Archive for May, 2010
I get a lot of questions about pesticides, commonly things like: ”How bad are they really?”, “I heard that they’re not worth the money, is that true?”, and “Which are the most important items to buy organic?”. Well, it can be difficult to maneuver the information in the media, because there are many studies out there and what you read is going to depend on the study that’s being referenced, and certainly who is writing the article.
The Environmental Working Group is the best source of information on this topic. They have summarized research from nearly 100,000 different tests on the 49 most commonly consumed fruits and vegetables. They’re also an independent non-profit organization, totally free from political bias. And now they have a handy wallet-sized print-out that provides their “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15″ fruits and vegetables. Print this out, put it in your wallet or purse, and you’ll never again have to stress about which fruits and vegetables are ok to buy conventional and which organics to prioritize! You can also get a version on your iPhone. Get the list here, and happy shopping.
This weekend I sent my husband out early on Saturday morning to buy berries (I may have said it was a pregnancy-related craving). Now he didn’t used to be on the organic bandwagon, but in the last several years he’s really gained interest in sustainability and green living, and without even asking he went out of this way to find the organic strawberries and blueberries. He did mention that the blueberries in particular were rather expensive, at $5 for a half-pint.
Well, a few days later I saw this article, and sent it to him as an example for why we shouldn’t feel too bad spending a little extra money on organic produce. The article talks about new research that correlates high levels of organophosphate pesticides (commonly found on berries, celery, and other produce) with ADHD in children. Basically researchers tested the levels of these pesticides in kids’ urine and found that high levesl of pesticies = a greater chance that the kid had ADHD. In addition, “previous research has shown an association between both prenatal and postnatal organophosphate exposure and developmental problems in young children”, meaning pesticide consumtion while your pregnant can also affect the risk of your child developing ADHD.
How common are these chemicals? “Organophosphates are one of the most widely used pesticides in agriculture to protect crops and fruits and vegetables,” Bouchard noted. “For children, the major source of exposure would be the diet — fruits and vegetables in particular.”
While researchers don’t know exactly how these chemicals are impacting the body, there are some educated hypotheses, “organophosphates may inhibit acetylcholinesterase, a nervous system enzyme…[and] lower doses of the pesticide may affect different growth factors and neurotransmitters.” Basically these chemicals change how your brain chemistry and nervous system, i.e. nerves, work. When you read that many common pesticides are neurotoxins, this is an example of what that really means.
So what should you do to lower your risk? Don’t stop eating fruits and veggies, but buy organic when you can. Even better, go to a local farmer’s market (see my resources tab) and ask the farmer what their policy is towards using chemicals. Most of them are more than happy to talk to you about it (and if they’re not, you don’t want to buy from them anyways!). Local small farms are much more concientious about using chemicals, because they eat their own produce and are intimately conerned about the health of their land. And always wash your produce when you get home. I use a veggie wash or simply add a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar to a bowl of water for a quick soak (5-10 mins), then rinse with clean water. And, washing all of your fruits and veggies on market day will make it easy throughout the whole week to grab and go straight from the fridge. The best of summer is on the way, so enjoy and happy eating!
There’s a great article on yahoo today about eggs. The article debunks 4 common myths about eggs – focusing on which factors make eggs healthier vs. which don’t matter. The kind of eggs you buy is important, and myth #3 in the article does a good job explaining why. (Preview – it’s about the types of food the chickens eat, not necessarily organic vs. not). Myth #4 is also great to read, for anyone who’s been seduced by egg substitutes.
I like eating eggs because I do think they’re tasty, healthy, and they’re also FAST. The best eggs I’ve found are at the farmer’s market at Shaker Square. To find the best eggs near you, ask at your local farmer’s market what the chickens have been eating. If they’re allowed to roam the pasture and therefore eat grasses and insects, you’re good to go. Then, when you eat the eggs notice the color of the yolks. They should be a deeper orange than the ones you’ve been buying. This indicates better flavor and nutrition – quite a good deal!
I can’t wait for my CSA to start in another month or so. Tomatoes, peppers, salads, greens, beans, herbs, fresh eggs, and many more, are foods that taste SO much better when they’re coming from a small local farm. CSAs are one of the most convenient ways to buy, and there just happens to be a fantastic variety of CSA options in NEO.
CSA stands for community supported agriculture, and it refers to programs that bring fresh, locally-produced farm goods straight to you, the consumer. Local Harvest has a great overview of the history behind CSAs and the reasons for their existence, but here’s a quick summary:
“Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.”
The same Local Harvest website also has a search function, so you can put in your zip code and find a CSA near you. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Blue Pike Farm – the best urban farm in town, right on E 72nd by the lake. Farmer Carl uses sustainable and organic farming methods . He’ll happily show you around the farm and bend your ear on anything that interests you. He’s also having an open house this Saturday the 15th – shoot me an email if you want details.
City Fresh - a CSA with a conscience, City Fresh not only brings fresh produce to you, but also has the added mission of getting fruits and vegetables into economically disadvantaged neighborhoods who so desperately need more nutritious options. City Fresh has a huge number of pick-up locations and is incredibly affordable.
Fresh Fork – want to eat food from the same ingredients as many of Cleveland’s best restaurants? Fresh Fork began as a distribution company, bringing the likes of Michael Symon (Lola) and Doug Katz (Fire) as well as many others the best local ingredients. Now they’ll do the same for you with their CSA. Six pick-up locations make it easy to participate.
Farm fresh produce not only tastes better, but it’s actually better for you because nutrient levels are highest just after picking. Such a win-win situation! The local food movement in NEO is really growing and there are more CSA options than ever, so have fun enjoying the perks!
Making your own granola is easier than you’d think, and makes a fast treat in the morning or a filling snack. Not only does it taste better than store-bought varieties, it lasts for 2 months after you make it, and requires no time at all in the morning when you’re ready to eat! I still remember my mom’s homemade granola as one of my favorite breakfasts when I was younger. If you like crunchy granola don’t add any fat to the mix (oil or nut butters). If you like a chewier granola, try adding some peanut butter, olive oil, or organic butter. I’m a fan of the chewy version. Have fun experimenting with different fruit and nut combinations, and try mixing it up with spices, too. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger are all great options.
6 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking or instant)
2 cups mixed nuts or seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc)
1-2 cups dried fruit (cherries, apricots, craisings, gogi berries, etc) in bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ to 1 cup honey or maple syrup, to taste
1/2 cup nut butter and/or olive oil and/or melted butter
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2) Mix oats, seeds, sweeteners, salt and spices, and fats (if using), to coat in a large bowl
3) Spreak the mixture onto the cookie sheet and make for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally
4) Add the nuts and dried fruit, continue to cook for another 10 minutes (stirring at least once) or until desired crunchiness is achieved
5) Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.