In the December issue of Time magazine, Dr. Mehmet Oz recommended we all give frozen food a chance—even those forlorn glommed-together chunks of spinach that come out of your freezer in one big hunk. In his in-favor-of-it-all feature, he was quick to note, “The rise of foodie culture over the past decade has venerated all things small-batch, local-farm and organic—all with premium price tags. But let’s be clear: you don’t need to eat like the 1% to eat healthily.”
If that isn’t a statement. He criticizes the ‘foodie culture’ not only for the price tags that regular adorn its fancy produce at boutique organic bodegas and large-scale chains, but also for its insistence that organic is healthier. He cites a recent review by Stanford University of 237 previous scientific studies that finds “little evidence” exists that suggests going organic is a healthier choice.
Harsh. Should we really end all our homegrown, locavore dreams and start buying everything in non-organic, frozen bulk because of findings like these? It’s a personal decision that warrants your own list of pros and cons—but here are some to, ahem, chew on.
Freezing or repeatedly reheating food fundamentally alters its vitality—the actual nutritional benefits you get from eating it, according to ayurvedic physicians. Exceptions to this are pretty rare—like bringing non-organic, homogenized turmeric milk to a boil three times to make the milk easier to digest.
Still skeptical? Notice the difference between eating homemade pesto from fresh basil and the store-bought variety made with the frozen herb. Or how about fresh, handmade pasta vs the dried, packaged variety? Or even marinara sauce made from ripe tomatoes?
‘Organic’ doesn’t always mean expensive. An intrepid, budget-squeezed comrade at food blog The Kitchn recently tested a claim from Whole Foods that you can stock an organic pantry for $99. For a chain of grocery stores once lampooned by the movie Baby Mama and much better known to the 99% as Whole Paycheck, it was a challenge worth looking into.
By choosing goods almost exclusively from bulk bins and the store’s private label 365 Everyday Value brand, The Kitchn succeeded. They bagged 38 different items for the low price of $93.52.
It’s not just about us. Buying all the groceries you can between a grocery store like Whole Foods and your local farmer’s market (or by joining a CSA) can be a way to both support your diet and put compassion into action. Dr. Oz seems to have forgotten that we buy organic not only for our own health, but for the health of the farm workers and the planet. In just one small example of the damage non-organic farming can do, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman reminds us that “The genetically modified soybeans grown in 91 percent of U.S. soybean fields have repeatedly been linked with reproductive and birth defects in animals.”
So if we can find ways to support our own lifestyle with all the small-batch, local-farm, organic goods we can afford, we not only avoid pesticides, we also support the lifestyles (and livelihoods) of other like-minded, mindful individuals. This is the kind of community-building I think yoga practitioners and teachers aspire to and believe in.
So wake up early. Kiss an organic farmer. Take on an organic food challenge of your own. Then tell us about it. Or just share any tips you have for living mindfully, on a budget.