When shopping for food, we’ve been conditioned to buy cheap products to save money. This might be good for our pocket in the short run, but it may not be the best decision for our health in the long term.
As a general rule, when food is cheap to buy or produce, it’s probably not that healthy for you. For instance, given the heavily-subsidised corn, wheat and soy industries in the US, the country now faces a strange dichotomy where a fast food meal can be cheaper than a fresh head of cauliflower.
Michael Pollan once said, “Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognise as food.” That’s my philosophy. The nutritional quality of food depends on its ingredients. When we look to buy processed foods, we need to become our own investigators and read the ingredient list on the back of the packet. The simpler the ingredients, the better. Doing this exercise helps us realise how far our food has moved away from its original, natural state.
Human beings evolved eating simple foods – and on the whole, we’ve stayed healthy eating them. What we eat now has changed dramatically since pre-World War II, when most food was organic by default. Back then, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides weren’t deployed for food production.
Today, asking, ‘What is the quality of this food?’ is important. Ask yourself, was it grown organically? Have chemicals been used to produce it? Or have they been added to the ingredients?
One of the most tangible relationships we have with our bodies and our health is with the food we eat. Just think about the number of times you eat in one day. Becoming aware of ingredients and being conscious of what you’re putting into your body is the first step you can take to becoming healthier.
So how do we introduce more foods from nature into our diets? Try to incorporate more whole, plant-based foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs. It’s all about adding in the good stuff, and it can be as easy as making a meal from two, simple ingredients. Try and buy organic, but if it’s outside of your price range or not readily available then opt for fruits and vegetables that are in season and/or contain the least amount of pesticides, such as pineapples and avocados. Use this list from the Environmental Working Group for easy reference.