By Heidi Toy, NTP
When you think of traditional foods, what pictures come to mind? Little children running around a homestead pulling eggs from under chickens as in Little House on the Prairie? Grandma skillfully rolling out pie crusts made with lard? Or perhaps the booths at the local farmers market bursting with the colors of the spring harvest?
Simply put, traditional foods are those in their most natural state, unadulterated, unrefined, and grown in nutrient-dense soil. It is these real, whole, nourishing foods enjoyed for generation upon generation that provide the cells of our bodies with the necessary fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients needed for vibrant health. This state of well-being is characterized by a quiet and strong digestive system, blissful sleep, sturdy bones, a calm and clear mind, and an immune function that prevents infection.
A number of factors influence ones vitality: sleep quality, rest, companionship, physical activity, chemical exposure, and more. Yet food remains the key player for nourishing the body’s every cell. We now know that epigenetics is more important than genetics, that 75 percent of our health is dependent on whether we encourage good genes to express and bad genes not to express. The body’s genes are constantly communicating with the nutrients we take in through food. In other words, food either feeds or poisons a cell. And this is a powerful concept when one considers that cells make tissues, tissues make organs, and organs make us—our brains, our bones, our reproductive organs, our joints.
Health is a choice: we can say we “don’t have time to cook a meal.” But remember the old wisdom: pay the farmer today or pay the doctor later.
A study published in 2001 of organic versus conventional produce found that the organic versions contained 27 percent more vitamin C, 29 percent more magnesium, 86 percent more chromium, and 375 percent more selenium. The chemical-free foods were also lower in cancer-causing nitrates and toxic heavy metals.
Another study published in 2003 of the levels of pesticide metabolites in the urine found that children eating organic had 6 to 9 times lower levels than children eating conventionally grown food. Bear in mind, pesticides are up to 10 times more toxic to children than adults, due to their smaller body size and developing organ systems, so it is especially important to minimize their exposure.
The meat of cows roaming on pasture, munching away on their natural diet of fresh grass, have more omega-3s and more vitamins A and E than their commercial grain-fed, feedlot cousins. Hormone residues in meat and dairy products can disrupt our body’s natural hormone balance; many experts suspect that consumption of hormone-treated beef and dairy products may contribute to girls reaching puberty earlier. Chickens allowed to forage for bugs and grass and to soak up sunshine in the great outdoors produce eggs with greater amounts of vitamins E and A than their commercial, cooped up, pellet-fed counterparts. Eggs from pastured hens also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the beneficial ratio of approximately 1:1, unlike commercial eggs, which average an unhealthy 1:19.
In my practice and with my clients, it is my job to help them understand that purchasing organic doesn’t have to be all or none; pick and choose, evaluate your budget, the price of items, and re-organize your meals to include more seasonable organic choices. We are fortunate to be living in an area where there are many affordable options when it comes to purchasing organic and pastured animal products.
Heidi Toy is a Functional Nutritional Therapist, and the owner of “Educated Nutrition”, located in Altoona, WI. Her focus is helping people heal holistically, with an emphasis on digestion, weight loss, depression, female hormone issues, and fatigue.