Organic vs. Conventional


Believe it or not there was a time when food had to be prepared; there were no microwaves, and families sat down at a dinner table and ate together. The invention of the microwave and foods from a package were supposed to give us more time to do things we enjoy, but in fact has made our lives crazier… meaning we eat on the go. We don’t take time out to enjoy our meals. Many of us can’t even get out of our cars to buy fast food, we prefer the drive-thru.

What’s the result of our extra time to do who-knows-what? We are getting fatter as a nation, and we can thank the food industry for that.

The word organic is now associated with being trendy and is usually found in upscale food markets like Whole Foods, but recently mainstream markets are adding organic produce to keep up with the competition. Americans are finally waking up that organic not only is healthier but tastes better; a perfect example is a tomato. Have you eaten a conventional roma lately?  It has no juice, no flavor and is basically mush when you bite into it. The organic roma doesn’t need anything, it tastes delicious by itself.

Pesticides became popular after WWII. Farmers were sold on the idea by chemical companies that using pesticides would solve the pest problem and increase sales. It wasn’t long before pests became immune to the chemicals and farmers used more and the chemical companies increased their toxicity.

Today we even have a dirty dozen list…meaning there is so much toxic pesticide residue on that particular produce it can’t be washed off.


Then the chemical company Syngenta came up with the idea to make Bt corn, which is now regulated by the EPA (not the FDA) and listed as a pesticide… that’s right the corn is no longer considered plain old food. The pesticide has been injected into the corn’s DNA, which means no matter how hard you try to wash it off, you can’t because it’s inside the corn. You get a smidge of pesticide with each bite! Doesn’t that just make your mouth water???


Conventional farming also depletes the soil of vital nutrients which is passed on to the produce. Conventional produce has a lower nutrient density than organic because of this. That’s another reason we Americans need to take supplements…to make up for the lack of nutrients from Mother Nature. Beware, not all supplements are alike, but I will save that topic for a future post.

I will agree that organic is more expensive than conventional and some stores like Whole Foods charge a great deal more than, let’s say Von’s Market, but the main reason is that conventional crops are subsidized with your tax dollars. That’s right. Our government helps corporate farmers so McDonald’s and other junk food corporations like them can sell us cheap food. The same cheap food that’s making us sick. What a racket!

Organic farmers have to keep daily records of everything they do and are charged ridiculous fees by the same government officials who basically give money away to conventional farmers. It’s like our government wants us to get sick…but you didn’t hear that from me 😉 Treating sick people is big business, just ask any pharmaceutical sales rep. If you are interested in knowing just how much organic growers have to go through to get certified, click here.

I am on a tight budget like many of you, so in order to get as much organic in to my diet, I buy foods that are in season. I shop at local farmer’s markets. Luckily my local market, Ralph’s recently stepped up their organic produce section because they were being out sold by Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Their prices are lower and I don’t have to drive as far to shop, which helps me leave a smaller footprint on the planet. Costco is getting more organic choices… not a lot and actually no fresh produce, but they now carry USDA Organic extra virgin olive oil and some organic canned and frozen produce. Every time I shop there I fill out their  request form… “Offer more organic choices!”

If I simply cannot find organic, I make sure to not buy from the dirty dozen list.  This is a list of cleaner (when it comes to pesticide residue) choices:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Sweet Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  • Sweet Potatoes


And while I’m on the subject of organic, not all organic labeling is the same…when it comes to packaged or canned foods. The FDA allows up to 30% “other” ingredients, which could be genetically modified and still allow that manufacturer claim the product is organic. Trippy right! And its all legal! I say, “could be” genetically modified because we really don’t know because companies don’t have to say if it is, because our government doesn’t force them, like they do with other goods… like what’s in your mattress, so its up to me and you to stay informed. Below are some organic labels and what they mean.



100% USDA Organic

Its all organic baby … Raw or processed agricultural products in the “100 percent organic” category must meet these criteria:

  1. All ingredients must be certified organic.
  2. Any processing aids must be organic.
  3. Product labels must state the name of the certifying agent on the information panel.

May include USDA organic seal and/or 100 percent organic claim.

Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.



USDA Organic.

The ingredients has to be 95% organic; there can be other ingredients not organic but they cannot be on the prohibited list, like GMOs.





*Made with Organic Ingredients (no USDA stamp)

At least 70% organic ingredients
Remaining 30% can
be non-organic allowed ingredients (i.e. vitamins, citric acid, baking powder)
OR non-organic agricultural ingredients
Must list certification agent
Example: Cereal made with organic oats, raisins, and


Products with less than 70% Organic Ingredients

Any level of organic ingredients
No restrictions on
remaining ingredients
No certification claims can be
USDA Seal prohibited
Only mention organic in ingredient listing
Example: ingredients: organic oats, organic raisins


I found this information on the USDA website regarding organics and gmos. It is always updated and this post is from May 2013.

The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table.

Organic operations implement preventive practices based on site-specific risk factors, such as neighboring conventional farms or shared farm equipment or processing facilities.  For example, some farmers plant their seeds early or late to avoid organic and GMO crops flowering at the same time (which can cause cross-pollination). Others harvest crops prior to flowering or sign cooperative agreements with neighboring farms to avoid planting GMO crops next to organic ones. Farmers also designate the edges of their land as a buffer zone where the land is managed organically, but the crops aren’t sold as organic. Any shared farm or processing equipment must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent unintended exposure to GMOs or prohibited substances.

All of these measures are documented in the organic farmer’s organic system plan. This written plan describes the substances and practices to be used, including physical barriers to prevent contact of organic crops with prohibited substances or the products of “excluded methods” such as GMOs. On-site inspections and records verify that farmers are following their organic system plan. Additionally, certifying agents conduct residue testing to determine if these preventive practices are adequate to avoid contact with substances such as prohibited pesticides, antibiotics, and GMOs.

Any certified organic operation found to use prohibited substances or GMOs may face enforcement actions, including loss of certification and financial penalties. However, unlike many pesticides, there aren’t specific tolerance levels in the USDA organic regulations for GMOs. As such, National Organic Program policy states that trace amounts of GMOs don’t automatically mean the farm is in violation of the USDA organic regulations. In these cases, the certifying agent will investigate how the inadvertent presence occurred and recommend how it can be better prevented in the future. For example, they may require a larger buffer zone or more thorough cleaning of a shared grain mill. – See more at:

Now do you see why organic costs more? They not only have to defend their crops from pests with natural methods but they have to fend off airborne gmo seed contamination.


In 2008 a group calling themselves the Non-Gmo Project convinced companies to get themselves verified gmo free. It became very popular last year when many states had referendums to get gmo foods labeled. Only a couple of states (so far) have won the fight to know what’s hiding in our foods but a growing number of food manufacturers are voluntarily labeling because we want it. It’s basic Economics… meet a consumer demand and your sales will increase.

I hope this helps you find healthier food choices.

Peace Love and Healthy Eating!


What’s Wrong With Processed Foods?

Lakota Nation in Pine Ridge

I recently blogged about the benefits of blenderizing/juicing fruits and veggies to get the biggest bang for your nutrition buck. Probably the biggest health problem we Americans face today is malnutrition… meaning the foods (processed that is) have zero nutritional value. If our bodies don’t have the proper nutrients we can’t fight off disease. Feeling hungry all the time? Its probably because of malnutrition.

Just a few decades ago, the food industry made a conscious choice to seduce the American public into eating more processed food, which featured fat, sugar, salt and dozens of preservatives. And we could not have made it easier for them. We’ve come to love anything fast and convenient. “Heat and eat” or “grab and go” have become the buzzwords of the day. It seems that the less healthy the food, the more we love it. We left the dinner table for dinner in a bucket.


Why are processed foods bad for us? 

The late Paul Stitt, a biochemist and author of ” Beating the Food Giants,” wrote about an experiment done in 1942, consisting of 4 sets of rats. The first were fed plain whole wheat, water and synthetic vitamins and minerals. The second group of rats were fed puffed wheat, water, synthetic vitamins and minerals. A third group ate water and sugar. The fourth group ate water and chemical nutrients.

The rats which received the whole wheat lived over a year on this diet. The rats that got nothing but water and vitamins lived about two months. The animals on a white sugar and water diet lived about a month. The rats who ate puffed wheat died within two weeks! So why did the rats die so quickly after eating the puffed wheat? Its the processed corn.

So how are foods processed?

Packaged cereals are produced by a process called extrusion. For example, Cornflakes start out as raw corn. They are ground into a flour substance, then water or steam is added to puff it back up into the desired shape. The problem is that this process interferes with the corn’s protein and it becomes something foreign to the human body; the proteins become toxic, causing all sorts of health issues.

Another experiment done in the 1960s involved 18 rats. They were divided into 3 groups: one group ate corn flakes and water; a second was given the cardboard box that the Cornflakes came in and water; the control group ate rat chow and water.

The rats in the control group remained in good health throughout the experiment. The rats eating the box became lethargic and eventually died of malnutrition. But the rats who ate the Cornflakes and water died before the rats that were eating the box!

The conclusion to the experiment? There is probably more nutrition in the box than the Cornflakes!

Processed foods also contain sugar, white flour, processed and hydrogenated oils, additives, and synthetic vitamins. I think, or at least hope we all know that white flour and sugar are bad for us.

But since the mid 90s those ingredients have also changed. The sugar, corn, oils and synthetic vitamins are now genetically modified, meaning the dna has been altered and are no longer what nature intended. The result? A rise in serious illness, including cancers.

Even if the package claims to be natural– it doesn’t mean a thing. The word “natural” is not regulated by the FDA. For example, you might find listed in the ingredients of your favorite yogurt something called carmine, which is made from the crushed bodies of a South American insect. Its used to give foods a reddish color. Starbucks got busted last year for putting it in one of their drinks. They have since changed their recipe, but Dannon, Yoplait and Chobani still use it… and refuse to stop.

Or, better yet, how about castoreum? It’s a natural vanilla flavoring made from the dried anal glands of beavers. Sound yummy? The FDA not only allows these companies to use these types of ingredients, but they can use euphemisms, to hide the fact from you and me! If you want to find out more about what’s naturally hiding in your foods, click here.


According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, The American diet is said to be increasingly energy-rich but nutrient-poor… meaning we get “fake” energy from all the added sugars and there are little nutrients (if any) from processed foods. In a nutshell, all the good stuff has been taken out and replaced with artificial ingredients. Its no longer food in its original form and is now something some call “frankenfoods.”

I know we are so busy these days… checking our IPADs, Face Book pages or whatever, but aren’t we worth the extra time to eat foods that are made from scratch? It really doesn’t take that long. If you have kids, get them involved with making their school lunches. If you knew the kind of crap school cafeterias are serving your kids, you would faint! And it looks like the school boards aren’t changing their menus anytime soon. They get too much money from the fast food giants, BUT if enough kids started bringing their own lunches… maybe, the schools would take notice and serve healthier meals. And even if they refuse to change, your kids will be healthier and probably do better in school.

So the next time you shop at your favorite grocer, look at how the store is laid out. You will see that the healthier foods are located around the peripheral (except the bakery…that’s a whole other post). Food giants are no dummies when it comes to marketing and figuring out what makes us buy stuff. Walk down the processed foods aisle and you will see the “usual suspects” lined up neatly at eye level.

You will also see more and more labels calling themselves natural but be your own advocate/detective and read labels. If it lists more than 5 ingredients — put it back. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient — put it back.

Better yet, eat less processed packaged foods and increase your consumption of veggies and fruits; remember, fruits are simple carbohydrates and the ones packaged are complex carbs.

I plan to write about buying organic on a budget soon, so stay tuned…

Peace, Love and Healthy Shopping!


The Ultimate Vegan Baking Cheat Sheet

Do you like to bake? The holidays are coming and I know there are at least a few of you who will bake goodies for your loved ones. Even if the ones you bake for aren’t vegan, they will love the goodies and probably won’t even know its vegan.

PETA created this great cheat sheet to help us figure out the best replacement ingredients to traditional recipes.


Peace Love and Happy Baking!