Healing With Organic Food
I was grocery shopping yesterday when a store employee, who was stocking shelves, turned to say hello and welcomed me to the natural food aisle. We exchanged pleasantries as I shopped for the items I needed. It didn’t occur to me how truly odd his statement was until I was home, unpacking groceries.
Welcome to the natural food aisle.
The natural food aisle…one aisle, out of dozens, labelled as natural food. What does that say about the rest of the food in the grocery store?
Shouldn’t ALL food be natural?
I’ve been on a clean food journey for some time now. It began years ago when my naturopath doctor recommend I cut back on sugar and processed foods. I grew up with the mindset of food’s food, no need to get all high maintenance about it. But I took his advice and began taking inventory of what I thought was a pretty healthy diet, only to discover the instant oatmeal I ate for breakfast was full of ingredients I had never heard of.
Apparently food is not food.
It reminded me when, back in University, my roommate would buy the real maple syrup and not the cheap, imitation stuff. She already knew what I wasn’t ready to know then.
So I started making oatmeal from scratch. I focused on buying whole foods and when I did buy anything processed, I chose items with the least amount of ingredients, preferably with names I could pronounce.
I learned that food regulators in other countries banned certain chemicals, making companies flavour their food with real ingredients like turmeric and not synthetic ones, like yellow number 5.
I stopped supporting companies that valued money over quality and started supporting companies and farmers trying to do better.
I learned that food grown today is less nutritious than the same food grown fifty years ago due to depleted soils.
I started growing more of my own food. I composted, made fertilizer tea and harvested vegetables.
Grocery shopping overwhelmed me. I took the approach of trying my best and not being hard on myself when my kids filled up on sugar at the hockey rink or if supper was fast food at the drive through.
I stocked my kitchen with the good stuff in hopes to balance out the not so good stuff.
It wasn’t until last spring when I realized the need to go a step further. I had been dealing with autoimmune issues that were not getting better regardless of how healthy I was eating.
It didn’t make any sense.
Coincidently, my interest in growing food led me to learn more about soil health and how it connects to human health. I already knew chemicals sprayed on conventional crops were harming the soil but I began to learn how it was also impacting me personally.
Chemicals like glyphosate, a common ingredient found in herbicides, damages not only the soil microbiome but our own human microbiome, leaving us susceptible to toxins that permeate our gut lining, causing inflammation. Read how glyphosate exposure could disrupt human gut microbiome.
It is our microbiome that protects our gut lining from being compromised, without a healthy microbiome, we are left vulnerable.
I challenged myself to eliminate foods sprayed with synthetic chemicals and eat only organic for three days. It was my own personal experiment to see if I would notice a difference.
Three days turned into one week, one week turned into two and so on. It will be almost one year of eating mostly organic since I began this experiment.
Within the first few weeks, I lost twenty pounds. Twenty pounds. Weight loss wasn’t even on my list.
It became obvious that the food I had been eating was causing my body massive inflammation.
My autoimmune issues began to heal and my energy improved. With each passing week, I still continue to heal.
I am amazed by these results. Amazed at our remarkable capability to heal if given the proper nutrients to do so, without the chemical overload. Amazed at the role our microbiome plays in our health and well-being, that we are woven into the very environment around us.
But I am also angry. Angry that we are put into a position where food is no longer food, that we can stand in a grocery store and have only one aisle dedicated to natural, organic food. Angry that policy makers and corporations let this happen, that we let this happen.
Angry that I have to be all high maintenance about it.
I remember years ago, my grandpa remarking how food didn’t taste like it used to. I remember sitting at a restaurant with him as he flung an overly processed carrot across the room with his fork, declaring that it was in fact, not a carrot.
He was angry. Food was not food anymore. Somewhere along the line, in his lifetime, it had changed and he was angry about it.
I get it now.
Recently, my kids and I watched the documentary, A Plastic Ocean. It was heartbreaking to see the devastation our consumer waste is causing this planet. Marine biologists are discovering premature death of sea life due to ingesting plastics, animals are mistaking non-food for food.
Ironically, we are doing the same thing. We are mistaking items we buy at the grocery store for real, natural food and it’s making us sick.
I think we should all be angry about it.
Where Do We Go From Here?
First, remind yourself how truly amazing the human body is. Listen to your body and do what works best for you.
- Give yourself the gift of grace. Not everything needs to happen at once. Small steps lead to big changes.
- Take inventory of what you’re eating.
- Swap one or two items for healthier versions. Then swap one or two more. Every time you swap, you create a new habit.
- Make time to cook. Making big batches to freeze or use throughout the week will save you time.
- Focus on buying more whole foods.
- When buying processed foods, look for ones with fewer ingredients.
- The EWG website is a great resource if you cannot always buy organic. Look for their dirty dozen (a list of produce with high pesticide and herbicide residue) and try to buy those organic.
- Start growing your own food. Start with something as simple as a herb planter on the windowsill.
Feed Your Microbiome
Think of your microbiome as your health barometer. Take care of it by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. The more diverse your diet is, the more diverse and healthy your microbiome becomes. Read why the gut microbiome is crucial for your health.
Support The People Trying To Do Better
Sign up for a community supported agriculture program (CSA), visit farmer markets and look for locally grown foods available at the grocery store. Even the big box stores are selling food from companies trying to do better. Every time you buy from the people trying to do better, you’re voting for what you want more of.
Pay Attention To Labels
Certified Organic is guaranteed to be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides.
Non GMO contains no genetically modified ingredients. This does not guarantee it has not been grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides.
Locally Grown is another label you can look for. Many farms have their own websites where you can learn more about them. Some farms offer tours and welcome questions. They’re proud of what they do and are happy to share their knowledge.
Conventional vs. Organic vs. Regenerative Agriculture
You may have heard the argument that organic food is no more nutritious than conventionally grown food. This is because both organic and conventional crops are being grown in depleted soils. Food grown today is not as nutritious as the same food grown fifty years ago due to the loss of biodiversity of our soils.
Buying organic does not guarantee increased nutrition over conventional but it does guarantee decreased exposure to synthetic chemicals.
This is where regenerative agriculture comes in.
Regenerative agriculture is about soil health, focussed on re-building soil biodiversity with the understanding that healthy soil equals healthy plants equals healthy humans.
The labelling of our food has not caught up to inform the consumer whether their food has been grown using regenerative practices.
Growing your own food or getting to know local farms in your area is the best way to know how your food is being grown. Support the farms using regenerative practices.
As our soils regenerate, we will see the nutritional quality of our food increase.
More On The Blog
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A herbalist teacher once told me to pay attention to the plants growing around me, they are often an indicator of the medicine I need. Some years it’s the dandelions growing in abundance. This year it’s clover.