The best food choices for your body are also the most eco-friendly options! Join 5 Journeys’ nutritionist, Stacie De Lucia, as she shares her passion for sustainable agriculture and high-quality whole foods to help you live your best life. She covers how and why our meat and produce quality matters, how different farming practices affect the human and soil microbiomes, and how we can do our part to get the best quality food while minimizing our environmental impact.
Food is medicine and our body’s number one resource to keeping us healthy, whole, and balanced. It interacts with everything- our gut, our brain, etc. There’s a big difference in commercial, petroleum-based foods loaded with chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, and organic products. Organic foods have to fight for their right to grow, so they have naturally higher levels of nutrients and antioxidants.
There’s a huge debate going around about what “organic” and “natural” even mean. Many brands use “natural” on their labels, which doesn’t mean much, whereas certified organic has many requirements and stipulations. It’s much more regulated and gives us a way to have more trust and control over our food. It all comes down to making sure your body is functioning properly, and we don’t always see that until we start to break down.
Functional nutrition is often a last resort effort. People haven’t been eating the way they should or have lived a very sedentary lifestyle and are starting to see the symptoms as they get older. It’s crucial to live a lifestyle for optimal functioning, and that’s why knowing where your food comes from is so important.
The impact of herbicides and pesticides on the environment poses just as big of an issue to the soil and Earth microbiomes as it does for the human microbiome. The human microbiome makes up roughly 70% of our immunity. When it’s compromised, we’re immunocompromised, and that’s why we see increasing cases of autoimmune disease. The gut-brain axis is functionally a separate nervous system that produces 95% of our serotonin, the hormone responsible for happiness, sleep, digestion, hunger cues, and more.
A lot of what we see in mental health could be attributed to the gut, and the soil our food grows in is a huge contributor to that. Soil has its own microbiota full of fungus and bacteria that work together in an ecosystem that helps the plants that grow out of it thrive. So when we have higher levels of certain bacteria in us but not enough of something else, that’s where we see issues like dysbiosis.
We need to care about meat because it’s a food that carries hormones, which will impact our hormones. In functional medicine, we see a lot of people with hormonal imbalances. So even though there could be many contributing factors to this, a big portion of it comes from the hormones we’re consuming.
The food the animals we eat consume during their lifetime and the lifestyle they lead plays a huge part in the quality of the meat. For example, if an animal spends a lot of time in a stressful environment or eats food with many Omega-6s (such as grains), it will have increased stress hormones in its meat. These can get passed to us through their meat and dairy.
It’s also worth mentioning many local farmers might not be big enough to justify a USDA Organic certification. But that doesn’t necessarily mean their products aren’t up to organic standards.
Another huge influence is the heavy oils and preservatives often used in foods prepared for you. This includes school lunches and even restaurants. As a result, eating a healthy meal out may not be as healthy as you think, and when you’re used to eating clean, your body might notice the difference.
The highest quality food as well as lowest in environmental impact would be whatever you grow in your garden. A local organic farmer down the street who doesn’t have a huge environmental footprint from transporting his products would be second-bests.
Once you pick something off the plant it’s growing on, it starts losing nutrients. Something picked a week ago and then transported across the country will have a lot fewer nutrients from something you get from a local farmer’s stand at the market. You can also talk to the farmers who grow local food. Even if they aren’t certified organic, you can still ask about their spraying, watering, and biodynamic practices.
Listen to this episode’s simple tips to start giving your body the best nutrients while also protecting the environment!
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Stacie De Lucia, studied at the University of Delaware and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Functional Nutrition. She worked on organic farms in Hawaii and Italy, and is passionate about learning and teaching others sustainable agriculture and holistic healing through whole foods and lifestyle.