This statement was made by me almost 25 years ago. I had just started chiropractic school and decided to eat a “vegetarian diet” because that’s what all the other health trendy students were doing (most of them younger than me, mind you!). First, I picked up a recipe book, (of course I gravitated towards all the dessert and pasta dishes first!), and I was going to make some scones — I had no idea what they even were, but I was going to make them regardless. The recipe called for currants – again, I had no idea what they were either. So, I made off to the little organic grocery store in town. I had never been in a place like this before and I was slightly intimidated – but I just pretended like I knew what I was doing. After searching for quite some time, I finally broke down and asked the clerk “pardon me, please excuse my ignorance, but what and where are your currants?
I was reminded of this intimidating feeling when I was at the Natural Products Expo one year, sitting in one of the breakout sessions. The speaker was telling us how she got into eating healthy after her son developed hidden food sensitivities. She was a very beautiful, intelligent, confidant woman, but she stated how intimidated she felt walking into a health food store for the first time. She said it was totally foreign to her. Today I hope to take those of you who may have never stepped foot into a health food store, on a journey into the produce department in a health food store (and even conventional stores) in hopes of debunking some of the confusion and yes, even intimidation.
The first time I shopped at a health food store, the produce seemed, well, a little less than vibrant. The apples weren’t all big and shiny red. The red and green peppers seemed a little wrinkly, and other produce a little on the small side compared to their conventional counter-parts. What I came to realize was this is the real way produce should look! It’s when they have been artificially altered in various ways, including genetically modified, that they are perfectly red, or orange, or green. And they are also HUGE. But the process these kinds of foods go through, and the chemicals used to make them look like this, we do not want in our bodies! When every apple looks alike, this is a sign of a conventionally grown food – GMO, pesticide laden, preservative doused, food-like substance. Organically grown food is simply real food – it’s supposed to look less than perfect and uniform – because that’s what “real” is! Think about a magazine or TV model or actress – their look is not “real” right? Now think of yourself, and those you love and know – aren’t we drawn to those who are authentic, who are real? It’s their imperfections and yet their authenticity that we are truly drawn to. Organic/real food is the same way.
To quote a local farmer in an article I once read, there is a lot of diversity as to how produce can be grown. Personally, I think the ideal way to choose the produce we eat would be locally grown, organic, raw and seasonal. But this isn’t always possible. Sometimes the produce may be local, but not organic. Other times it’s organic but not local. It’s up to you as to what is more important to you, either way you will be better off than conventionally grown food.
Because health food stores are all about trying to sell you the healthiest of foods, you may not find as many choices of produce throughout the year. That is because they are trying to support local a lot of the time, and therefore will only have foods that are in season. Now there certainly are exceptions to this. Some things simply are not ever grown locally depending on where you live, bananas are a great example (unless you live where bananas are grown!). Just keep in mind that the further any produce has to travel the less fresh it will be. Or in the case of bananas, you might see them pretty green at times, and that obviously indicates they were picked before they were quite ready, and therefore have less than optimum nutritional value. Ideally you do not want to consume any produce that is under ripe or over ripe. Either they will be short on the optimum amount of nutrients that particular produce offers (under ripe) or they can start developing a moldiness (over ripe), or in the case of fruit they can start fermenting and have too high of a sugar content.
Besides the signage in the store, another way to tell if produce is conventional or organic is by the PLU # on the little sticker that is usually found on the produce. If it has a 4-digit number, and starts with a 4, it is conventionally (and most likely GMO) grown, and if it is 5 digit, beginning with the #9, it is organic. If it is 4 or 5 digits but begins with the #8, it is a genetically modified organism (GMO), and this you definitely do not want. However, it is not common to see produce labeled beginning with the #8, especially in a health food store. The reason for not seeing many PLU’s beginning with 8, (unfortunately), is that GMO foods, produce or otherwise, in the United States, do not have to reveal to you that it is a food that has been genetically modified. We will talk more on GMO foods and label reading at another time.
If you are tired of the same old foods, or you want foods that can heal you, take an hour or two, and commit to simply browsing through a health food store, you will be amazed at what you might find! And don’t be afraid to ask “what and where are your currants?!”
To learn more about foods that heal and foods that kill check out my book “Are You Being Deceived About True Wellness” https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C8RFBX87/ or go to my website at: www.jackiemckool.com