Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Case for Organic Food

 Just a few generations ago, in the early 40s, we didn’t have the word “organic.” All food in those days was grown and prepared without pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, hormones, or irradiation.  Foods wire unrefined, whole, or minimally processed.  With the advent of chemical farming and food processing after World War II, the soils and foods of much of the world have been depleted of many important minerals and nutrients.

These days our food is not only deficient in nutrients, but also full of pollutants and farming chemicals.  The modern process of denaturing foods via heavy refining and chemical treatment deeply affects the life force of our food supply, making it difficult to foster equilibrium and health.

Pesticides have been shown to cause cancer and liver, kidney, and blood diseases.  They create extra work for our immune systems.  They accumulate in tissues, resulting in a weakened immune system, and allow other carcinogens and pathogens to filter into the body and affect our health.  Organic certification is assurance to the public that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without persistent chemical inputs.

I bring all this up, because, now that I have been eating a high raw vegan diet for several years, I notice more than ever how much healthier organic produce looks in the stores, how much better it keeps, and what a bargain it really is, in spite of the fact that it costs a little bit more than conventionally grown food.  And, yes, the fact that we now have to say “organic,” like it’s a special and unusual request rather than the way the food was created in the first place, leads me to speak out with some reminders about why opting for “organic” is a smart choice for anyone concerned with individual, community, or global health.  Following are a few reminders about the benefits of buying and eating organic foods.

1.  It keeps chemicals off your plate.  Pesticides are poisons are designed to kill living organisms and thus are harmful to humans. Many of them were registered and approved long before much research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Organic agriculture is a way to prevent any more of these chemicals from getting into the air, the water, and the food supply.

2.  It protects future generations.  Children are four times more sensitive to exposure to cancer-causing pesticides in foods than adults.

3.  It protects the water supply.  More than half the country’s population is using water which is pesticide polluted.

4.  It promotes harmony with nature.  Much of the three billion tons of topsoil which is eroded each year from  US croplands is due to conventional farming practices, which often ignore the health of the soil. Organic agriculture respects the balance necessary for a healthy ecosystem, and wildlife is encouraged by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fencerows, wetlands, and other natural areas.

5.  It saves energy and supports a true economy.  More energy is now used to produce synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate, and harvest all the crops in the US. While organic foods might seem expensive at first, remember that your tax dollars pay for hazardous waste clean-up and environmental damage caused by conventional farming.

6.  It helps small farmers.  Some large-scale farms are making the conversion to organic practices, for sure.  However, most organic farms are small, independently owned and operated family farms.  Organic agriculture can be a lifeline for small farms because it offers an alternative market where sellers can demand fair prices for crops.

7.  It promotes better nourishment and flavor.  Organic farming starts with the nourishment of the soil, which then produces nourishing plants.  Well-maintained and respected soil produces strong, healthy plants that have more nutrients than conventionally grown produce.  Do  the taste test yourself!  Organic produce simply tastes better.  End of story.

In recent months I have stepped up my insistence on buying as much organic produce as I can, and am less and less willing to compromise my health and the health of those around me with second class, adulterated foods. Please consider joining me in the effort.  The consumers demand the food they want to put on their tables and in their lunchboxes, the more we will get it.

Friday, August 1, 2014

I ran across this article that I wrote in 2012, and can't believe that I never posted it as a blog, but I don't think I did.  It's a little of my own story, and offer it to you now in a small effort to get more acquainted.  We all have a story of how we got from where we were to where we are......this is a piece of mine.  Here's hoping that you have lots of opportunity in your own life to share yours.

The "Raw Foods" Lifestyle?  What's That? That was my question several years ago when I was making my way through life as a "lacto-ovo" vegetarian of 12 years, which means that I ate eggs and dairy, but no meat.

It was a good life, I thought. I was 20-30 pounds overweight, give or take.  My blood pressure, though not terribly high, was well controlled by three medications that I took daily.  I rode my bike, even when my knees bothered me, swam regularly, had regular sessions of yoga, and worked out with weights at home.  I thought that life was OK, and quite normal -- healthy, actually.

An Introduction to the Raw Foods Diet

It was my granddaughter Leah, then 15, who introduced me to a new way of thinking about food and its affect on health.  During a Christmas visit with her family in 2006, I took note of her simple eating patterns and her calm demeanor with which she carried herself.  Wanting to at least learn something of what she was up to, I read through her raw food books. Because I knew the "loneliness" of eating an unconventional diet, I wanted to at least be supportive of Leah.  While her parents encouraged her to choose nutritious foods, Lean was in mayh ways "on her own" as she tried to figure out the path of raw foods.

I also wanted to learn about a diet of raw foods, and not be judgmental about something I knew nothing about.  And while the benefits and personal success stories that I  read in her books were compelling, I did not imagine making such a drastic change in my own way of eating.  After all, I was too busy commuting a long distance to work, and dealing with the stresses of life the way it was.  Changing to a raw foods lifestyle seemed too hard -- and, well, maybe too weird, as well. But then I realized that I was on the verge of rejecting something out of hand because it was just too new and too different.   Certainly, eating a diet of purely raw foods posed a challenge, but maybe the fabulous benefits I was reading about were worth it.

I tried an experiment.  Two days after that Christmas I ate nothing by raw food.  The next day, after I realized that I had lived through the experiment, I ate nothing but raw food again.  The rest is history, and I have been a very high raw eater ever since, and, I am pleased to say, that it's been a wonderful (and healthy) adventure.

So, Just What are We Talking about Here?

Simply put, a raw and living foods lifestyle means eating exclusively fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that have never been cooked. A very fun and liberating part of the raw foods way of life is that there are myriad combinations of these foods, so that mealtime is always interesting.  I was surprised to learn that raw food recipes abound!

But, why eat raw?  In my experience , my occasional knee pain disappeared in just a few weeks, even though  I was  bike riding harder and more often on some very steep hills.  In three months I had effortlessly lost thirty pounds.  After about one year, my blood pressure had dropped sufficiently that my doctor suggested that I didn't need medications for it any longer.

There are many, many benefits to eating and "living" raw!  My success story isn't that dramatic, even when you factor in my greatly increased energy, the need for less sleep, the disappearance of occasional headaches, and my greater strength and improved performance in athletic endeavors.

Raw Foods Success Stories

Individuals switching to a diet of raw foods have reported dramatic outcomes, some of them after years of taking medication and undergoing extensive medical treatments.  I have witnessed many of them.  A raw foods lifestyle has led to relief from depression, hay fever, fibromyalgia, and diabetes. Other benefits of a raw food diet include lower cholesterol, a clearer complexion, less grey hair, fewer toothaches, a more positive outlook, and overall improvement in health and vitality, and more harmony in body, mind, and spirit. Even more, people plagued with arthritis, multiple sclerosis, all manner of digestive disorders, and allergies have made remarkable recoveries after other fruitless efforts. And the list of benefits goes on.

Consider This!

The trend towards a raw and living lifestyle begins with being open to the idea that human beings can be more healthy and vigorous than we are now.  Everyone deserves to be as healthy and vibrant as they can be.  It begins with nutrition, and the  best nutrition is plant-based and raw!

One way to get started adding more raw foods into your diet is to investigate the possibility of a raw food potluck group.  The benefits of such a group abound!  Here in Columbia ,Missouri, join us at the Columbia Raw Food Feasters, a monthly raw food potluck where we share food, ideas, and help each other.  For further information about Raw Food Cuisine and Health Coaching, visit my Abundant Raw Life website.

Live Well  ~  ~  Eat Raw!