feed is intended to prevent widespread disease and artificially boost animals' growth rates.
According to the FDA, approximately 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed to farm animals for nontherapeutic purposes.
And what about the effects of such antibiotics on the behavior and/or well-being of these animals? Where's the research on that?
What is a genetically modified organism? Are those bad for you?
According to Brown University, GMO foods are genetically modified organisms that have had new genes from other organisms added to their existing genes. While some argue that the pros of GMO food production include insect resistance, environmental protection, and the creation of more nutritious foods, others argue that GMOs can lead to harmful effects, such as allergic reactions, decreased antibiotic efficacy and even gene transfer. According to research from Brown University, GMO foods can present significant allergy risks to people, as genetic modification often involves mixing or adding proteins that weren't indigenous to the original plant or animal. This can result in new allergic reactions in the human body. In some cases, proteins from an organism that you're allergic to may be added to an organism that you weren't originally allergic to, prompting the same allergic reaction experienced from the first organism.
Iowa State University research shows that some GMO foods have had antibiotic features built into them to make them immune or resistant to diseases or viruses. The university warns that ingesting such foods, alongside regular exposure to antibiotics, may be contributing to the decreased effectiveness of antibiotic drugs we see in the medical community.
The gene transfer argument is a bit more alarming, cautioning that releasing genetically modified organisms into nature may result in “super” organisms that can be neither killed nor controlled through traditional means.
What about pesticides? If I don’t eat organically, can those hurt me, too?
Pesticides are toxic substances released into our environment to kill living things. This includes substances that kill weeds (herbicides), insects (insecticides), fungus (fungicides), rodents (rodenticides), and others. When you use bug spray in the summer to ward off those pesky mosquitoes, you are applying a pesticide directly to your skin.
But pesticides aren’t just absorbed topically; they are ingested, too, through our food.
In 1962, Silent Spring was published by Rachel Carson, which helped to raise public awareness about the effects of pesticide use on our health and our environment. Decades later, use of equally hazardous pesticides only appears to have increased.
More and more evidence is bubbling to the surface linking human exposure to pesticides with health problems. In fact, pesticides have been linked to a wide range of human health hazards, ranging from short-term impacts such as headaches and nausea to chronic impacts like cancer, reproductive and endocrine disruption.
In May 2010, scientists from the University of Montreal and Harvard University released a study finding that exposure to pesticide residues on vegetables and fruit may double a child’s risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a diagnosis that can cause inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADHD estimates are on the rise, with an additional two million children living in the United States recently diagnosed with ADHD. While ADHD has a strong genetic base, as a child with ADHD is four times as likely to have a relative who was also diagnosed with the disorder, are lifestyle - such as exposure to pesticides - and eating choices - also having an effect? Probably. Many European countries have banned certain preservatives after research linked hyperactivity in young children to food with mixtures of some artificial food colors and specifically, preservative sodium benzoate.
In February 2009, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry published a study that found that children who live in homes where their parents use pesticides are twice as likely to develop brain cancer as compared to those that live in residences in which no pesticides are used.
(Organic) food for thought?
We think so. Comments. As always, leave them below.
http://www.sustainabletable.org/270/public-health | http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=90869 |
http://www.livestrong.com/article/213053-pros-cons-of-gmo-foods/ | http://www.toxicsaction.org/problems-and-solutions/pesticides | http://www.organic.org/home/faq | http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20441463_5,00.html
Disclaimer: I am neither a doctor, nor a nutritionist; simply a writer seeking answers to tough health questions and looking to empower others to live a healthy lifestyle through knowledge. All fact-based writing comes from research and all opinions are my own.