Ingredients Matter: Why Choosing Non-GMO is Essential for Your Health
Have you ever walked into a grocery store and found yourself wandering around looking for their “health food” section?
Maybe you eventually found it segregated on the outskirts of the main aisles. Or perhaps you noticed one or two aisles were specifically reserved for health foods, yet they were isolated from the rest of the general items.
The fact that certain foods carried in grocery stores fall under the title “healthy food”, and that there are even specific stores able to boast themselves as “health food stores” solely carrying products that are in line with the term, goes to show that, unfortunately, not all food is created equal.
The truth is, ingredients matter. That, along with many other factors such as the processes of farming and preparation, make a huge difference in the value of the food we consume.
The term “organic” has gained attention and popularity lately, but, believe it or not, organic farming was once the standard way. That was, before the introduction and widespread use of synthetic pesticides and factory farming. In the early 1930s, farmers realized the benefits of pesticide use on their crop yields and the practice quickly spread, soon becoming mainstream.
Today, the use of pesticides in farming is standard. It’s become quite controversial, however, as more awareness is drawn to the potential harm pesticide use is suspected of causing. Many people now link short and long term health issues to the consumption of products grown using synthetic pesticides. Dangerous side effects can range from immediate skin, nose, and throat irritation, to potential longer term issues such as endocrine system disruptions and hormonal dysfunctions.
Because the residues of these toxic chemicals tend to remain on the food's skin, thoroughly washing non-organic produce is crucial. And although certain fruits and vegetables have peels that are not always eaten, it is important to note that pesticides can also make their way to the flesh of the plant. The bottom line? Choosing organic (whenever possible) is safest.
Fortunately, products that are grown without pesticides, or with minimal amounts, tend to stand apart with the label “Certified Organic”, an emblem which requires very strict standards to carry.
But it’s not just pesticides used in conventional farming that raises alarm. The practice of genetically modifying foods (aka “GMOs”) has also become a major cause for concern.
In 1994, with the intention of delaying ripening and extending shelf life, a crop of tomatoes was grown with an extra gene. These were the first genetically engineered foods released onto the market. Since then, this farming practice has also become commonplace. As of 2020, it has been reported that more than 90% of all corn and soy crops grown in the US are genetically modified!
There is rising speculation that the consumption of GMO foods is also linked to certain human health risks and pose problems to ecosystems and even agriculture itself. These concerns make the practice of genetically engineering foods yet another controversial topic in the food world. As a result of this increasing concern, non-GMO products began touting a label to show they are free from containing any GMO ingredients in 2010. Then in 2022, the USDA mandated the labeling of foods that do contain ingredients which have been genetically modified.
Fortunately, progress has been made and the use of GMOs is actually prohibited in certified organic products. You can rest assured that foods labeled as “Certified Organic” will always also be non-GMO!
While both practices of using pesticides and genetically modifying crops aim to increase crop yields and quality, this is generally done in regards to the best interest of farmers and food manufacturers. This means the best interests (and concerns) of consumers are clearly overlooked.
Unfortunately, this sort of disregard for consumers doesn’t end there. Conventional foods on grocery store shelves are also typically laden with chemical preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, and highly processed ingredients. The uses of such additives are, arguably, not in the consumers’ best interest.
While the intention of preservatives is to increase the shelf life and stability of products, and may sound ideal to shoppers, regular consumption of chemical preservatives is now being found responsible for significant health problems and concerns. Artificial preservatives can be traced to both short and long-term health issues ranging from headaches and gastrointestinal upset all the way to cancer.
And though the use of artificial ingredients, including flavors and colors, might appear like a harmless way to add a little fun to foods, they too are more frequently being linked to adverse effects such as allergic reactions and hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders in children.
When it comes to manufacturing foods, methods have changed drastically over time. What began as basic, wholesome products have morphed into packaged foods with ingredient lists that consist mostly of highly processed ingredients. Once again, these changes mainly benefit food production companies, as they are able to make “better” tasting products at much lower costs. The catch for the consumer is that these highly processed, or refined, foods are often stripped of their original nutrients. They are then either enriched to replace those lost nutrients (but at a lesser quality), or remain devoid of nutritional value altogether.
Some of the most commonly found refined ingredients used in food products today are white flour, white rice, table salt, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup and soy. It is now well known that the regular consumption of foods such as these over time leads to a host of health issues, such as insulin resistance, diabetes, weight gain, obesity, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, allergies, and intolerances.
Clearly the power of food is incredible. And just as what we choose to eat can have the ability to cause harm, we can also make food choices that have the ability to support ideal health and healing. The good news is, there are many farmers and food manufacturers that do have the better interests of their consumers in mind, and ‘health food’ products are becoming more abundant, affordable, and easier to find.
By now, some of us may already be well accustomed to maneuvering around the grocery store to find the more conscious and wholesome products we are seeking. But for others, the task of navigating the aisles and searching for organic, non-GMO, and more nutritious food items might be newer and quite overwhelming. It can feel a bit intimidating heading towards a segregated health food section for the first time.
Interestingly, it seems grocery stores are catching on and some have started integrating their health food items in with the conventional products, making them easier to find and choose for the average consumer.
You might’ have noticed on your recent shopping trips that the health food items you are looking for are now interspersed within all of the other like-products; the organic, pure peanut butter is in the PB&J aisle next to the conventional versions; the whole grain and gluten free pastas are next to the traditional white in the pasta aisle; and the grass fed, farm raised beef is being stocked next to the commercial.
Thankfully, big brands seem to be catching on as well, and you might have noticed that many mainstream companies now offer alternative options to the traditional. For example, Heinz now has variations of their classic ketchup, such as “Simply”, which contains cane sugar instead of artificial sweeteners, “Organic”, which utilizes certified organic tomatoes and non-GMO ingredients and does not contain high fructose corn syrup, and even a “No Sugar Added” variety, using stevia instead of sugar for it’s sweetness.
Luckily, the tides seem to be turning more in the favor of consumer health and wellness. The more we continue to support and demand these products and practices, the more mainstream they will (once again) become!
Here at the Green Pineapple Wellness Cafe, we fully understand the importance of organic, non-GMO, and pure, wholesome food. We know that ingredients matter, and believe that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. You can rest assured that we always have your best interest at heart!
Join us in our cafe or shop our organic and non-GMO product selections for a delicious meal you can trust is good for you and your family.