Did you know know that the average non-organic fruit or vegetable can contain 20 extra pesticides? Before your body can even reap the rewards of the fruit or vegetable your immune system needs to process all the chemicals you have ingested. Some health experts claim that those chemicals can build up as toxins in your body causing a multitude of health problems. On the flip side, other health experts claim that the level of chemicals in non-organic food is low and the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks. So what do you do?
Obviously, if we all had a limitless budget eating organically and locally would be easy. Most of us can agree that adding chemicals to our food just doesn’t seem right. However, for most of us cost and convenience play a leading role in our decision of what we buy at the grocery store. Clearly, it’s hard to eat locally and organically 100% of the time for a variety of reasons. Here is a list of the most important foods to eat organically because they retain the highest levels of pesticides.
12 Most Contaminated
Sweet Bell Peppers
12 Least Contaminated
Sweet Corn (Frozen)
Sweet Peas (Frozen)
But here is another thought that I keep coming back to in my own mind…
Not too long ago, about the time of our grandparents and great grandparents a much different community of people lived. Each spring, a garden was planted and harvested throughout the summer and fall months. Extra crops would be canned, frozen and dried for use during the the winter months. You ate what you could grow. The bottom line is food was grown out of necessity and there was little dependence on the food system. Now we have grown to depend entirely on what we can buy in the grocery store. We can eat anything at any time because foods can be imported from all over the world (most meals travel hundreds or thousands of miles before they reach your plate). Convenient yes, but are we really thinking about the long term health benefits of our decisions? Obviously, a long time ago, people devoted their entire day to gardening and house chores. As a result, out of necessity, our great grandparents burned lots of calories growing and preparing organic local food. And guess what? Obesity, cancer, and heart disease rates were much lower. Today, obesity rates have risen to almost epidemic levels. Were our great grandparents doing something right? I think so. For most of us, with work, sports and other activities this complete devotion to homesteading is next to impossible. But on some scale, I think we can adopt some of these principals to our own lives.
Here are some of my guiding principals, which I try to follow…most of the time.
1. For the foods we eat every day, I usually always buy organic. I have accepted that I am going to pay more for food.
2. I do my best not to depend on just prepackaged snacks. Each week, I make breads or other homemade snacks for the kids. Don’t get me wrong I still buy some bagged and boxed snacks but I am trying to limit this more and more. Snacks are also seasonal fruits, vegetables, dried fruits and nuts. Hard boiled eggs, fruits, veggies, cheese and popcorn are favorites snacks at our house!
3. In the summer I have a small organic garden. I also buy a small share at a local organic CSA and go to the Farmer’s Market to supplement.
4. The meats I buy, 80 % of the time are local or organic.
5. I try to buy in bulk to reduce waste.
So, take one step at a time. Do your best to incorporate local and organic foods into your lives…I think you may be pleasantly surprised!
This past week I finally used my new yogurt maker that I purchased in December. We eat yogurt every day and while I try to buy the “good” yogurt it’s often expensive and contains so many ingredients!
I always assumed that making homemade yogurt was a long and complicated process. I was so wrong! Making yogurt at home is SO EASY! I know that you can make yogurt without a machine but I wanted to simplify things and I purchased a Euro Cuisine Yogurt Maker. When you make homemade yogurt you need to keep the product at 100 degrees F. for about 8 hours. The yogurt maker that I bought keeps 7 six ounce glass jars at the right temperature. I have read that there are other ways to get around using a “machine” such as storing the yogurt in an oven that has been warmed but really for me the machine was just an easy option.
In my fist batch of PLAIN yogurt there were only 2 ingredients!! Yes, only 2, milk and some store bought yogurt used as a starter. It was perfectly delicious plain yogurt and soooo easy to make! My kids ate the yogurt sweetened with a little maple syrup but didn’t love it. They are use to yogurt with fruit. For the next batch I made Strawberry Yogurt. HUGE HIT!! The yogurt was so delicious that I already need to make more today. And I only used 4 ingredients: milk, starter, strawberries and sugar (a lot less than in store bought).
To make the yogurt with this machine all you need to do is…heat the milk to boiling and let it cool until it is lukewarm. Add the starter (which is just plain homemade or store bought yogurt, this adds the live cultures to the yogurt). Then pour this into the 7 glass jars (that come with the yogurt maker) and place in the machine. The yogurt sits in the machine for 8-10 hours and then you put it in the fridge overnight to cool. It’s ready to eat in the morning. If you choose to make sweetened yogurt than you will have a few additional steps but bottom line it is so EASY. Homemade yogurt that only contains the ingredients I want…perfect!!
By now, many of us have seem the wildly disturbing pictures of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Still need to know what it is? The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a giant sized collection of trash floating all jostled together in the Pacific Ocean. How big, you may wonder? It’s approximately twice the size of TEXAS, that’s right it’s enormous!
If that doesn’t peek your interest to explore the perils of plastic then try this one…
Everywhere you turn, the media is reporting new stories on the dangers of plastic, both to the environment and to people’s health. The environmental impact is obvious: over 97% of all the plastic ever produced on the earth is still around. Plastic breaks down into smaller pieces but it does not biodegrade completely. Plastic is eaten by marine animals often with fatal consequences.
Plastic is a petroleum product with added chemicals created to achieve a variety of desired outcomes and used regularly in our everyday lives. Various chemicals are added to improve the plastic’s strength and flexibility. Growing concern over the use of these added chemicals have slowly gained more and more attention. Numerous researchers have indicated that these chemicals may leach from plastic into our food and drink that we then ingest. The findings in human studies on the link to chemicals in plastic, specifically, Bisphenol-A (commonly referred to as BPA) and phthalates have become too worrisome to ignore. The biggest concern is that these chemicals mimic the way naturally occurring hormones act in our bodies. Too much of these hormones can cause harm to the brain, reproductive system and more. Research findings are still relatively new and still scrutinized and challenged by some. The bottom line in my opinion, is that there is enough evidence to suggest that plastics do pose a threat to our health. And remember Canada declared BPA a TOXIC substance and banned its use in baby bottles as did all of Europe.
Visit here for more specific information on the chemicals and additives in plastic.
Since PLASTIC is everywhere, what can you do?? I am taking baby steps since clearly it is more convenient and easy to use plastic products. Plus plastic is EVERYWHERE. Just try going to the grocery store and coming home without anything in plastic. You most likely would only come home with fresh fruit and veggies stored in your cloth bags.
Here are some of the things that we CAN do NOW :
1. Bring your own bags- 500 billion – 1 trillion bags are used everyday worldwide. Yes, I know you have heard this one over and over but really this is just the beginning, start to dig little deeper. Many people who use recyclable bags fill them up with single use plastic items. Buy less items packaged in plastic (in order to do this see #6).
2. Drink tap water- most of the water bottles end up in landfills. This includes juice, tea and anything else sold in disposable bottles.
3. Buy from bulk bins using reusable cloth bags (at Health Food stores you can buy so many items, rice, beans, granola, cereal, pasta, etc. in the bulk department).
4. Carry reusable stainless steel water bottle
5. Eat fresh foods – No processing or packaging required
6. Cook your own meals and snacks- sure it takes extra time but imagine if for one week instead of packing you kids “ready” to go snacks packaged in plastic you packed homemade muffins and fresh fruit or veggies.
7. Never heat food in plastic or baby bottles in the microwave (leaching can occur)
8. Use natural cleaning products that are made at home. Click here for some natural cleaning formulas.
I have started getting in the habit of thinking about all the plastic I use and purchase. Then I try to come up with alternatives. The more I think about it the more I realize how much plastic has taken over our lives. It’s going to take a long time to drastically reduce the amount of plastic we depend on but if we can implement some of the ideas listed above then maybe we can impact the future of the planet we live on. Let’s all try to do something in 2011 to lessen our dependency on plastic, for our environment and for our health!
1. Save energy to save money
- Set your thermostat a few degrees lower
- Install compact fluorescent lights when your older incandescent bulbs burn out
- Unplug appliances when you’re not using them.
- Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothes goes to heating the water.
2 Save water to save money
- Take shorter showers to reduce water use. This will lower your water and heating bills too.
3. Less gas = more money (and better health!)
- Walk or bike to work or school. This not only saves on gas but improves your overall health and reduces your risk of obesity.
4. Eat smart
- Buy locally raised humane, and organic meat, eggs, and dairy whenever you can. Purchasing from local farmers keeps money in the local economy.
5. Skip the bottled water
- Use a water filter to purify tap water instead of buying bottled water. Not only is bottled water expensive, but it generates large amounts of waste.
- Buy a reusable water bottle, preferably stainless steel rather than plastic.