By: Teresa Peterson

You wouldn’t fill a gas engine with diesel fuel, would you? Rhetorical question. We all know that would destroy your engine and you’d swiftly go from cruising in your Subaru to hoofing it.

The same rule goes for fueling your body. Why fill it up with junk food, pesticide-ridden produce, hormone-inflated meats, and highly processed food-type things? Often the answer is because it’s less expensive and it’s easy.

Don’t cop out. You only get one body and you can’t just replace the engine after a lifetime of filling it with the wrong fuel. The truth is there are many ways to eat well—you just have to be willing to prioritize health above convenience and try to plan ahead.

Instead of thinking about changing your eating routine as a downer where you have to eliminate all the junk you’ve grown to love and crave let’s think about it in terms of what great things you can add! After all, sometimes you just want a jelly filled donut and that’s okay. It just shouldn’t be an every day deal.

(Note: When you eat junk food, or sugar rich treats, you should absolutely enjoy them. Eating something unhealthy already has a negative impact on your health but if you consume it and beat yourself up for eating it you increase the negative impact on your body. This is due to whole mind-body connection thing. If you kick yourself for eating that chocolate cake not only will the ingredients take their toll—your self-deprecating mentality will exacerbate the negative physiological impact).

Let’s start with a list of simple changes for lifelong health:
• Add nutrient-rich foods
• Eat more color (natural color from fruits and vegetables)
• Limit processed and refined foods
• Replace white flour
• Explore new grains

Wait! Before you go filling your grocery bags with just any fruits and vegetables it’s important to understand some things about organic versus conventional produce and GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) foods versus Non-GMO foods.

GMOs (Gee em whaat?!)
There is definitely controversy around the safety of genetically modified organisms. One of the most shocking facts is that most developed nations other than the U.S. do not consider GMOs to be safe. According to the Non-GMO Project “in more than 60 countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs (” — where in the U.S. the government approves GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from you consuming said GMO products.

Why Organic? (The very abbreviated answer)
First of all it’s important to recognize that something being labeled organic doesn’t necessarily make it healthy. An organic cookie is still a cookie. One thing that makes organic foods better for us is that they tend to be more nutrient dense. If you grow a berry in crappy soil and you have to dowse it in pesticides and chemical fertilizers to make it grow the end product will have less nutritional value than if you grew it organically.

When something is organic it is grown in environmentally friendly ways, without toxic or persistent agricultural chemicals. If it’s labeled USDA Organic you can be sure that your food was grown following these basic standards:

  • Soil and plants cannot be treated with chemicals or persistent pesticides or herbicides.
  • No synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge can be used to promote growth.
  • GMOs are not allowed.
  • Animals are fed organic feeds, given access to the outdoors, and allowed to fulfill their natural behaviors.
  • Synthetic growth hormones and antibiotics are forbidden.

Cost Concerns (This helps!)
I’ve started to make my case for why you should shop for more organic foods but you might be firing up the “I can’t afford to buy all organic” response. I get it. I’m broke as a joke—but not as broke as I could be if I filled my tank with diesel when it takes regular unleaded. Fortunately for us there are certain foods that are safer to purchase when they’re conventionally grown than others. The Environmental Working Group created the “Clean 15” and the “Dirty Dozen” lists to help you navigate this reality in the produce section at your local grocer.

The produce itemized on the “Dirty Dozen” list are foods you should always buy in the organic section since they tend to be most negatively impacted by unnatural pesticides and fertilizers. This list includes apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, potatoes and more.

The “Clean 15” list includes foods that are okay to buy from the conventional section since they’re less susceptible to holding pesticide residue. These include avocadoes, pineapples, onions, asparagus, mangoes, grapefruit, sweet potatoes and more.

My mom always said “where there’s a will there’s a way” and it applies across the board when it comes to the fuel you use to energize your body.

An added way to up the positive impact of your produce is to pay attention to the ANDI score. ANDI stands for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index,” which is a scoring system that rates nutrient content from 1-1000. Whole Foods Market does a bang up job laying out the top scoring vegetables. Take a look at their ANDI Guide for a little help composing your grocery list!

Eating clean, whole, healthy foods will give you more energy to do the things you love while simultaneously reducing your risk for a slew of diseases and other health problems (you know, things like cancer, heart disease, chronic fatigue…and on it goes). Happy hunting and gathering, souls.