Why Organic Produce IS Worth It

I don’t often write opinion pieces like this, but the recent debate over whether organic produce is any better than conventional has compelled me to speak up.  In a September 4th news post, researchers from Stanford University were reported as saying:

Eating organic fruits and vegetables can lower exposure to pesticides, including for children — but the amount measured from conventionally grown produce was within safety limits.

Really?  I’m not sure I’d like to test this food safety theory, especially on our kids!  Each year, we find out fallacies in what was once thought to be true, safe, and scientifically proven.  How can ANY level of pesticide or toxin be deemed “within safety limits”?  Not to mention that cancers and other serious health issues can arise from a lifetime of ingesting chemicals.  So won’t the accumulation of constantly eating sprayed produce add up to an unsafe limit at some point?

The focus of this particular debate is about nutrition — that organic produce offers no more vitamins or nutrients than conventional produce.  I agree with Marion Nestle’s response in the New York Times that “….nutrients are not the point. The point of organic production is its effects on the health of people and the planet.”

….nutrients are not the point [in this debate]. The point of organic production is its effects on the health of people and the planet.

Here are my responses, as lowly consumer, on the most popular issues with organic produce:

  1. Organic is more expensive.  Depending on the product, sometimes it’s the same price as conventional or not much more.  If the price difference is substantial, I check if the fruit or veggie is on safe end of the EWG’s pesticide residue chart.  I’ll buy conventional onions (49th in pesticide residue) but spring for organic apples (conventional ones are #1 in pesticide residue).  And I figure that my health and the health of my family is more important than saving a dollar here or there.  Check out this post for more money-saving tips.
  2. Organic isn’t more nutritious. Apparently, this is true if you compare vitamins and minerals.  I’m no scientist.  But stop and think for a minute…can organic vs. conventional really be the same — in the way you feel, how your body feels, how the food tastes, etc?  Are you telling me a carrot grown in nutrient-rich soil with no chemicals added really is the same as one grown in pesticide drenched conditions?
  3. Why not grow your own?

    Organic produce is hard to find.  It can be.  But as more consumers demand organic, more farmers are growing organic and more stores and markets are providing it!  The demand will increase the supply. Here are some ways to bring the farm to you, no matter where you live.

  4. “Organic” is a marketing ploy.  I’m sure producers capitalize on organic status for marketing reasons.  But I believe that organic is a way of life.  It affects everyone and everything — farmer, environment, animals, food, consumer.  When I eat organic, I take better care of myself and those around me.  I am a more productive and loving person.  I think better thoughts and exercise more and stress less.  I think organic produce tastes better, so I enjoy and appreciate my food and how it’s nourishing me.  I pay more attention to what I put on my skin and in my home.  I seek out products from companies who are making a positive impact on our world.  So…

Is going organic worth it?  I say, “ABSOLUTELY!” 

What do YOU say?

Bringing the Farm to You

The best food to eat is straight from the source, whether it be ground, animal, stream/ocean, or tree.  Don’t grow your own grub?  Don’t live on a farm?  No problem!  No matter where you live, chances are there’s freshly picked food near you.  I dug up some resources to share so you can experience food as it was meant to be eaten!

When you buy food at a farmers' market, you know where your food comes from and how its been grown. Photo by Jill Rath

What:  Farmers’ markets
Why:  Food is fresher when it’s not shipped in from thousands of miles away.  Fruits and vegetables that travel long distances are usually either unripe (because they’re picked too early for a long journey) or on the verge of spoilage by the time they get to you.  Produce at farmers’ markets is local and seasonal…you’re living in a certain climate, and your food should too.  Having the people who grow your food available to answer your questions is a big plus.  You can find out if they spray their produce and how often, or learn what conditions their animals live in and what they eat.  Sometimes farmers can’t afford to be “certified organic” but follow those practices anyway.  And knowing that information can save you some major moolah.
How:  Visit Local Harvest to find farmers’ markets in your area.

Assortment of squash and radishes from my CSA.

What:  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Why:  You support local, small farmers by purchasing a share of their yield, and in return, receive a mix of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.  Some CSAs deliver, while others have pick-up locations.  Most list what fruits and veggies you can expect to find in your share, and some also offer other goodies such as milk, eggs, cheese, jam, meat, flowers, and bread.
How:  Again, Local Harvest is the place to go to find CSAs closest to you.  Then visit that CSA’s website to get details.  Sign-up is usually in early spring and tends to sell out fast, so make sure you mark the date on your calendar!

A winning combination: Raw milk, fudgy flourless brownies, and an adorable companion with which to enjoy it all!

What:  Dairy delivery
Why:  Drinking milk from grass-fed, pastured, healthy cows (or goats or sheep) is the ultimate “Got Milk” moment.  Real dairy is raw, which means it’s neither homogenized nor pasteurized.  Unfortunately, raw milk isn’t commercially available in most states, so I get it delivered from a dairy co-op that sources its products from Amish farmers.  Other than dairy products (including cheese, yogurt, cream, etc.), they also offer meat, fermented products, spices, and unfiltered honey.  Farmers who believe in raw milk also believe in raising, growing, and producing products that are as nature intended (no antibiotics, pesticides, or additives).  Their animals eat what they’re designed to eat, so you get the nutrition and benefits you were meant to receive.
How:  Check out RealMilk.com to get info straight from the cow’s mouth about the benefits of raw dairy and how you can get it.

Achieving Health and Wellness Resolutions, Step 1: Choose Better Food

Food is the foundation of health, and can either support wellness or take away from it.  Choosing better food is the first step in achieving your health and wellness resolutions.  Why?  Because eating quality food affects how your body and mind operates, and in the long run, your health becomes an accumulation of your food choices.

What does choosing better food mean?  Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean.  It doesn’t mean diets, deprivation, or extremes.  Choosing better food does not require drastic or emotionally painful changes.  In my experience, that sets you up for failure, both mentally and physically.

Below, I’ve listed what I consider the key points to choosing better food.  While you put these in to practice, remember that you’ll want these changes to be with you for the rest of your life.  So take it easy.  Take it slow.  Be aware of how your mind and body respond.  Don’t deprive yourself…encourage yourself to eat better.

Be unrefined.

I used to be hooked on nutritionally deficient foods.  Artificial sweeteners, refined food, processed food…basically crap food.  I was tired, emotionally imbalanced, and evaluated the merits of food solely on calories and fat grams.  Because I deprived myself on a daily basis, I was miserable and thought about food all the time.  I didn’t realize all my suffering stemmed from eating so many nutritionally empty foods.

Now I focus on “real food.”  Check out this short video to find out what that means.  If eating real food is new to you, start slowly.  Make small upgrades.  Try brown rice instead of white.  A fresh peach instead of canned.  Mixed green salad instead of iceberg.  Soda water with a splash of orange juice instead of orange soda.  If you go slowly, you won’t be traumatized and the changes will stick with you.

Get a handle on your cravings.

We all have cravings, but giving in to refined and processed foods all the time will take a toll on your health.  Those sweet, salty, crunchy, and chewy cravings have healthy substitutes.  But if you have a craving for a specific thing (like Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream) and nothing but that exact food will satisfy you, then for goodness sake have it so you can get on with your life!  Enjoy it, savor it, allow a little squeal of glee.

When you make healthful food a part of your daily life, you’ll start craving those foods instead.  Refined, processed foods will start to lose their appeal.  I couldn’t believe the first time I woke up and couldn’t wait to eat some kale!  I actually feel unsettled if I don’t eat vegetables every day, especially the green leafy variety.  Now those are the kinds of cravings you can give in to whenever you like!

Plan ahead.

Choosing better food means planning ahead.  If I have a busy week and know I’m not going to be up to taking much time to prepare my meals, I carve out a few hours the Sunday before to cook for the week.  I clean and cut a ton of veggies, double or triple recipes, make sure I have essential oils/ingredients on hand…whatever I can think of that will cut my cooking time down to 10 minutes or less.

If you don’t have that kind of time, you can still eat nutritious food with little planning.  Take a look at this grocery list:

  • carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers
  • pre-cut or frozen broccoli
  • canned chickpeas and black beans
  • brown rice
  • Ezekiel bread
  • salad greens
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • lemons
  • whole free-range chicken (already roasted) from the deli department

By incorporating spices and common condiments you have in the fridge, this grocery list makes lunch and dinner options that take very little time to make.  Here are some meal examples:

  1. Salad with roasted chicken, veggies, and chickpeas with olive oil and lemon dressing (and spices)
  2. Stir-fry of brown rice, broccoli, and chicken (using olive oil, maybe lemon, spices)
  3. Chicken, salad greens, and tomato sandwich (using mayo, mustard, or olive oil)
  4. Chicken with beans and rice (using olive oil, spices)

I know these meals are all centered around chicken, but can you see how many quick meals you could make with a simple grocery list of versatile, nutritious ingredients?

Taking the time to plan out healthy meals will keep you eating right while saving you money spent on take-out and eating out.

Be realistic.

Choosing better food means doing the best with what’s available and doable.  Sometimes you’re at a friend’s house for a dinner and the menu’s out of your control.  Sometimes you go to a restaurant that doesn’t have many, or any, healthy options.  Sometimes you’re driving through the desert and the only place to eat is a tiny gas station.  Sometimes you simply just want to order the amazing lobster mac-n-cheese!  It’s OK.  Shoot for eating quality, unrefined food 80% of the time.  Do that, you won’t have to sweat the other 20%.

The more often you choose better food, the more it will become part of your life.

Need some healthy menu ideas?  Take a look at my Recipes Page for deliciously unrefined eating!

Mango Sorbet with Thai Basil and Coconut

Regular basil on left, Thai basil on right

On sweltering summer days, I get to thinking about island vacations and white sand beaches…because if the weather insists on being 100°F with the humidity, I’d like the option to cool off every 5 minutes in aqua oceans or tranquil pools.  It’s only right.  Recent island visions gave me cravings for island fruit.  Although I have to admit, my first thought of fruit was in the frozen form with alcohol being consumed waterside with a standard drink umbrella.  But being that I live in the city and it was around noon, I settled for sorbet.

Sorbet is so refreshing, cooling, and delightful on the palette, and I thought a mango version might be just what I needed.  So I whipped some up, and while photographing it, looked around for a garnish.  I only had basil on hand, so I used that.  After the photo session, I tried the sorbet with the basil and it was AMAZING!  When I told our chef about my discovery, he suggested I try Thai basil instead.  So when I got home that day, I prepared another batch of sorbet, this time with the Thai basil.  Oh.  My.  God.  Unbelievable. The regular basil gave the mango’s sweetness some depth, but the Thai version added a slight spiciness.  Not the kind that a hot pepper does, but the kind that a radish or ground anise lends to dishes.

I decided to experiment with shredded coconut the second time I made this recipe, as it supports the island vibe of this dessert.  The coconut gives the sorbet texture, a little something for your teeth to chew on.  If that’s not your thing, I would imagine some coconut extract would do the trick.  While this sorbet won’t transport you to an idyllic island, it is a little piece of island heaven.  The coconut must have made me a little cuckoo because somehow I forgot to take a picture of the finished product!  (The sorbet pictured above is the batch I made with the Thai basil but no coconut.)

I made this recipe in a food processor, which created a soft sorbet, although on a hot day you’ll want to put it in the freezer for a bit before serving. Feel free to omit the coconut–it’s tasty without it too–and if you really don’t like basil, try some mint, although it will be a totally different experience.  I stored the sorbet in a 32-ounce yogurt container.  I thought it would take a long time to defrost when it was fully frozen, but I think in less than 10 minutes, it softened up nicely for scooping.

Mango Sorbet with Thai Basil

makes 4 cups or 32 ounces

1½ pounds mango (about 3-4 large mangoes), cut into cubes and frozen*

Thai basil – I used a small handful, but I suggest a few taste tests to get the right amount

Coconut water or filtered water

4 tablespoons shredded coconut, or some coconut extract

Add frozen mango and basil into a food processor.  If you have a small food processor, as I do, divide the mango into two batches, otherwise the processor won’t chop properly.  Once the second batch is chopped (with basil), add all the mango and basil together before introducing liquid. Process until mango bits stop moving around.  Slowly add coconut water through the top of the processor until mixture moves easily.  The sorbet should have the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Add coconut and process until combined.  Scoop into a freezer-safe container and freeze until ready to serve.

* First, cut the mangoes into cubes.  Watch my video to see how.  Don’t dump all the mango chunks into a freezer bag before storing in the freezer, it will become a big block of mango…that’s no good.  To get the mango to freeze without sticking to each other, lay the mango cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet, and place in freezer until mango is frozen, at least 2 hours.  Then you can store the mango cubes in a freezer bag until you’re ready to make the sorbet recipe.


Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead: A Documentary

*Please do not use the contact form on this website to send a message to Joe.  Use this form to contact him instead.  Thank you!* 

Fat, sick, and nearly dead. That was the condition Joe Cross lived in until he decided to take charge of his health and his life.  Joe, a successful businessman from Australia, vowed to leave behind his junk food diet and only drink fresh fruit and vegetable juice for 60 days as he traveled across the United States with a juicer in the back of his car.  He hired a film crew to document his pilgrimage to health, so he must have known it was going to be quite a journey.  He couldn’t have anticipated, however, the monumental effect it would have on his life or on others.

Six months later, and 90 pounds lighter, Joe was eating cleanly, thinking clearly, enjoying incredible health, and on a mission to help as many people as possible.  What started off being about a juice fast, ended up being about maintaining a balanced lifestyle.  Joe has big plans for the U.S., Australia, and Britain…getting everyone access to juicers and information to help them get healthy and choose life.

I was recently invited by my friend Donna to see his not-yet-released film with a few others.  Joe hosted the event in an apartment he was staying in while his owner-friends were away.  I had never experienced a film screening in a private residence before, and it made for a very intimate, comfy, and friendly atmosphere.

Joe served us fresh juices beforehand.  They were so delicious, we struggled not to drink him out of his entire supply.

Enjoying fresh juice before the viewing. Joe is in the background. Issac (far right) is a songwriter/musician from The Kin whose song is featured in the film.

Then we got down to business, watching the film, which was a roller-coaster of heart-warming characters, emotional stories, entertaining delivery of information, and inspiring outcomes.  It is such an important film to see and share with others, I can’t wait for its release.   Afterward, Joe joined us for an honest and in-depth discussion.  He spoke to us about his intentions with the film and his vision for its future, answered any questions we had, and asked for our feedback.

Although I don’t want to tell you the whole story, I would like to share some things I learned from the film:

  • Although no one out of the hundreds of people Joe talked to blamed anyone but themselves for their poor health or eating habits, the consensus was that they didn’t think they possessed the willpower to eat healthfully.
  • The typical American plate only consists of one-quarter vegetables, which are either over-cooked or in some form of potato.  “Would you like fries with that?”
  • Eating fresh fruits and vegetables isn’t cheap, but it’s a lot cheaper than having to treat multiple health ailments due to poor nutrition and lack of exercise.  Cost to juice – around $400/month.  Cost of heart attack – around $58,000.  Buying fresh produce looks like the better deal, right?
  • In the U.S., 70% of adults over the age of 21 take medications, 29% take 5 or more medications.  After 60 days of juicing (the fruit and veggie kind of course), Joe’s doctor discovered he no longer needed the medications he had depended on for so many years.
  • One woman who took Joe up on his 10-day juice fast challenge reported increased energy, clearer skin, and no longer suffered from migraines.
  • Only 1 person out of the 400 Joe met asked for help:  Phil, a truck driver from Arizona who had the same condition as Joe.  He not only lost a ton of weight and got healthy, but found purpose to his life and served as an inspiration to his family and community.   Such an awesome story!

I’d like to clarify that while this film is about juicing, it’s not just about juicing.  It’s about choosing fresh food over processed food.  It’s about taking responsibility for and control of your health.  It’s about choosing life and living it.  I think that’s something we can all get behind.

Want to learn more about the film?  Want to connect with Joe and get healthy?  Become a fan of his Facebook page or sign up for his Reboot email list.