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Top Ten Items to Buy Organic

May 3, 2010

Trying to buy organic foods can sometimes feel confusing and expensive. Which are better? Where can I save? What’re the top foods that should be organically grown? Well here are some answers.

Here are a list of foods that it’s worth the extra bucks to buy organic. Organic foods are free of pesticides and other chemicals, and some foods absorb them better than others.

10. Meat

Think about it–growth hormones  and anything else they give the meat, whatever is stored in them (as in anything that isn’t water-soluble, which is a lot), then goes directly into you. You can’t wash out hormones from meat like you can possibly wash off pesticides from veggies.

9. Dairy

Dairy comes straight from the animal. Imagine–if you’re a nursing mother, you avoid eating anything that might go from your milk into the child and harm it. Would you take growth hormones and other harmful products while breast feeding? So why drink the milk of animals who have been.

8.  Eggs

It just goes along with the others, think about it.

7. Coffee

Coffee, if treated, will have the residues on it–and think about it, to make coffee you run water across the beans. There is no way of escaping those chemicals. Also, as a bonus, organic coffee might tend to be fair trade, so everyone benefits.

6. Peaches and other Fruits with Thin Skins/Skins you Consume

Peaches have some of the thinnest skins, and therefore everything just soaks right in. And also, consider the fruit you consume the skin whole, such as grapes. (And for me at least, Peaches as well). They’re different from say, a banana, with a thick skin protecting the fruit. You eat it straight. And even if you wash it, it’s a very thin membrane and there is the likelihood that it’s soaked in. (This includes juices–organic goes better here too)

5. Potatoes

Potatoes are getting a double dose–pesticide above the ground and the soil gets fungicide. Sweet potatoes, get a little lower than white potatoes, and also they’re absolutely delicious.

4. Peppers, Celery, Green Beans, and Tomatoes

Peppers and tomatoes have very thin skins, and celery and green beans have very high pesticide contents.

3. Leafy Greens

Spinach has the highest number of pesticides, and you’re consuming them straight.

2. Baby Food

Babies don’t like pesticides, so avoid them.

1. Your Favorite

If you’re eating it a ton (like my goat cheese, avocado, and tomatoes…) than it’s better to forgo the cost and make them organic, because you’re consuming so much more of it than normal.

But, rest at least a little easier, here are ten foods that aren’t so bad to buy non-organic…

(In alphabetical order…)

Asparagus, Avocado, Bananas, Brocoli, Cabbage, Kiwi, Mango, Onion, Papaya, and Pineapple

(As a heads up, I basically got this information straight from HowStuffWorks.com’s podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You, entitled, “Are Organic Foods Healthier?”, which got it from the article on HowStuffWorks.com, “10 Foods You Should Buy Organic.” Plus some additional reading… )

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The Joys of Grocery Shopping

May 2, 2010

First off, let me say, I love grocery shopping. Something just feels right about spending money on good food.

It costs an average of about $50/week to feed one person. As one of my goals as the “organic undergrad,” I’m trying to buy all my food at Whole Foods and not go over budget. My budget being between 40 and 60, because some weeks you need more food than others, and it all averages out to $50 or so. I went grocery shopping this week for a total of $53.99. Not bad, right? I’d say it’s about average. It’s definitely not bad if you consider that I’ve gone a week-and-a-half without groceries, not just one week.

Also, I can’t wait to finally head to the farmer’s market. Memphis has a district called Cooper-Young, my favorite area in midtown and Memphis. It’s historic and it’s thriving with locally owned shops, restaurants, and cafes. They have a farmer’s market that’s on Saturdays from 8am – 1pm. (Plus here’s an article about it)

So in my groceries this week: cereal, soymilk, tea, bread, orzo, and tons of fruit plus some veggies (my all time staples, tomatoes and avocados). I thankfully still have an entire zucchini and yellow squash left from last week, and half a green bell pepper.) Also notably on my list, peaches!!

I love peaches. They’re probably my favorite fruit, and have been since I was a little kid. My family is from South Carolina, and so on our way down to visit the family over the summer, we’d always stop at the road-side stands selling fresh peaches in baskets, and you can’t beat fresh South Carolina peaches. These peaches, sadly, aren’t from there. But I’m heading down in almost exactly two weeks, so hopefully I can get a big basket then.

Some foods in the grocery store seem too highly priced to really invest in for the week. So what foods do I not mind splurging on?

answer one: Cheese. Specifically, goat cheese. I get a semi-soft Cabra goat cheese that I take small pieces from or crumble. It’s not like slices of cheese to cover a sandwich, it’s more like buttering bread. I go through a small wheel every two weeks or so.

answer two: Avocado. They tend to be between one and two dollars per avocado, instead of per pound. But they’re so good for you, and so delicious. I use about a half to a whole avocado a day, so it’d be too hard to say no.

answer three: Tea and Coffee. There’s such a big difference between good teas and good coffees and their worser counterparts… the taste alone is worth it to me.

things I haven’t been able to convince myself are worth buying:

answer one: Really expensive juices. The kind that are $5-7 a pop. Maybe some day, but I’ll stick with water and tea for now…

answer two: packaged meals, like tv dinners. I’m never full after them, and then I’m stuck with having to make something completely new afterwards.

And as a final mention to this weekend. This (as seen in the map) is what I’ve had to deal with all weekend… Memphis probably had 7 different tornado warnings yesterday. I’ve drawn where I am. All the red is what was on us yesterday and last night till about 4am. I’m just glad to have groceries now. 🙂

Spinach Salad with Zucchini and Yellow Squash

May 1, 2010

I have this theory, that if there’s goat cheese and craisins, almost anything can taste good.

Not to say that this salad would’ve tasted badly without them, just the sweet and tangy flavors help me get through my still growing tastes for everything else in it.

I’m nearly out of groceries this week–tomorrow’s my grocery day, and I would’ve gone today if it hadn’t been for the 4 tornado warnings we had periodically today in Memphis. (As a result, I’ve spent a good few hours sitting in a damp and slightly flooded laundry room underneath my apartment…). So thankfully I still have stuff left in my fridge for dinners, just not what I would normally fix. thus, another, need-to-buy-groceries meal!

So here’s what I made:

– organic raw spinach
– organic yellow squash
– organic zucchini
– organic goat cheese
– sweetened and dried cranberries (they aren’t craisins, these were in the bulk section at whole foods. I like them because there’s nothing added to them except the sugar (not high fructose corn syrup) ).
– italian vinaigrette dressing (I haven’t made my own yet–this stuff is left over from my pre-health food days, so it’s kraft and has HFCS in it. But I’m planning on finding a good recipe for my own soon.)

Voila. It was pretty filling, since I made such a big plate of it. And for desert, I made a gluten-free brownie mix (thanks to Kerry and her children!). Now, I’m not allergic to gluten, but what I like about gluten-free products is that many times they’re free of the additives of regular foods. Plus it tastes just like regular brownies. Since gluten-free products tend to be very allergy-conscious, it means I can use a box mix easier with less guilt. More about my chocolate allergy later… (I have my suspicions about how it’s not real.)

Veggie Sandwich

May 1, 2010

Admittedly, a lot of the food I eat has the same ingredients in it. Easy enough, I only go to the grocery store once a week and tend to get the same foods. But they’re oh-so-delicious together.

Here’s my veggie sandwich, (with the top off, so you can see the contents). Eating it was a tad difficult because the pieces kept falling out. Next time I might cut them into slices, or maybe try a wrap or pita pocket instead of the bread.

Ingredients:

– organic 9 grain bread
– organic goat cheese, spread (I get the semi-soft to soft kind, so that way it’s really similar to buttering bread, but instead its with cheese)
– organic avocado, sliced thinly and layered to keep the rest of the veggies on top and not falling off
– a few slices of green bell pepper
– zucchini, sliced
– yellow squash, sliced
– roma tomato, sliced (I use roma tomatoes because they’re about a perfect serving size for one person. If I were making this for multiple people, I’d probably go ahead and use a regular tomato)
– hummus, spread on the top slice of bread
– then grilled like a panini for a little bit, mainly to toast the bread and warm everything up a bit.

So within this sandwich there’s about 2 servings of whole grains, one to two servings of vegetables, depending on how much you load on there, and the hummus makes it more filling and gets some protein in there if you are a vegetarian or its a fast day, like wednesday or friday.

If you do exactly what I did, make sure there’s a plate underneath the sandwich at all times.. I definitely had to reload a few of the veggies here and there as they slipped out. Overall, though, it was quite delicious!

I had on the side some grapes with a cup of tea.

Sweet Potato Sandwich

April 29, 2010

This was a delicious sandwich.

What it is:

– grilled sweet potatoes with sweet curry and brown sugar
– with sunbutter on flax oat bread
– the extra grilled sweet potato on the side
– tangerine
– small salad of greens, tomato, and avocado with a little italian dressing

total time: maybe 20 minutes.

Before you grill the sweet potatoes, peal them and slice them. Put them in a bowl with some water and cover, microwave for about 5 minutes, remove, and then put them on the grill, (I use a griddler), and add the brown sugar and curry (I spread a little bit of brown sugar on with a spoon, then shake the curry on lightly). Then I grill them till they’re done. So, about 2 minutes, but it depends on your slicing.

My Favorite Breakfast

April 28, 2010

My favorite breakfast is pretty simple, but incredibly delicious.

It’s basically a “parfait,” but instead of strawberries, I use dried cranberries and better granola. So what is this?

-organic vanilla yogurt
-blueberry and almond granola
-dried cranberries

and then on the side I’ll also have a banana to really get my day going, plus a cup of black tea with a splash of soymilk. (the original kind, not vanilla)

Just yogurt can get really boring, and isn’t completely filling. Adding the granola and cranberries in, plus the banana, keeps me filled enough to last till lunch.

The Importance of Vitamin D

April 28, 2010

Vitamin D is created through ultraviolet radiation on the skin, aka sunshine. No wonder sunlight feels so good.

The stores, especially during flu season (and this year with the swine flu scares), are full of vitamin supplements to help boost the immune system. These vitamin powders and drinks are primarily high doses of vitamin C and some B. Vitamin C certainly does have some benefits to the immune system, as it has been shown to boost the concentration of immunoglobulin, a key component to the immune system, and Vitamin B essentially is known for helping increase energy levels (thus why energy drinks are also packed with vitamins many times) by aiding in the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose, along with aiding in the breakdown of fats and proteins, which help the nervous system to function. So these are pretty standard and good vitamins to take to help boost the immune system. But, these are not the only two vitamins out there! Maybe the most well known and popular (possibly thanks to orange juice and vitamin B12 shots), but we cannot forget our friend vitamin D.

Vitamin D, created through the help of ultraviolet radiation (aka sunshine) on the skin, is best known (at least to me) for always being added to milks along with Vitamin A. So why is vitamin D so awesome? Just in the best known scheme of things, vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, thus helping with bone and teeth growth and strength, plus with too little of it, people can get rickets or osteomalacia.

The awesome part about vitamin D is that research has shown that many types of cancer cells have spots for vitamin D to bind to, causing the replication to slow down. All this vitamin D research for cancer, however, has lead doctors to note its effects on the innate immune system, which is the body’s first defense against microbial invaders. Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, cause inflammation through a defect in the innate immune system’s handling of intestinal bacteria, thus leading researchers to now start looking into how vitamin D can help those suffering from Crohn’s or who might be at a higher risk of getting the disease.

So this news is huge, although still being researched. Vitamin D has also been suggested to help protect against respiratory infections (like the common cold and flu), and people with asthma and emphysema in some studies have been shown to have lower levels of vitamin D than normal. It also has been suggested it plays a protective role against both colon cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Out of all of that, Vitamin D is looking pretty good. It is something to mention, however, that it’s a fat soluble vitamin, meaning that it builds up in fatty tissue, so too much of it can become toxic, and so taking correct dosages of supplements daily is highly recommended over a disregard for the recommended amount. Most doctors are saying that 15 minutes of unprotected sun during peak hours (11-1pm) is a good way of getting the correct amount. And for me, regardless of what season it is, I’m taking my vitamin, getting a little sun, and washing my hands regularly, because we have a strict attendance policy and I can’t afford to get sick.

I know this isn’t necessarily food related, but its something I found quite interesting, and something that I don’t think everyone is quite as aware of. Vitamin C is touted as the cure-all immune system upper, but maybe with some more vitamin D it’d help even more, since it has been linked to helping stop the common cold and the flu. Also, I’d suggest just having a well balanced diet in general. Supplements have been shown to help and all, but why not eat them at the source, instead of eating badly and assuming a few pills will fix you? (Because they probably won’t)

Here’re some suggested articles to read if you’re interested in more information, plus most of these I used as sources for my own info:

http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/MM/B/B/R/N/_/mmbbrn.pdf

http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/vitamin-b.htm

http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/vitamin-d2.htm

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/managing-your-healthcare/infectious-diseases/articles/2009/02/23/too-little-vitamin-d-may-mean-more-colds-and-flu.html

Also, consider reading Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. It’s a quick, quick read, but very informative and useful.

Here’s a page with some excerpts:

http://www.pbs.org/pov/foodinc/pollan_foodrules.php