How to Buy Real Food – 8 Helpful Guides, Part 1

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real food shopping sampler

Our modern food system is full of complexities, regulations, and corporate influences. How do we get to the truth of our food? The following eight guides will give you a strong knowledge base to make the best choices for how to buy real food.

Consumers need to be their own advocates.  In a transparent food system produce would include its list of accompanying pesticides, animal products like eggs, dairy, and meats would label how animals are raised, treated and fed, and processed foods would have truth in labeling.

This kind of transparency does not exist in our food system. Hidden ingredients and poor production methods have powerful impacts on our health- especially children and their developing bodies- and the environment.

1. EWG Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides

EWG SHopper's GuideBy avoiding the “dirty dozen”  list of the most contaminated produce you can lower 4/5ths of your daily exposure to pesticides. The Environmental Working Group estimates our exposure to pesticides to be an average of 10 per day when we eat non-organic peaches, strawberries, apples, domestic blueberries, nectarines, cherries, imported grapes, celery, sweet bell peppers, spinach, kale, collard greens and potatoes.

Pesticide exposure has been linked to cancer, birth defects, Autism Spectrum Disorders, nervous system toxicity, endocrine disruption, and neuro-developmental delays. Children are especially vulnerable since they absorb a higher concentration of pesticides than adults. The Shopper’s Guide includes a list of the least contaminated produce as well, helpful when buying all organic is impractical or costly.

More Information:
Environmental Working Group website
Pesticide Action Network
Local Harvest –  source for locating farmer’s markets, family farms, and sustainable food in your area.

2. Non-GMO Shopping Guide

non-gmo-shopping-guideGenetically modified (GM) foods have been in our food system since 1996. GM plants like soy, corn, cottonseed, and canola have had foreign genes from bacteria and viruses forced into their DNA. Genetically modified foods are not safe and are linked to allergic reactions, pre-cancerous cell growth, damaged immune systems, and organ damage in lab animals. Children are the most susceptible to effects of GMOs.

Though the FDA claim that GM foods are safe (the FDA official in charge of creating this policy was the former attorney for Monsanto, the largest biotech company), recent lawsuits exposed internal memos showing that FDA scientists warned about possible nutritional problems and insisted on long-term safety studies.

The US does not require labeling of GM foods. The Non-GMO Shopping Guide, published by the Center for Food Safety, can guide you how to avoid foods made with GMO’s like looking for “Certified Organic” food that cannot include GMO ingredients and avoiding probable GM foods like corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed.

Read more about How to Avoid Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods.

More Information:
Institute for Responsible Technology
Center for Food Safety
Seeds of Deception

3. Seafood Watch

seafood-watch-shopping-guideThere are a few guides available to help choose sustainable and low-toxin seafood. Food and Water Watch have their National Seafood Guide, Blue Ocean Institute have a Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood, and Seafood for the Future lists Branded Products.  Seafood Watch is a program from the Monterey Bay Aquarium that lists seafood recommendations by three categories; “Best Choices,” “Good Alternatives,” and “Avoid.” Fishing has the greatest impact on our ocean ecosystems. Seventy percent of our oceans are overfished.  Our seafood choices can be part of the solution when supporting sustainable fisheries.

The other part of the problem is the toxins found in seafood. Contaminants include metals (mercury), industrial chemicals (PCBs and Dioxins) and pesticides (DDT). Large predatory fish end up with the most contaminants. Seafood Watch has a “Super Green List” that identifies the best sustainable options that are lowest in toxins (Wild caught Alaskan Salmon and Albacore Tuna were among the choices). Food and Water Watch have a “Dirty Dozen” list of seafood that fail to be both sustainable and safe for consumption (Farmed Atlantic Salmon, Chilean Seabass, and Atlantic Bluefin Tuna are on this list).

More Information:
Blue Ocean Institute
Environmental Defense Fund – Contaminants in Fish
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Seafood for the Future

4. WAP Shopping Guide

Weston A Price shopping guideThe Weston A. Price Foundation is a valuable source for accurate nutrition and health information. Every year they publish a Shopping Guide that is distributed to its members, or you can order a guide from their website – it’s the best $1 you will ever spend.

The guide is organized into 30 categories like milk, eggs, snack foods, oils, and beverages. Each category offers guidelines on how to make the best choices, what to look for, and lists product brands under three rankings; best, good, and avoid.

The guide will help you avoid foods with refined sugars and flours, most commercial liquid vegetable oils, soy-based imitation foods, and additives like MSG, hydrolyzed protein, and artificial sweeteners. This guide is almost like a crash course nutrition class; teaching you the principles of a healthy diet through the practical application of buying these foods.

More Information:
The Weston A Price Foundation

I hope you find these guides helpful. Part 2 will conclude the list of eight helpful shopping guides including advice on eggs, dairy, and meats.

For iPhone users: Three of these guides are available as iPhone Apps and made my list of the Top 6 iPhone Apps.

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