Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Saturday, June 4, 2011

You don’t know what you don’t know

This is an important lesson I learned from engineering project planning. You made plans based on what you knew, did risk assessments on things that might go wrong (based on past history), but the really bad problems were things that came out of the blue – things you didn’t know.

I was reminded of this lesson this week, during our session with Ethan’s personal trainer (also known as the treat lady). She figured out that Ethan is a bit territorial about the new rug in the front room (which after all, we did get for him as an alternative to scratching up the floor). And this leads to undesirable behavior when someone, even nice like the treat lady, walks near the rug. I got that he was territorial about the kitchen… but a rug?

One of the things that I don’t know (believe or not, there are a lot of things I don't know), and I don’t think is generally known (at least based on a few web searches), are levels of pesticides (and fungicides, herbicides, etc) in our dairy and meat products. Or for that matter, processed food. There is lots of publicity about pesticide levels in fruits and vegetables (the dirty dozen, the clean fifteen…), but is this the most important thing spend the extra money (and often time) to get organic?

Here is how I try to decide:
1. If organic is easily available, for a small premium (like 20%), just get the organic.
2. If you eat a lot of it, get organic
3. If there are other benefits (like less antibiotic resistant bacteria, or better-for-you fats) get organic.
4. Where the non-organic choice is GMO (i.e. corn, soy products)

I also just try to avoid produce that has been imported (since it typically has a higher level of pesticides/other chemicals), and don’t buy any food from China (organic or not – their food system is just too corrupt to trust), and farmed fish (with some exceptions for US-farmed trout). And skip “organic” salmon. This is another way to say “farmed” salmon. Go for wild. Also remember that “natural” on a package of food is a marketing term, not an indication of what’s in the package. As far as processed food (and that includes the food from restaurants): best bet is to keep minimize how much you are eating. Because even “organic” can be full of sugars, overly processed ingredients, and bad fats.

We eat a lot of apples and banana’s, they are easy to get organic, that’s easy. As far as vegetables, I try to get as much as possible at the farmers market, from suppliers that are organic or that don’t use pesticides. I get organic corn chips. We eat enough oats that people might think we have a horse, so it falls into the organic list – if I happen to be at Trader Joes. Otherwise, I get Quaker at Safeway. Trader Joes carries a lot of organic products at reasonable prices, and Safeway is getting better (even have organic chicken now).

I really try to get pastured and/or organic meat, dairy and eggs. The data on pesticide levels is scant. There is some data on beef (which shows pesticides detected in a fair number of samples… mostly in the fat). But there are lots of other benefits, like higher omega-6 fats and less saturated fat, less antibiotic residue, and less bacteria (especially the nasty antibiotic resistant strains). Plus, the chicken and beef factories are fed with (government subsidized) genetically modified corn and soy. Organic meat is hard to find and more expensive. Milk and eggs are easy, just expensive – but we eat a lot of yogurt. And I don’t necessary cook my eggs until they are well done. I think meat raised out of doors, in a pasture tastes better, and is better for you.

Right now, there seems to be an explosion of conditions like autism, fatigue syndrome, ADHD, gluten intolerance, some types of cancer, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases that scientists don’t know why are increasing. And we also don’t know what low levels of a bunch of different chemicals (some known to be highly toxic in high levels) are doing to our bodies.

So, I make the effort.

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