Hey there friends!
Given the recent and ongoing media hype over whether one should eat 100% organic vegetables or if conventional plant farming is safe or if Mr. Piggy really suffers so much that you either shouldn't eat him at all or pay out the nose to keep him comfy before he kicks it, I decided it was time for me to toss my two bits into the ring.
First, let me say that my credentials, insofar as I have any, are a doctoral degree (PhD) in immunology and vaccine development, a B.S. in biology with an emphasis on genomics, access to the latest and greatest in scientific literature and my own set of personal challenges that means this shiz is really important to me! I also dabble with the yoga and other whatnots.
Let's start with the animal question, because of all the craziness and hype, it is by FAR the simplest to address. The most common question I get from people is "should I eat meat?". My answer is always, "that depends". On what, you ask? It depends on the type of meat you're consuming and what else you might be consuming right along with it. The general answer is yes, you can and, in most cases, should eat meat. There's not a thing in the world wrong with it or bad for you, in general.
Homo sapiens have evolved (if you don't agree with that verb, you should probably stop reading now...my whole premise is built upon this idea, and if you can't accept it, I probably have nothing to offer you) over the course of our existence from hunters and gathers to the agrarian and agriculturally based society we are today. Consuming meat was a huge evolutionary pressure that allowed this to take place. So yes, in a sense, we are programmed to eat meat. HOWEVER, that programming allowed for things like buffalo, venison and wild boar. Notice that list does not cover cows, pigs, chickens and lambs. That's because those species were bred away from wilder species and cultivated in a farm environment. As we progressed with this domestication of farm animals, our diets changed right along with it. It's much easier to raise a pig in the back yard than it is to go out and kill a wild boar. Makes perfect sense. What this picture doesn't account for is the advent of antibiotics, hormones and steroids that allow modern farmers to bulk up their livestock in order to make more money.
As such, our general understanding that meat is okay changes drastically! Meat that was raised with antibiotics and steroids is a major no-no! This practice encourages the evolution of super bugs (MRSA, anyone?), against which modern medicine has no defense, and neither do your kids! They also, to some degree, stem the tide of disease on factory farms, which allows large commercial farmers to house their animals in horribly inhumane conditions. Considering the evidence that pigs are smarter than your average german shepherd, I'm calling foul on those practices!! Hormone use is less scary, but still undesirable. If you cook your meat, the hormones in it (if any) won't survive. They will, however, thrive in secretions (AHEM...milk and eggs) from the animals upon which they are used.
If you are financially unable to purchase free-range organically raised meats, try to minimize your intake to 2x a week and/or focus on seafood consumption over land animals. If your goal is to make sure your heart pumps happily until you're 106 and your vessels are squeaky clean, it is in your best interest to stick with meat of the two-feet/no feet variety (poultry and seafood). If you absolutely cannot come to grips with the FACT that your meat was a living, breathing creature at one time, stop eating it. It really is that simple. The idea is not to be guilt-ridden. The idea is to be empowered with understanding and take the actions that you, today, are able to take. That, of course, has nothing to do with what Sally down the street is capable of doing or what your yoga teacher thinks is best. You alone know your life and situation. You are an adult and can make your own decisions!
The much more difficult question in all of this usually circles around the idea of organic vs. conventional plants: fruits and vegetables. Now, I am fully aware that there are a multitude of websites and blogs out there that tell you to buy organic or do without. In other words, if you want cucumbers on your salad and Trader Joe's doesn't have the organic variety, then you are SOL...no cucumbers for you! Sorry kids, but that's crap.
Never, ever, ever compromise whole, solid nutrition just because you have to buy conventional veggies. All you have to do is take those babies home, wash the shizzz out of them, peel them if they are peel-able and then enjoy! The extremely low levels of pesticides (read: levels that won't actually hurt you) are in the skin! So, unless we're talking strawberries (which have no real "skin"), then there's absolutely no reason to waste your money paying double the price for an apple half the size. Incidentally, please visit the USDA organic certification website for a list of allowable pesticides and toxins used on "organic" farms. You might be surprised!
In addition, if you know right here and now that your paycheck just doesn't stretch that far, have no fear!!! It's all gravy, sunshine! You buy your veggies and , when you get 'em home, pile them in the biggest bowl you have and soak the mess right out of those puppies! Change the water 2-3 times in a 1-2 hour period and you're good to go! Again, if the fruit or vegetable is able to be peeled, that's an additional level of confidence if you need it. Regardless of what kind of vegetables you buy, you should ALWAYS rinse/wash them at least once prior to use. Bacteria don't care if your spinach is organic!
Chew on these tidbits for awhile, and then come on back for the next few installments!
Coming up: GMOs, eating for your blood type and other questions to which science already has the answer! In the meantime, check the link below for all the scientific articles you could want to address these questions!
Get your science on!!
If you like what I have to say, by all means, take it and make it yours. If not, keep on movin'. We play nice here, so if you don't, there's no need to stay.