Organic living: Simple steps to help move toward a healthier diet

BLOOMINGTON, Minn.—Seventy-five years ago, all of the food produced in the United States was organic. However, since World War II, modern farming methods have resulted in the use of synthetic chemicals; large, automatic factory farms; the widespread use of antibiotics and hormones; radiation; and genetically modified organisms. Those changes have resulted in food that could be dangerous to your health, according to Paul Ratté, ND, a naturopathic practitioner at Northwestern Health Sciences University’s Natural Care Center at Woodwinds, in Woodbury, Minn. Those dangers may be avoided by eating an organic diet.

“There are numerous benefits to organic food,” says Ratté. “Some research shows they have higher nutrient levels. They have lower pesticide residues, they don’t have additives that can potentially be neurotoxins, and they taste better.”

Because organic food can cost up to 30 percent more, and because food labels can be confusing, Ratte’ offers these tips to moving toward a more organic diet.

Avoid purchasing processed foods. “Shop the perimeter of the store,” says Ratté. “In the inside, the price goes up and the quality goes down. Buy food that rots. Choose fresh food first, frozen second and canned third.”

Prepare your meals yourself. “The movement in the last 100 years has been to get out of the kitchen, yet kitchens are getting bigger,” says Ratté. “We are able to grab more ‘convenience food’ that is much less healthy. Plan ahead and take a Sunday and make some meals that can last a week.”

Shop at farmers’ markets or purchase food through a community-supported farm or co-op. “If you buy directly from the farmer, you can ask the farmer directly about how the food was grown,” says Ratté.

Be selective. “If you can’t go totally organic, focus on meat. There is no room for negotiation on chicken, beef and eggs,” says Ratté. “Frankly, the chicken in the grocery store scares me. The amount of hormones and antibiotics is frightening.” Ratté adds that people should purchase organic versions of the produce that is treated with the most chemicals, including strawberries, spinach, bell peppers, cherries, peaches, celery, apples, winter squash, potatoes, apricots, pears, Mexican cantaloupe, Chilean grapes, and green beans.

Read the label carefully. Only food labeled “organic” is certified by the USDA. “Other misleading terms are often used,” says Ratté, adding that some of the most-used misleading terms include natural, cage-free, range-fed and grass-fed.

“The food industry is all about selling food, not about selling health,” says Ratté. “I know that going completely organic can seem overwhelming, but you can do this slowly. Start on certain things—like meat and eggs—and go on from there.”

For additional resources about organic living, visit, a Web site focusing on natural approaches to health and wellness hosted by Northwestern Health Sciences University.

From the March 7-13, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!