You Are What You Eat
You are what you eat and the nutrition of the food you eat is just a symptom of the soil it came from. If you consume high quality foods that were grown in an organic, nutrient rich soil, then you will most likely be healthy, assuming you practice a holistic lifestyle to some degree. If you eat poor quality foods that come from a soil dense with toxins and void of life and nutrients, then inevitably, your body will follow suit and become toxic.
If you eat animal products such as meat, poultry, or dairy, the lifestyle these animals had when they were alive will also impact your health in either a positive or negative manner. Your body will be healthier if the animal products you eat come from animals that were raised in clean and stress-free environments, free of growth hormones and antibiotics, and bred consuming plants grown in healthy organic soil. To examine this circle of health, we must visit organic farming.
Organic on the South Lawn
Organic farming, the green and natural way of planting and harvesting crops, is on an upswing these days. This method of farming is becoming popular because it works with Mother Nature, not against her. Even the First Lady, Michelle Obama, has planted an organic garden on the South Lawn of the White House, an impressive 1,100-square-foot plot of raised beds consisting of 55 varieties of vegetables, all originating from organic seedlings at the Executive Mansion’s greenhouses. Although the term “organic” has exploded within the past few years, its concept has been around since the mid 1900’s.
Where Did the Term, “Organic Farming” Come From?
In 1940, Lord Northbourne, an agriculturist, coined the term, “organic farming” in his book, Look to the Land. He based this phrase on the concept of “the farm as organism” and wrote about “the farm as a living whole” (p.81). He held a holistic view and believed that the farm itself needed to be a living entity and any farming in which the farm does not need to be dependent on chemicals to operate should be labeled as organic farming. Lord Northbourne’s idea took some time to spread. It wasn’t until the 1970’s when organic crop production began to develop as an industry.
What Exactly is Organic?
Organic food is grown without the use of toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, growth hormones, and antibiotics and cannot be genetically engineered. Organic produce and meat are immensely better for your health than commercially farmed foods and because organic farming does not involve the use of chemicals, it also supports a healthy environment. Commercial farming methods uses various pesticides and fertilizers which destroy soils, negatively affects the plants grown in such soils, sickens the animals eating these plants, and ultimately harms the humans dependent upon them.
Other Benefits of Organically Farmed Food
Not only do organically farmed foods contain fewer toxins, but they also have a much higher nutritional value than commercially farmed products. Although organic foods tend to cost more, they do contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and proteins. Another benefit is that they contain high levels of potent antioxidants called, “phenolic compounds,” nutrients responsible for removing cancer-causing free radicals in the body. Organic foods, especially produce often taste much better than commercially farmed foods.
“Organically Grown” Verses “Certified Organic”
Farms located in the United States that wish to grow and distribute organic food are required to adhere to strict guidelines established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), The National Organic Program (NOP), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For a farm to achieve organic certification in the United States, the fields used for agricultural farming must be farmed for a minimum of three years without the use of conventional pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. This is to assure that any chemical residues left in the soil from previous exposure is removed. Farmers harvesting during this three year grace period are able to label their food as “organically grown.” However, three years is not a long period, and there is no guarantee that the soil at these farms is completely free of chemicals at this time. For example, DDT, a highly toxic insecticide banned in the U.S. in 1972 but still used in other countries today, has a reported half-life of 2-15 years. Since the soils of “organically grown” food may still contain pesticides, it is best to purchase foods labeled as “certified organic.” An even healthier and more economic solution is to grow your own organic herbs and vegetables this season.
Grow Your Own Organic Garden
If you are interested in gardening, but have never practiced it before, it is never too late to start. In fact, given the dire straights of our food industry, now is a perfect time to begin sowing your own organic vegetable seeds. In doing so, you will be improving and controlling your own health and aiding in the restoration of environmental balance.
Growing your own organic vegetable garden is a wonderful experience and reminding your taste buds what it is like to eat unaltered food again is a gift. Committing your mind, muscles, and nurturing spirit for a couple hours a week to a garden you have tended to since its birth is well worth the investment. To watch the soil, sun, and air work together to produce sustenance for you and your family is miraculous and extremely gratifying.
For that short window of time when you are harvesting some of the freshest vegetables you have ever eaten, you will have satisfaction in knowing that you have momentarily regained control from food scientists and a profit-driven government (whose ties are mostly to the agricultural industry, not always the people) that is unceasingly feeding consumers with unhealthy products and faulty nutrition-education.
When you are in control of the food that you are consuming, you do not have to spend great lengths of time deciphering food labels or worrying that in your quest to find high quality and organic produce you are burning a hole in your wallet. Nor will you have to fret over pesticides or bogus health claims!
If creating your own vegetable garden is not an option, you can still take advantage of fresh organic crops. Some great alternatives include container gardening, community gardening, and seeking out local farmer’s markets, which are becoming increasingly popular.
Think Before You Act
So next time you are about to purchase produce or meat, take a minute and decide which route you want to go: commercially farmed or organically farmed. If you can, choose the food that came from the richest and most healthy of all soils: organic. Your body, its health, and the environment will thank you in the long run.
After all, you are what you eat.
(In upcoming articles I will touch upon many more topics dealing with organic food such as “organic gardening tips” and “learning how to choose between organic brands.”)
In good health,
1. Northbourne, L., 1940, Look to the Land, J. M. Dent, London.