Determining and adhering to a sensible menu isn’t easy. It can be made even trickier when you want something that tastes great, doesn’t have a lot of chemicals or preservatives, and is also allergy conscious.
Before you start off on finding the best food plan for you, it makes sense to familiarize yourself with some terms that you may encounter. While we’re no strangers to terms like calories, trans fat and cholesterol, there are others that are becoming more widely used as we demand more information about our food and how it’s grown. A few are provided here that should prove useful, especially if you’re trying to master the growing segments of foods labeled “Organic” and “Hormone-free.”
Buying organic is just one way to add healthy foods and nutrients to your diet without the added treatments that are often found on fruits, vegetables and other staples. There’s usually a slight to moderate price difference for organic varieties; however, many retailers are finding ways to make this difference easier for consumers. Check your local supermarkets, grocers and other outlets for the items available in your area.
For more information on organic foods and other nutritional concerns, visit: usda.gov, fda.gov, epa.gov or cdc.gov.
Antioxidant: protectants that neutralize free radicals, which cause cellular damage that may contribute to health problems. Antioxidants include lycopene, beta carotene, vitamins C and E, and more.
Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) or recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH): a hormone used by some dairies to increase milk production. With controversy on many sides regarding whether it is safe for animals or humans, many companies now label their milk as rBST- or rBGH-free.
Enriched foods: foods that replace the previously contained nutrients that were lost during processing.
Preservative: an additive that prevents spoiling and lengthens the life of the food.
Fortified foods: foods that add nutrients that they did not previously have prior to processing.
Organic: a product that is grown locally following standards of farming that maintain the integrity of the soil without using toxic chemicals, pesticides or fertilizers, as well as without added hormones or antibiotics and are minimally processed. The “Organic” label indicates that the grower has been third-party or private agency certified by a USDA accredited firm.
Whole grain: a food is considered whole grain when it uses all three parts of the grain: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Consumption of whole grain foods can reduce the risk of certain diseases and conditions as well as increase the amount of vitamins and minerals the body receives. Including the recommended intake of whole grains has also been shown to help with weight management.
Fertilizer: a substance (natural or synthetic) that enhances the soil, and thus a plant’s ability to grow.
Herbicides: chemicals used to control weeds and plants. There is concern about the use and application of these and how the use affects the environment and humans, specifically misting, runoff into streams and other contamination.
Insecticides: chemicals used to control insects. There is concern about the use and application of these and how the use affects the environment and humans, specifically misting, runoff into streams and other contamination, including via ingestion of the vegetable or fruit that may have been treated.
Pesticide: a broad term referring to the chemicals used to control different types of invaders or pests, from the plant-based intruders to the furry variety: insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and rodenticides.
Enjoy more of your favorites.
Armed with some key points and a list of items you may have created with your doctor or nutritionist, it’s time to consider where to find your favorite fruits and veggies, or where to find some of the more exotic ones. Your first stop might be your local grocery store or supermarket. Keep in mind that many times they will offer items that are sure to sell. If you are having a more difficult time locating a lesser known item, try a health food store, or, believe it or not, your local farmers market.
Shopping locally at the farmers market not only helps support local business, but the food usually has traveled fewer miles to get to you and will be quite fresh. Furthermore, many local and regional farmers participate in healthier growing practices and, because they sell their wares in retail outlets and farmers markets close to their farms, they often use fewer pesticides when growing their crops. However, be sure to ask when you visit so you know the case firsthand for your area. Considering the freshness factor and the variety of crops available, shopping your local farmers market is a great way to add healthy items to your table that do not skimp on taste! And it’s something you can count on for the majority of the year — most farmers markets are active beginning in early spring to late fall — unless, of course, you are fortunate enough to be near one that is year-round!