Archive for the ‘Why Go Organic?’ Category

Uncle Matt’s vs. Starbucks: When It Comes to Your Smart Sip of the Morning, There’s No Comparison

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Uncle Matt's Orange Juice vs Starbucks

 

Before you sip that next breakfast drink, know this: not all sugars are created equal. In fact, when it comes to making the healthy choice between a tall Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino and an 8-ounce glass of Uncle Matt’s Organic Orange Juice, the nutrition facts are stacked heavily in OJ’s favor. Here’s why:

Uncle Matt’s Organic orange juice contains no added sugars. That’s right, the only sugar you’ll find in Uncle Matt’s OJ is the kind Mother Nature created from the fruit.  Besides that, orange juice provides many key nutrients we need every day, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, folate, thiamin, magnesium, vitamin B6, carotenoids, phytonutrients and flavonoids, and OJ is fat free.

In comparison, one tall Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino contains 46 grams of sugar ––– and not the naturally-occurring kind that’s made by photosynthesis. Plus, when you drizzle the caramel on top? Hello high fructose corn syrup!  By the way, HFCS has been linked to increasing weight gain, hypertension and bad cholesterol levels. (Triple yuck!) And when you go ahead and add a dollop of whip? Even more calories from fat and sugar!

Both granulated sugar and high fructose corn syrup go through a refining process that strips the sugar of any nutritional value it might have once had rendering the calories “empty.” In addition, processed sugar can lower immunity, become addicting and rob your body of energy and health. Considering the  frappuccino’s refined sugar overload along with a whopping 270 calories, it’s easy to see why nature-made orange juice is your smart sip of the morning.

8 Healthy Holiday Tips to Keep Your Waistline Trim this Season

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

It’s here… The most wonderful time of the year. That time when we gather to celebrate the holidays, surrounded not only by family and friends, but also tempting culinary indulgences ––– from office party to cozy gathering.  Our 8 tips for a healthy holiday provide good (and healthy!) tidings to help you navigate the enticing foodscape of your Yuletide plate ––– and keep off those pesky pounds through New Year’s Day… and beyond.

1. Eat a protein-packed breakfast. Hint: Don’t skip it!

While you may be inclined to skip this important tip altogether, studies show that eating breakfast helps with calorie overload later in the day. What’s more, adding lean protein to your breakfast blunts hunger the most and is satiating. So, plan for some hard-boiled eggs early in the morning or even protein filled yogurt, and chances are, you won’t be reaching for that calorie-laden pumpkin spiced latte and accompanying Christmas cookie later!

2. Choose fiber filling veggies.

Low in calories and high in nutrient density, organic veggies, especially raw ones, are always a smart choice. Besides their high antioxidant benefits, vegetables are also a good source of fiber, which will keep your digestive system running smooth through the holidays.

3.  Bring your own delicious healthy dish to holiday parties

Not sure if you should cave into those pigs-in-a-blanket or buffalo chicken wings? Bring your own delicious healthy option with you! With so many innovative recipes out there, it’s not hard to wow your party host with a homemade appetizer that’s festive healthy, and scrumptious. Check out two of our favorites: homemade avocado hummus with crudité vegetables and curry grilled zucchini rollups with roasted peppers and goat cheese. 

4.  Substitute honey for sugar when baking

When you substitute honey for sugar in baking recipes, you’re not only doing something good for your waistline, but for the environment as well by supporting endangered bee colonies and pollinators.  Use these quick guidelines for making a successful honey-for-sugar swap:

  • For every 1 cup of sugar, substitute 1/2 to 2/3 cup honey.
  • For every 1 cup of honey you’re using, subtract 1/4 cup of other liquids from the recipe.
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for every 1 cup honey used.
  • Reduce the temperature of the oven by 25°F.

5.   Cut salt intake by using fresh herbs and spices

With salt hidden in all kinds of holiday foods, it’s no wonder that too-full feeling happens too often during the season.  Fluid retention (aka feeling bloated) is a side effect of high salt intake.  Cut the bloat, lower your blood pressure and boost the flavor by substituting fresh herbs and spices in your special recipes.

For seasoning your next holiday roast sans salt, check out Dr. Oz’s No-Salt Spice Mix and substitute with all organic and fresh ingredients, like fresh oregano, thyme and parsley.  Your taste buds will thank you.

6.    Drink lemon water

Drinking lemon water a few times a day around the holidays has several health benefits.  It’s detoxifying and hydrating –– both needed if you’re drinking alcohol more than usual.  Try Uncle Matt’s Organic Probiotic Lemon Water to help you crowd out the unwanted and unnecessary calories that come from alcohol-infused drinks. At 0 calories, it’s also perfect for rehydrating and restoring your water balance if you do have a few cocktails too many.

7.    Choose sustainably grown and farmed meats sourced from organic farmers

Besides containing health-promoting fats like omega-3 fatty acids, organic meats and poultry ensure that you are not buying meat or poultry that has been affected by artificial growth hormones or that comes from animals that have been raised on GMO feed treated with pesticides.  And let’s not forget about the overuse of antibiotics on healthy livestock and poultry, which is leading to a widespread problem of antibiotic resistance. Choose a roast or turkey labeled with the USDA organic seal and you won’t be buying a roast or turkey that’s been unnecessarily treated with antibiotics.

8.    Sign up for a family 5k around the holidays

Family time, exercise, and burning all those extra calories go hand-in-hand with this healthy tip. Choose your favorite charity benefit 5k and it’s a recipe for health — body and soul!

Apples offer some surprising health benefits

Monday, August 1st, 2016

by Dianne Hyson, Ph.D., R.D.

Your mother was right. An apple a day may help keep you out of the doctor’s office, and scientists are just beginning to find out why. Plenty of vitamins and minerals, as well as phytonutrients, or plant compounds, are packed into one baseball-sized piece of fruit.

Considerable research is currently centered on the role of phytonutrients that act as antioxidants, which are found in many fruits, red wine and tea. Antioxidants counteract chemicals in the blood that oxidize, or damage, certain molecules. Flavonoids are the most common group of phytonutrients in foods. Apples are particularly high in one of the flavonoids called quercetin, which has high antioxidant activity.

Exciting new research is showing that not only do apples and apple juice contain a variety of phytonutrients, but that making apples a regular part of the diet may translate into real health benefits. At UC Davis, they recently completed a 12-week study of 25 healthy men and women who added either 12 ounces of 100 percent apple juice or two apples into their daily diet without changing the rest of their diet or exercise levels. Half drank apple juice for six weeks while the other half ate apples. After six weeks, the subjects switched groups.

Before the study and at each six-week interval we measured something called “LDL oxidation lag time,” which provides an indication of how long it takes for cholesterol to oxidize when exposed to certain chemicals. When LDL or “bad” cholesterol is broken down in our bodies, it tends to accumulate along the walls of the coronary arteries and causes atherosclerosis. Hence, a longer lag time is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

The study showed clear beneficial effects after only six weeks of including apples in the diet. Study results were more dramatic in subjects drinking apple juice, showing a 20-percent increase in lag time after six weeks. Eating apples also showed potential health benefits, including reduced oxidation indicators and a 22-percent increase in dietary fiber. One study of 2,500 middle-aged men in Wales found that lung function improved in those who ate an apple a day.

Recent studies have demonstrated other diverse health benefits associated with eating apples. One study of 2,500 middle-aged men in Wales found that lung function improved in those who ate an apple a day. A study in Hawaii found that individuals who regularly incorporated apples, onions and white grapefruit (all foods high in flavonoids) into their diet cut their lung cancer risk in half. Another study of 9,208 Finnish men and women found that those who ate the most apples over a period of 28 years had the lowest risk for stroke.

Another interesting study looked at the effect of phytonutrients from apples on the growth of colon cancer and liver cancer cells in a test tube. They found that cancer cell growth was inhibited by phytonutrients from apples, with just two-thirds of a medium apple providing the same level of antioxidant activity as 1,500 mg of vitamin C. Since apples contain only about 12 mg of vitamin C, researchers attributed the combination of nutrients in apples as being key to their positive activity.

Apples are high in fiber and potassium, and contain no fat or salt. They are also an excellent source of boron, a trace mineral with largely unexplored health benefits. Preliminary studies indicate that boron may be helpful in retaining the beneficial health effects of estrogen during menopause.

Does this research show that we should load up on apples every day? No. But studies clearly indicate that consuming apples and apple juice as part of a healthy, varied diet can confer significant health advantages.

And by the way, when eating a fresh apple, don’t peel it first. Most of the fiber and antioxidants are in the peel.

Source: UC Davis Medical Center

From the EWG: Study Links Childhood Cancer and In-Home Pesticide Use

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

WASHINGTON – A new study by Harvard researchers provides disturbing evidence that children’s exposure to household insecticides is linked to higher risks of childhood leukemia and lymphoma, the most common cancers in children. The analysis also found an association between use of outdoor herbicides to lawns and gardens and higher risks of leukemia.

“It is very troubling, albeit not surprising, to see additional scientific evidence linking pesticide use to childhood cancer,” said Ken Cook, EWG president and co-founder. “The findings confirm parents’ worst fears that they could be unknowingly exposing their children to harmful chemicals that can lead to serious, even life-threatening, illnesses.”

“This study should remind us once again that we must protect our kids by curtailing our use of these toxic chemicals in and outside of the home,” Cook added.

The results from a meta-analysis, to be published in the journal Pediatrics in October, combined 16 studies reporting children’s exposure to pesticides used in and around the home. As the authors noted, children are more vulnerable to harmful pesticides because their bodies and immune systems are still developing. The researchers added that infants and toddlers are at especially high risk of exposure because they often play on pesticide-treated lawns or on carpets or floors where pesticide residues accumulate, and then put their hands and fingers in their mouths.

“Parents should consider the danger of pesticides in terms of the lethal toxicity of any products and the proximity to where your children play, eat, rest and sleep,” said Dr. Alex Lu, a Harvard Chan School of Public Health associate professor and senior author of the study. “This is also true for schools, playgrounds and sports fields.”

Lu added, “There is no justification for using chemical pesticides to maintain buildings, play areas or sport fields. There are plenty of non-chemical based treatments that will serve the purpose.”

EWG advises parents to stop using lawn and garden care, and to use indoor pesticides only as a last resort. See Healthy Child Healthy World’s greener tips on how to control indoor pests and how to protect your pets from fleas and ticks.

Another major source of children’s exposure to pesticides is food. Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables often carry multiple pesticide residues even after they have been washed, and in some cases, peeled. That’s why EWG updates its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ every year in order to help shoppers figure out which are the “dirtiest,” or most contaminated, and which are the “cleanest,” or least contaminated. The guide encourages shoppers to opt for organic versions of the “dirtiest” fruits and vegetables.

As Lu explains in this video, switching to an organic diet can significantly lower a child’s exposure to pesticides.

The American Academy of Pediatrics cites EWG’s Shopper’s Guide as a reliable resource for parents looking to reduce their children’s exposures.

Source: EWG.org

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Feed Your Family Organic

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

1.    More Nutritious
 
In an organic farm plan, the soil is managed by sustainable practices that nourish the soil, which in turn, results in more nutrient-dense crops. Multiple studies show the nutritional content in organically-grown fruits, vegetables, and grains is higher versus their conventionally-grown counterparts. And when it comes to dairy, did you know organic milk can contain about 2x the levels of heart-healthy Omega-3 fats compared to conventional milk?

2.    Supports the Farmer and the Farm
 
According to The Organic Center, about 25,800 square miles of degraded soils would be converted to rich, highly productive crop land if consumers were choosing at least one organic product out of every 10 food items purchased.  Every year, American tax dollars subsidize billions of dollars for a farm bill that heavily favors conventional agribusiness. By supporting organic farmers and their farms, you are making an investment in the farmers who care about our ecosystem and the sustainability of the soil for future generations.

3.    USDA Certification
 
Consider it a “Peace of Mind” seal of approval. Wherever you find the “USDA Organic” seal, you know that food was grown and raised by farmers who never use synthetic pesticides, GMOs, growth hormones or antibiotics.  The USDA Organic seal also guarantees no artificial colors or flavors, no artificial preservatives, no irradiated ingredients and no GMOs.  Further, to obtain the seal, organic farms have to be free from prohibited substances for at least 3 years and must pass yearly inspections.

4.    No GMOs
 
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are prohibited in organic production.  Besides concerns over forever contaminating our food supply’s gene pool and the now documented negative long-term effects on human and environmental health, GMOs have dramatically increased herbicide use.  Most GM crops are engineered to be “herbicide tolerant,” which means they’re designed to survive applications of Roundup herbicide. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, between 1996 and 2008, US farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on GMOs. GM foods contain higher residues of toxic herbicides and consuming residual traces of herbicide are linked with infertility, hormone disruption, birth defects, and cancer.
 
5.    No Antibiotics or Hormones
 
Antibiotics, drugs and growth hormones are directly passed into meat and dairy products. According to Prevention Magazine, roughly 70% of antibiotics produced in the U.S. are fed to animals for nontherapeutic reasons, while sex and growth hormones are injected into cattle to artificially increase the amount of meat and milk the cattle produce without requiring extra feed. These practices are strictly prohibited in organic farming, thus eliminating the negative  potential health consequences.

6.    Reduces Pollution and Saves Energy
 
Did you know that 2.9 billion barrels of imported oil would be eliminated each year if 1 in 10 purchased food products were organic? What’s more, organic farms have 30% less greenhouse gas emissions than their conventional couterparts! That’s some serious energy saved. There are also residual effects of synthetic agricultural chemicals contaminating our land and infiltrating our water supplies remain unanswered.  Sadly, an estimated 1% of applied pesticides reach the target pests, while the remaining 99% is absorbed by the surrounding environment, according to Cornell entomologist David Pimentel.  Conversely, organic farming practices require the responsible management of the soil while encouraging biodiversity.

7.    No Biosolids
 
Sewage sludge, also referred to as biosolids, are not permitted in certified organic foods. Biosolids contain heavy metals, toxins, steroids, and questionable substances that can pose a threat to your health. Possible health risks from substances in biosolids include kidney damage, adverse effects to the immune system, hormone disruption, and even cancer. (Source: Mamavation)

8.    Tastes Better
 
If you think organic tastes better, there’s actually scientific data to back up your taste buds. According to Richard C. Theuer, Ph.D, the more intense flavors in organic fruits and vegetables probably stem form two factors: somewhat higher levels of antioxidants, and somewhat lower crop yields.  Yield levels, and the availability of nitrogen to crops, can affect both nutritional and taste quality.  Organic food is harvested when it’s ripe, rather than gassed with ethylene to quickly ripen it, allowing for natural flavor development.

9.    No Persistent Pesticides
 
Organic farmers don’t uses persistent pesticides such as glyphosate and organophosphate pesticides. The negative effects of residual glyphosate traces found in GM foods has been linked to cancer, autism, allergies and a host of other health-related problems.  In lieu of these synthetic chemicals, organic farmers use natural methods to keep pests off of their crops. Some methods organic farmers employ are sophisticated crop rotation to disrupt the pest’s environment, introducing soil organisms and insects that benefit the crops, and traps or barriers.  
10. Preserves the Environment and Ecosystems
 
Organic farming is about farming in harmony with nature.  Organic farming encourages the coexistence of beneficial insects, wildlife, frogs, birds and soil organisms within its farm plans.   The cultivation of healthy soil and crop rotation keep farmland healthy, while chemical abstinence preserves the ecosystem.
 
 
 

7 Health Benefits of Drinking Organic Orange Juice

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

You grew up drinking orange juice every morning at breakfast, but did you ever ask why? What’s so special about orange juice that makes it a staple around the world?

There are so many health benefits to drinking organic orange juice that no one could possibly name all of them. With high concentrations of vitamin C and other nutrients that are not only healthful but necessary, the orange is a super-fruit that most of us take for granted. Even if you aren’t a fan of peeling and eating sticky, juicy oranges, you can still get many of the same benefits out of a glass for breakfast each morning. If you need an extra push to start putting a jug of orange juice in your cart as you pass by the organic section on your next grocery run, check out these seven reasons to not let another day go by without adding orange juice to your diet.

1. Healing Phytonutrients: Oranges have particularly high levels of certain phytonutrients that are thought to be helpful for reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure and balancing cholesterol! Adding a glass of organic orange juice per day to your diet can provide enough of these phytonutrients to contribute to an improvement in your overall health.

2. Daily Value of Vitamin C: We all know that we can’t function well without at least some vitamin C in our diets. It does everything from promoting strong and healthy bones and clear skin to strengthening your immune system to fight off infections and viruses. You could always take a supplement, but why do that when a delicious glass of organic orange juice provides more nutrients than vitamin C supplements with added health benefits?

3. Consuming Citrus Lowers Risk of Certain Diseases: Oranges contain many of the elements that are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and cardiac arrhythmias, and some studies have even shown a slight reduction in the occurrence of many types of mouth, throat, esophageal, stomach and liver cancers in people who have a lot of citrus fruits in their diets.

4. Lower Cholesterol: Certain compounds in oranges are being studied as possible means to lower cholesterol. These compounds may interact in such a way with the body that they reduce its ability to produce LDL cholesterol. Lowered cholesterol then translates into a reduced risk for many types of health issues from heart disease to stroke.

5. Prevents Ulcers: Some studies have shown that people with a higher blood level of vitamin C are at less of a risk of developing peptic ulcers—a condition which can lead to stomach cancer. How do you get your vitamin C levels up? Orange juice, of course!

6. Prevents Kidney Stones: If you want to reduce your risk of developing calcium oxalate kidney stones, you may be pleasantly surprised to know that simply drinking a couple of glasses of orange juice or other citrus juice per day increases your citric acid excretion preventing kidney stones from forming.

7. Healthy Carbohydrates: For diabetics or those who are watching carb intake, you’ll be happy to know that you can still drink orange juice! Like any food, it’s important to be aware of how much you are drinking, but orange juice only has a glycemic index of 40. This means that, since it is under 55, you can drink orange juice in limited quantities to benefit from all of its nutrients—and great flavor—without having it spike your blood sugar or cause problems with weight gain.

Are you convinced? Whether you are simply looking for a healthy, nutritious alternative to a 500 calorie morning latte, or you are looking for natural ways to help reduce your risk of certain health problems, organic orange juice may be just what you need to add to your daily diet.

Kayla Matthews is a healthy living blogger with a passion for organic and natural foods. You can read all of her latest articles by following her on Google+ and Twitter.

Growing a Healthy Generation! 50 Students Help Expand Local Organic Community Garden

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

CLERMONT, FL — Fifty students from four area Lake County middle and high schools spent their Monday morning pulling weeds, spreading compost, and building and prepping 26 grow boxes during an expansion of South Lake Hospital’s organic community garden, located on the hospital campus in Clermont, Florida.

As a co-sponsor of the garden, Uncle Matt’s Organic has been an integral part of the community project since its launch in early 2013. Uncle Matt’s provides education to members of the community who want to learn about organic gardening.

This year, area schools became involved in the project, sending their agriculture students and FFA (Future Farmers of America] members to participate by preparing the gardens for fall vegetable season. Participating schools included all three area high schools: East Ridge, Lake Minneola, and South Lake as well Clermont Middle School.

“The organic community garden is a great community service project for the students to get involved in and apply the skills they are learning in the classroom,” says Chris Eck, agri-science educator and FFA advisor at East Ridge High School. “It’s neat that this garden is organic because our school garden is not. By planting the boxes here, it shows the students a whole different side of vegetable gardening. It’s an easy transition into the classroom to educate them on what organic is and why it’s important.”

Sarah Eck, agriculture teacher at South Lake agrees. “Right now, my students are learning what makes food organic or not,” she says. “We’re excited about working in the organic garden because it provides an opportunity to learn that there are certain things that we can and cannot do to keep it organic.”

East Ridge students have already started fall vegetable seedlings in the classroom, including squash, zucchini, cucumber and okra, to plant at the community garden and farm it organically. The school’s agriculture department plans on sending students over twice a week to check their garden grow box for weeds and plant health.

Besides Uncle Matt’s, who provided organic juices for the students as they worked, other area businesses also donated supplies and materials, including West Orange Lumber, Home Depot, Simon Seed, Austin Outdoors and Papa Lynn’s Organic Farm. These companies provided everything from lumber to seeds and gardening gloves for the students to use.

“Part of the mission of both South Lake Hospital and Uncle Matt’s Organic is teaching people how to stay healthy and well,” says Susan McLean, board member of both Uncle Matt’s Organic and South Lake Hospital. “One way to stay well includes eating food that is locally grown, organic and nutrient dense.  Through this project, not only do we accomplish all three, but we’re teaching the next generation the value of organic and importance of sustainability.”

The garden’s fall planting kickoff will be held this Thursday, September 26, at 5:30 p.m. at the garden located on the hospital campus.

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Easy on the Wallet: Money-Saving Ideas for Buying Organic

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Buying organic has never been more popular. Yet, you probably hear as we do, this one gripe about organic foods: they sometimes cost more than non-organic foods. Although we at Uncle Matt’s truly believe that safe, healthy nutrition and the vigorous health it creates are priceless, we also know how important it is to stretch those family dollars as far as possible.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to make buying organic more budget-friendly. Here are some tips to get you started.

Watch the grocery store flyers. Watch for specials on organic foods. Grocery stores know organic products are more popular, so they will run specials on them to attract shoppers. Make it a regular habit to check the flyers for specials on organic foods.

Expand your grocery store network. It’s easy to get attached to one grocery store, but by expanding where you shop, you can take advantage of more selection and better prices. Don’t automatically assume only the upscale or specialty grocery stores carry organic products. You can now find organic at big, small, discount, specialty and buying clubs. Check them all out!

Practice smart shopper sleuthing. No need to hop in the car and drive all over town in search of organics. Check specials on a grocery store web site. Or use a site like www.eatwellguide.org to help you find inventory and prices at several local stores. Other sites for saving money on organic products include EcoBonus, Mambo Sprouts, Organic DealsStockpiling Moms, Coupon Divas’ Organic Coupons, and Money Saving Mom.

Join forces with a friend. Enlist a couple of friends who are also committed to finding, buying and serving organic foods to their families. Then instead of shopping individually, take turns shopping for organics. You can pool coupons and discounts, share ideas and knowledge, take advantage of bulk buying programs, save gas, AND have some fun in the process.

Think and eat local.  Small organic farms might have a roadside stand or sell at a farmer’s market. Make it a Saturday tradition to head to the fruit stand or farmer’s market with the kids. They’ll get to see all kinds of foods and get to know local farmers, all while subconsciously learning the importance of being proactive in selecting the safest, more nutritious foods. And you’ll likely save some money while shopping there.

Stock your freezer. While shopping farmer’s markets, buy fresh organic produce in bulk. Then freeze packages of strawberries, green peppers, or whatever else you’ll have a craving for later in the year. Read up on which kinds of produce freeze well – or talk to the grower about how to freeze items. And don’t forget the frozen food section of your grocery store. You can find all kinds of organic products that can save your some serious cash.

Although organic foods may cost a little more on the front end, remember that good health is ALWAYS less expensive than disease. So take these tips to save some money, knowing that you are investing in your and your family’s well-being.

Eating clean: Three tips for avoiding chemicals in your food

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

It seems like food is getting the blame as the cause of many illnesses and sickness these days. Although we have some of the best health and nutrition education in the world, we’re still addressing significant issues surrounding the American diet. To combat obesity, illness and other diseases, the USDA recommended in 2010 that Americans should fill “half the plate with fruits and veggies” at each meal. Yet, some of us find ourselves second-guessing what’s supposed to be a healthy no-brainer. Maybe it’s due to the fact that much of the U.S. fruit and vegetable supply has been sprayed with pesticides and chemicals that carry long-term health risks.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), many scientists and public health advocates believe that a number of increasingly common problems that afflict children, including autism, ADHD, low birth weight, early delivery, asthma, infertility, diabetes and cancer, are linked to exposure to toxic chemicals and pesticides.

A recent study published by the Environmental Health Journal reports that cancer benchmark levels were exceeded by all children tested – 100% – for toxic exposure to arsenic, dieldrin, DDE, and dioxins. Based on the self-reported dietary data, the greatest exposure to pesticides from foods included in this analysis were tomatoes, peaches, apples, peppers, grapes, lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, spinach, pears, green beans, celery and dairy.  What’s more, the study showed that pre-school age children had significantly higher estimated intakes of 6 of 11 compounds compared to school-age children.

So what are we to do when what we put on our family’s dinner plate is about as simple as navigating a minefield? We’re offering you  three dietary tips that greatly reduce your family’s exposure to chemicals in your food and will help you make informed food choices:

1. Choose organic for all your dairy, fresh fruit and veggies.

It’s an easy rule of thumb: if you’re eating the skin or peel of it, buy it organic. It’s that simple. This advice applies to many of the foods on the “Dirty Dozen: Foods You Should Always Buy Organic List,” including: apples, berries, peaches, tomatoes, grapes, squash, cucumbers, green beans, spinach and lettuce. Since the nutrient density of these foods is so high, why taint the health benefits by choosing ones sprayed with chemicals? Also, when it comes to dairy, what goes into the cow shows up in the milk. So, by choosing organic, you can rest assured that “organic cows” used for milking were fed a diet of grains and grasses that were grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.

2. Consume less meat, dairy and fish.

The most Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are found in meat, dairy and fish. POPs are organic (carbon-based) chemicals — products and by-products of human industrial processes — that do not break down, either chemically or biologically, in the environment. They are persistent, meaning that they can be found in the environment for decades and even centuries.

Not only do POPs remain in the environment, they also have a tendency to accumulate in the fatty tissue of animals and humans and have been found in human breast tissue, fish, meat, and dairy products worldwide.

Exposure to POPs has been linked to many health problems, including birth defects, immune system disorders, reproductive health disorders, endocrine and nervous system abnormalities, and cancers. (Source: Healthy Child, Healthy World).

If you don’t want to eliminate these foods altogether, then remove the fat and skin as much as possible when you eat meat and fish since this is where the POPs concentrate. Also, avoid farmed salmon, as it tends to have some of the highest levels of POPs.

3. Lower your intake of processed carbohydrates.

Put away the potato chips. Throw out the cookies. You’ve heard it before: avoid high-carbohydrate processed foods. But do you know why? One partial reason is because those foods have a higher probability of containing “acrylamide.” According to the World Health Organization, “acrylamide is a chemical that is used to make polyacrylamide materials, as well as glues, paper and cosmetics. Acrylamide is also used in the construction of dam foundations and tunnels, and appears to be produced in some foods prepared at high temperatures. Acrylamide is known to cause cancer in animals. Also, certain doses of acrylamide are toxic to the nervous system of both animals and humans.”

So, that begs the question: why is a chemical that is used in construction of dam foundations and tunnels in our food?  The answer is that appears to be produced naturally in some foods that have been cooked or processed at high temperature and the levels appear to increase with the duration of heating. The highest levels found so far were in starchy foods (potato and cereal products).

(Source: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/chem/acrylamide_faqs/en/)

A Day in the Life of an Organic Citrus Grower

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Groves, Growing, and What I Hope to Leave My Grandchildren

By Benny McLean

What’s it like to be an organic citrus grower? We sat down with Benny McLean, production manager at Uncle Matt’s Organic and Uncle Matt’s father, to find out. Benny has been a part of the citrus industry for almost 50 years, and has been an organic citrus grower for nearly a decade and a half.  Here’s what this farmer had to say about life in the groves…

photo credit: McLean Photography

A GROWER’S MORNING ROUTINE

I live in a citrus grove and I have grapefruit trees planted there. When I leave my house in the morning, I always drive through my favorite grapefruit grove.  I’ll look at the trees and ask myself questions like, “Do I have a good bloom?” “Do I have leaf drop?” “Do I see any bugs in there that could cause a problem?” It’s a daily habit for me, like getting up in the morning and eating breakfast. And the answers are out there: in the grove. All I have to do is ride the grove and the grove will tell me if there’s a problem. My dad used to say that the rising sun has the highest amount of beneficial rays for anything that grows in the soil, so if you’re going to find a problem, you’ll find it then.

FERTILIZING, FUNGUS, AND FLYERS

As an organic grower, I don’t use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers in our farm program, so observation becomes that much more important. For example, if a grove is in need of fertilizer, it will tell you by the color of the leaf.  I look for discoloration in the old flush [leaves] and discoloration in the new flush. When a tree is off-color, it might be because the trees are running low on potassium or nitrogen. Under that scenario, I’ll pull leaf samples to be analyzed and compare the lab results with what I observe. Weather patterns and leaf analysis will determine when to apply our organic fertilizer program.

In springtime, my day will also include assessing the fungus situation in the grove and its effect on the trees and fruit. At this time of year, we’re mainly concerned with Scab, Alternaria, and Melanose.  While harmless, these three conditions can prove unsightly and can knock our fruit out of grade at the packing house.  In order to boost revenue from a grove, you need a high pack-out per acre. If we find these conditions in our groves, we’ll apply organic fungicides, like beneficial bacteria, to help remedy the situation.

Pests don’t really become a problem for us until May or June.  We do have a little pest called a “rust mite.” It’s very small, but it will put a scar on the peel that will cause the graders down at the packing house to reject it. It has nothing to do with the flavor or nutritional quality of the fruit, but the rust mite scars the fruit’s appearance.

WEEDS GOING WILD

During the summer months, rain patterns in Florida really help things grow –– including weeds.  We get a lot of questions from other growers about how we control weeds since we don’t use synthetic herbicides. Honestly, we don’t obsess over weeds.  Granted, we don’t want them growing too close to the irrigation microjet emitters, so in all our groves, we’ll use weed-eaters and in-and-out mowers for weed control, as well as good, old-fashioned hand labor.  Growing up, harvesting labor crews would have come in with hoes, and saws, and clippers and they’d cut the vines and hoe up the bad weeds and all of that. They’d work through the hot, Florida summer. Yet, some of today’s farmers don’t even know what a hoe is. Their only reaction is to spray weeds with herbicides.

My father always told me you have to look at it two ways. He said if you got an orange tree growing in your yard and you have beautiful St. Augustine grass growing under the orange tree, you could say, “Oh my, that orange tree is getting all the fertilizer and water from my beautiful grass, so I’ve got to do something about that orange tree.” The next guy comes by and says, “Oh my, that grass is taking all the fertilizer and water away from the orange tree. I’ve got to do something about that grass.” My dad would say, “You know what? They’re compatible. They exist with each other. They get along.” The exception would be what we call a “reset,” such as a small one-year old tree. It’s then that the weeds are a major problem. But a mature tree actually produces shade that doesn’t allow for weeds to grow well under its canopy anyway.

FRUIT PICKIN’ TIME

In late fall, when harvest is right around the corner, I begin to look for signs of fruit maturity. There are state-mandated maturity guidelines for harvesting based on minimum levels of brix [fruit sugar], juice, and ratio. Until the fruit meets all three of these criteria, we can’t pick it. Every variety has its own standards. After meeting the maturity levels, we’ll look at size because there are minimum size requirements as well. So, you’ll find us out in the groves with our calipers measuring fruit size as harvest time (November through May for various varieties), gets closer.

What’s funny is that it’s the buyer who decides what the right size is. The fruit falls into five different categories, with one being too small and the other, too large. So, it’s the middle three sizes that a buyer typically wants. The homemaker doesn’t have a choice when going to the supermarket. When I give grove tours, many women will see some of my biggest grapefruit and ask why they can’t buy that in the store. Well, now you know!

BEING A DIE-HARD ORGANIC FARMER

At the end of the day, I love growing organically. I have eleven beautiful grandkids and I know I am creating something worthwhile for their longtime health if they are going to eat citrus.  I believe I am educating them on how to read the label, so to speak. They can make intelligent food choices based on the knowledge of how a food was grown, how it was processed and how it was stored. I know what it is to be a conventional farmer, and I know the difference eating organic can make in your health. As long as I have a choice, I’ll never go back with all that I’ve learned and observed over the past 14 years of being an organic farmer. I believe that organic is the better choice.

A Quick Q&A with “Papaw” McLean

UM: What’s your favorite citrus variety?

Papaw: Ruby Red Grapefruit

UM: What’s your favorite tractor?

Papaw: A big green one with citrus implements

UM: How do you like your grapefruit eaten?

Papaw: “Sectionized.”

UM: Favorite breakfast?

Papaw: Fresh organic grapefruit from my grove, 4 ounces of cottage cheese, and a handful of raw organic almonds

UM: What legacy do you want to leave your grandkids?

Papaw: I want them to understand that it’s the three L’s. #1: You got to love life. #2 You’ve got to love the land. #3 You’ve got to love the Lord. And if you can understand those three principles, you’ll carry this legacy onto the next generation.

UM: In your opinion, what’s the best reason for someone to try organic for the first time?

Papaw: I know that organic is a healthier source of citrus juice –– orange, tangerine, grapefruit. I know that it has a higher antioxidant level than any of the other juices. If you’re going to drink orange juice because it’s healthy, then choose the healthiest one.