Monday, May 5, 2014

Fruits & Vegetables



Good Morning Readers!

 
Seward Co-op


It has been such a long and eventful weekend  it seems like forever since my last post. I know that it was only last Thursday but that seems like months ago.

Everyone knows now that summer is approaching and the topic of the month is fruits and vegetables. Now  I know this concept might seem a little simple but over the years there has been a strong emphasis on the importance of where you purchase your produce. When you enter any given grocery store what are your initial thoughts?

The produce section of a grocery store is not only the most colorful but also the most complex part of a grocery store. In the past ten or so years we have put a stronger emphasis on eating healthy and if you notice our local grocers have also put some time and energy into what this means to their consumers.

Not only do we now have to worry about what is healthy- we have to be concerned with,  "where it comes from?" Is it organic? What is the difference between organic and certified organic? If it's certified organic does this mean its GMO free? What is a GMO? Is this product in season? If I bring this home how do I store it?", It is exhausting.

I really enjoy grocery shopping and in the last couple years I have made a point to try and fully understand the quality of the food I am purchasing.

Organic

An article produced by the FDA in 2001 stated, Surging interest in natural and organic foods has transformed a small market niche into a double-digit growth sector. Theses foods are a key component in the major consumer trend known as whole health solutions- diets that promote health and well-being, prevent disease, help cure illnesses and protect the environment. Retailers, suppliers and producers- both natural and mainstream- are meeting this demand with new foods and organic alternatives to conventional products.

As the demand for natural and organic foods grew the amount of producers also increased. It is common knowledge that the more infiltrated the market becomes the more compromised the quality of the product can become. This has created much controversy over the true meaning of natural and organic produce.

Are Natural and Organic foods the same?

No, although organic foods are natural by definition. The term "natural" applies broadly to foods that are minimally processed and free of synthetic preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and other artificial additives. Most foods that are labeled natural are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and health codes that apply to all foods.

"Organic" refers not only to the food itself, but also to how it was produced. Food labeled organic must be certified under the National Organic Program. They must be grown and processed using organic farming methods. Crops must be grown without using synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge based fertilizers.

It is crucial to pay attention to the labeling of the foods you put in your grocery cart.

Benefits of Consuming Organic Produce
 
1. Benefit from more Nutrients

Organically grown produce have more nutrients- vitamins, minerals, enzymes and micronutrients- than commercially grown produce. There are are a few reasons why this statement is true. Fruits and vegetables obtain a lot of their nutrients from the soil that they are being grown in. The soil on an organic farm is managed and nourished with sustainable practices keeping the minerals and vitamins readily available for whatever is being grown in it. They also do not use harsh chemicals that can inhibit the enzymes found in the given food which allows it to be digested more easily in the consumers body.


2. Avoid Chemicals

Organic farms are also not allowed to use harsh or abrasive fertilizers. The fertilizers that are used in commercially grown produce can not only be harmful to the produce (by killing enzymes that help the consumer digest them in the body) but it can also be unsafe for those ingesting the product because these fertilizers may still be present in toxic levels.

More than 600 active chemicals are registered for agricultural use in america. The average application equates to about 16 pounds of chemical pesticides per person every year. The FDA only tests 1% of foods for pesticide residue.

3. Better Flavor

Organically grown foods generally taste better because the quality of the soil produces healthy strong plants. These strong plants then produce more vibrant fruit which taste and look better.


4. Avoiding GMO
http://www.choosingraw.com/gmo-labeling-a-foodpolicy-us-sponsored-panel-at-georgetown/

      GMO:
  1. is an organism whose genome has been altered by the techniques of genetic engineering so that its DNA contains one or more genes not normally found there. Note: A high percentage of food crops, such as corn and soybeans, are genetically modified.

Genetically engineered food and genetically modified organisms are infiltrating our food system at a rapid rate, with consequences beyond any consumers understanding. GMO foods do not have to be labeled. Because organically grown food strive to not be genetically modified, choosing organic is a safer choice. Also, looking for labels that say "Non-GMO" are also a good way to help avoid altered foods. 



Best Places to Find Organics and Local Produce

Every grocery store typically has a natural and organic produce section. It really isn't hard to come by these days. I do find that there is a difference in quality depending on the grocer.

For the best quality produce I would recommend a natural foods store, Co-op or visiting your local farmer's market. These places put a greater importance on sourcing local foods which can taste worlds better and usually come from smaller farms and the environment the plants are grown in can be better regulated.


Co-op

Seward Co-op
A co-op is essentially a cooperative society or business.  More simply put a cooperative is a business voluntarily owned by the people who use it and operated for the benefit of its members. In Minnesota we have lots of co-op owned natural grocers. They are usually a little smaller than the bigger natural food stores such as Whole Foods but they focus on the needs of their members. My personal favorite in the Twin Cities is Seward Co-op. I could sit in their produce section for days. If you're wanting some interesting and seasonal produce a Co-op is the place to visit. Unfortunately, not all states have natural food co-ops but this is why the farmers market is my second favorite stop for local and organic produce. 


                       Farmer's Market

I adore nothing more than enjoying a sunny spring or summer day at the farmers market. Being in a farm focused state we have a lot of wonderful farmers markets strewn throughout the Twin Cities (Mill City, Kingfield, Minneapolis and Saint Paul are a couple of my favorites -each unique in their own way). During the spring the focus is more on fresh herbs and plants because MN spring is more like an extended winter. As the season gets warmer though, we get to enjoy some really awesome locally grown produce and homemade goods. I know that Danielle also has a very strong connection to the local farmers' markets that are around her in GA. Although unlike us in the North -the markets in the South have longer seasons because the weather is so much nicer year round. I have to admit I am a bit jealous. I remember a few weeks after we attending the conference in January she was sending me pictures of the fresh produce she bought at the farmer's market.  Farmers' markets really provide a nice place to talk to the farmers themselves and get a better idea of where your food has been grown. They also are real people producing real food to keep us healthy and happy individuals and its always nice to support your community.

I hope that this has provided you with a little bit of a better understanding of the importance of organic produce and where to look for them when shopping this summer. Please let me know if you have any other questions I would be happy to help.


Laura
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