In celebration of organic week, I wanted to share some important information with you in today's post.
These days, most food producers target consumers by trying to convince us that they foods they’re producing are tastier, lower in calories, better looking, and more shelf-stable than ever before. But all these benefits (I’m not entirely sure they’re all true, anyway) come at a cost and in many cases, the food is less nutrient-dense.
Today, foods are also way more full of unnatural (and often untested) chemicals. This is the biggest reason for the recent rise in awareness and popularity of the organic food movement. I’m a big believer in keeping the food we eat as close to nature as possible.
Here are five things you won’t have to put up with in your kitchen when you go organic:
Artificial sweeteners are a whole variety of man-made products that are designed to give you a sweet taste without adding to the calorie count, including Ace-K, aspartame, cyclamate, saccharin and sucralose. They do this by being so much sweeter than sugar (between 200 and 600 times sweeter) that you can only use such a tiny amount that it can’t even be counted in terms of calories. But this sweetness not only doesn’t taste like the real deal (anyone who’s ever had one of those metallic-tasting diet sodas can attest to this), but they also have artificial (and not at all beneficial) effects on your mind and body.
When you taste something sweet, your brain and body get really excited because they’re expecting a calorie bonanza because sweet-tasting things are usually calorie-dense. But with artificial sweeteners, there are no calories to back that sweet taste up, so your body encourages you to keep eating until you get the calories it thinks are coming. But if your food is artificially sweet, those calories never come, so those “zero-calorie” sweeteners encourage you to eat more, not less.
As if this weren’t enough, these unnatural sweeteners can have decidedly unnatural effects on your body. Many of these artificial sweeteners contain known carcinogens, and can really mess up your blood sugar levels, which is super scary, since these products are often marketed to those with blood-sugar issues.
Genetically Modified Organisms
These guys are probably the trickiest of all the “food additives” since stuff is added to the food on a molecular level, and you’re not necessarily going to be able to know whether a food has been genetically modified by reading the label. While there are some initiatives underway to try and get GMO-containing products labelled, going organic is really the only way to be 100% sure.
GMOs are made by splicing a gene from one species of plant or animal into another. This is considerably more difficult (and a not less natural) than the hybrids we’ve been creating for centuries through traditional plant breeding means. And because it’s such a new technology, we really haven’t had the opportunity to test the long-term effects GMOs might have on our bodies.
One known and very concerning issue with GMOs is that many of them were designed to be specifically resistant to common herbicides and pesticides.
This means that these resistant products are often sprayed with even more chemicals, because farmers can really go to town on the weeds and bugs without damaging the crops. But who wants to eat chemical-covered Frankenfood? Chemical pesticides are linked to infertility, hormone disruption, skin problems, diabetes, neurological effects and even cancer. For a more detailed list of pesticides-effects visit the EPA's website.
Coal Tar Dyes
I’m not really sure I need to explain this one. The name kind of says it all. Who wants coal tar (or anything made from it) in their food!? But if you see that “FD&C” indicator before a food dye name and number, or just a cooler name and number, that’s what you’re probably getting. Not only are coal tar dyes made from non-renewable, environmentally unfriendly petrochemicals, but the whole idea of them in food is just … gross.
But if that doesn’t convince you, some of the most popular food colours have been linked to increased cancer risks, and children are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of these food dyes, which is especially unfortunate, since processed foods targeted at kids (like cereals, baked goods and candies) are among the types of foods most likely to contain artificial colours. Food dyes have been linked to allergic reactions, hyperactivity, learning impairment, irritability and aggressiveness in kids.
Another category of food additives that are often made with petrochemicals! Do the planet and your body a favour and steer clear of these.
Artificial flavours often contain not just one, but a whole cocktail of chemicals, some of which have been linked to health conditions that range from cancer, to nausea, from high blood pressure to depression. Why bother with artificial flavours when nature has already created so many delicious ones?
There are way too many artificial preservatives being used for me to list here, but some of the biggest offenders are parabens, BHA and BHT. These chemicals do more than interfere with the (entirely natural) process of food spoilage, they interfere with your body’s natural processes too!
Many chemical preservatives are endocrine disruptors that can mess with your body’s delicate hormonal balance, which can cause a whole host of issues in the long run. This can be especially problematic in the growing and developing bodies of kids and teens. Another reason to keep processed foods out of school lunches! Artificial preservatives have also been linked to many different forms of tumours and cancer.
Luckily, there’s a really easy way to avoid all these problematic food additives: just buy organic. Look for a number 9 on the PLU -- that's the little sticker on the fruit you peel off before eating it. And it’s not enough for a product to say “natural.” You’ll want to look for the word “organic,” in the case of packaged foods as well as a seal of approval from the body in charge of governing organic food regulations in your area. If you’re worried about the cost, check out my 5 Tips for Shopping Organic on a Budget!
If you want more reasons to choose organic, check out my article I wrote for the Canadian Health Food Association on reasons I choose organic as a mom.
I hope you found this post informative and continue to choose organic for yourself and your family.
Have a joyous day and Happy Organic Week to my fellow Canadians!