|Nutrition month pushes for healthy lifestyle
by Karen Kemper
March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign sponsored by the American
Dietetic Association to promote a healthy lifestyle. This year’s theme
is “Nutrition from the Ground Up.” As we become more interested and
concerned about knowing where and how our food is grown, it is no
surprise that buying organic has become a growing trend. However, many
of us are still unclear about what organic really means and if it is
truly a better choice than conventionally-grown foods.
What makes a food organic? Organic food standards are created and
regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic
Program. Organic produce is grown by accredited organic farmers who do
not use typical pesticides or fertilizers that are petroleum or sewage
sludge-based. Organically raised animals are fed only organic feed, are
not given antibiotics or growth hormones, and have access to the
outdoors. Genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, sewage sludge and
the use of synthetic substances are prohibited in the production and
handling of organic products.
Understanding organic food labeling will help you make an informed
decision about which organic foods to buy. Organic products are labeled
according to the percentage of organic ingredients they contain. If an
item is labeled 100 percent organic, all ingredients are organic.
Products labeled “organic” have at least 95 percent organic
ingredients. The USDA Organic Seal can be used on products meeting
these two standards. You may also see the phrase “made with organic
ingredients” on some items. This means, at least 70 percent of the
ingredients are organic. Any food made with less than 70 percent
organic ingredients can only use the word organic to identify the
particular ingredients it contains that were produced organically.
Organic foods are often promoted because of the lower pesticide
residues and the increased nutritional value. While pesticide residues
have indeed been shown lower in organic produce, superior nutrient
content has not been confirmed. Studies conducted in Europe found very
little difference in the nutrient content of organic versus
conventional produce. Variations were dependent on a number of factors
including growing conditions and season, soil, fertilizer use, and
mineral content of the water. More research is needed in this area.
Whether or not you chose to buy organic, remember to strive for a
balanced, healthy diet by incorporating fruits, vegetables,
whole-grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins into your day.
To learn more about organic, all-natural, and locally grown foods, join
the dietetic interns for Wellness Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.,
March 3 in the lobby of Ashley River Tower and March 17 in the lobby of
the Children’s Hospital. There will also be a seed sale benefiting
Sodexo’s World Hunger Foundation. Bring a dollar to raise money for a
good cause and grow your own nutrition, from the ground up.
note: The column was brought to you on behalf of Health 1st. Striving
to bring various topics and representing employee wellness
organizations on campus, this weekly column seeks to provide employees
with helpful information concerning all aspects of health.
Friday, Feb. 26, 2010