If you’ve ever plucked a ripe tomato off the vine and savored its warm tangy juice on your tongue, you know that taste is just one of the reasons there’s nothing like eating your own home-grown fruits and vegetables.
But there are other reasons for growing your own — that are perhaps far more compelling.
The way store-bought fruits and vegetables are grown, processed and stored not only decreases vitamin content — the methods are dangerous to your health! Here are the seven things you should know about the food you find in the produce section of your grocery store:
1. PESTICIDES – Pesticides are used to kill bugs that destroy fruits or vegetables. The bugs are gone but the chemicals are not. When we eat the fruits or vegetables, we are ingesting chemicals that were used to kill living organisms. When these chemicals reach our colon, they make the colon toxic and slowly poison our body.
Sign up for your free Pesticides in Produce guide from the Environmental Working Group. This is is a not-for-profit environmental research organization that is dedicated to improving public health and protecting the environment by reducing pollution in air, water and food. The Pesticides in Produce Guide lists 45 non-organic fruits and vegetables and their pesticide ranking based on the results of nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2004.
2. HERBICIDES – Herbicides are used to kill unwanted plants. Selective herbicides kill specific targets while leaving the desired crop relatively unharmed. Some of these act by interfering with the growth of the weed and are often synthetic “imitations” of plant hormones. Studies have linked excessive use of herbicides to breast cancer, prostate cancer and other types of cancer.
3. PRESERVATIVES – Preservatives are used by the food industry to improve the appearance and shelf-life of food, by slowing natural decay that is caused by enzymes and bacteria. Sulfites are added to foods to act as enhancers or preservatives, and allergies to them may cause breathing difficulty, sneezing, swelling of the throat, and hives. Sulfites are also known to destroy vitamin B1 (thiamin), a vitamin essential for metabolism of carbohydrates, clear thinking, the conduction of nerve impulses, and the natural control of diabetes.
4. GENETIC MODIFICATION – Genetically modified (GM) foods have had their DNA changed through genetic engineering. The most common modified foods are derived from plants: soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil. The products below have been genetically modified in the U.S. since July, 2007:
(Number in parentheses represents the estimated percent that is genetically modified.)
o Soy (89%)
o Cotton (83%)
o Canola (75%)
o Corn (61%)
o Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%)
Dr. Arpad Pusztai, the world’s top genetically modified organisms (GMO) safety researcher at the Rowett Institute in Scotland was working in 1999 on a UK government grant to design long-term testing protocols for the European GM food safety assessment process. When Dr. Pusztai fed supposedly harmless GMOs to rats, they developed pre-cancerous cell growth, smaller brains, livers and testicles, partially atrophied livers, and showed signs of damaged immune systems. The results clearly indicated that the cause of the problem was due to the side effects arising from the process of genetic engineering itself.
Refer to Genetically Engineered Organisms, a public issues education project, for information on common food ingredients derived from corn and soybeans. You can also obtain information from the Institute for Responsible Technology regarding food additives derived from GM sources, or food and non-food items that contain GM ingredients.
5. FOOD ADDITIVES – Additives are used to increase shelf life, improve appearance, enhance flavor, and lower cost. The FDA has approved over a thousand different additives. According Prostate Protocol to Dr. William Rice, a licensed Nutritional Consultant, many common additives have been linked to cancer, allergies, migraine headaches, liver and kidney damage, birth defects, and brain damage. To make things worse, many additives do not appear on food labels. According to Dr. Rice, food manufacturers are not required to list all ingredients on labels.
The sheer abundance of food additives (over 1500) makes it difficult to avoid them, but it is possible to limit your exposure to them by reading labels. Typically an additive is hard to pronounce, has numbers in it, or does not sound like it occurs naturally in the food.
6. IRRADIATION – Food irradiation is the process of exposing food to ionizing radiation, which destroys microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, or insects that might be present in the food. Irradiation damages many foods and often ruins their flavor, odor, and texture. The process also destroys vitamins and other nutrients.
Scientists have observed serious health problems in lab animals fed irradiated foods – including premature death, cancer, tumors, stillbirths, mutations, organ damage, immune system failure and stunted growth. In some foods, irradiation forms chemicals known or suspected of causing cancer and birth defects.
7. FOOD TRANSPORT AND STORAGE – After fruits and vegetables leave the field, they might be transported 1,000 miles or more to market. The older your produce, the fewer essential nutrients it has. Nutrient loss varies, but your store-bought fruits and vegetables can lose as much as 50% of their phytonutrients in three to five days. And when you buy food that has been transported long distance, you are contributing to far more fuel usage (the actual fuel used by truck or railcar, and also energy consumed by long term refrigeration or freezing). All of this negatively impacts our environment.
You can start contributing to your health, and that of your family and our planet, by growing even just a few vegetables or fresh herbs. It’s easier than you think, and you can even do it in containers on your patio, apartment balcony, or kitchen counter.