You Are What You Eat

Children as young as 4 or 5 years old already have some notion that some foods are for special occasions only and other foods Mommy makes you eat every day. Learning about nutrition starts at home. Before TV ads even had a chance to have their impact on your youngster, you are the teacher who tells them what is right and what is wrong. However, time and again I come across adults who absolutely have no clue about nutrition or have a distorted picture of reality. They are the teachers to their children, who in turn become teachers to their own children down the road. Lack of basic education for parents leads to lack of knowledge in the generation of children growing up on TV dinners, take out pizza and burgers. No wonder we are facing an epidemic of childhood obesity, diabetics and early onset of degenerative disease. I think that if schools introduced mandatory nutrition classis for children starting somewhere in grammar schools along with physical education, we will be a lot better off. Removing vending machines full of junk food is a good start. Those educated kids can then go home and educate their parents.

ORGANIC VS CONVENTIONAL

There is a lot of talk about the fact that organic is not any better, but only more expensive. I will not discuss this issue here, as it is not my intention to go into politics of agriculture. I will merely try to focus on some known facts about organic food and sustainable agriculture practices that produce it. To those of my patients who complain about high price of some organic foods I generally say ”eat less but eat better”. You will save money in the long run if you stay away from over-processed and over packaged foods that travel thousands of miles to get to you. Eat locally grown food that is in season as much as possible and you will get the maximum nutritional benefit out of it. Support your local farmer and the price of goods will become more accessible. There is no magic in this.

In an attempt to cut through misinformation, organic food industry has taken an evidence based approach. Studies are emerging to clarify the nutritional value of organic foods. Dr. Charles Benbrook (Benbrook et al., 2008) has published a meta-analysis outlining nutritional details of organic food superiority by reviewing 100 peer-reviewed studies.

Until now, the primary value of eating organic foods was for it does not have. Lack of pesticides, herbicides, petroleum-based fertilizers and genetically modified crops. Hormones and antibiotics in the animal’s feed were high on the list of anyone buying into organic food trend. However, organic farmers have always suspected an added value of organically grown foods – higher levels of nutrients. Anybody who has ever done a taste test would also attest to its superior taste.

Dr. Benbrook’s research has established that organically grown fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of nutrients then their conventionally grown counterparts. Organic foods were found to have higher amounts of antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and some polyphenols and beta caratenoids. They were also moderately higher in protein. Plant-based organic foods were consistently more nutrient dense.

Reference: Benbrook C et al : New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods, March 2008. The Organic Center Web site. www.organic-center.org.