When I deliver lectures, a member of the audience will invariably ask: Do I really need to purchase organic foods? That’s a great question because it helps people develop a better understanding of the impact of their food choices. Most people don’t realize than non-organic food may have likely been exposed to gamma radiation, which is a process known as cold pasteurization. What happens with cold pasteurization? It ionizes some of the molecular bonds in the food, decreasing their value as nutrients. Worse, gamma radiation can create byproducts within the food, which are known to be carcinogenic.
So, what do I recommend? I recommend organic foods – foods that have the USDA organic label (and not just any organic label) – as just the starting point. Ideally, it would be helpful to purchase organic foods that are locally grown. Better yet, it would be to your advantage to know the reputation of the local farm that is producing the food. You want to make certain that the food is grown with care, as it is far too easy to reduce the quality of the food – and, as the buyer in the market, you would have no way of knowing. Even the labels have their limits. So, if possible, ask for information at your grocery store about their organic foods – if they are locally grown and by which local farmers?
Many people cringe at these directions. They just want to purchase the food and get home to eat it. Just as importantly, they want to purchase the food at an inexpensive price. After all, isn’t that how some of our companies have defeated initiatives that would require most specific labeling (as, for example, with GMO foods)? Here is the fiscal truth. Americans pay less per capita for food than any other industrial country. Yet, Americans pay more per capital for health care than any other industrial country. Can you see the connection? Cheap food leads to physical illnesses, which leads to higher health costs. So, the question is fundamental. Do you want to pay now or later?
From my vantage point, we are short-changing ourselves on multiple levels. We are buying cheap, non-organic, often processed foods and we are not looking at the future costs that will arise from these foods. Do you know that the average baby boomer, at the age of 50, is worth around $147,000 (and that includes the value of their home)? Do you also know that the average baby boomer will spend $275,000 – $360,000 on total health care costs from age 50 to death? That’s twice the money that they have. So, either the person has great health coverage or the person goes bankrupt because of their inability to pay for those health costs. But can we lower that health care costs? Avoid that outcome?
Absolutely. We can lower those future health care costs. How? By spending more on foods today. Purchase organic, not non-organic. Switch away from the processed foods and their overload of addicting sugar and salt. Eat more vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds. Reduce the consumption of meat and dairy products. Yes, this litany is repetitive, but it also do-able and important. Since our health care system is already ranked as “poor”, and since our health care system is currently undergoing a massive change with Obamacare, I would repeat my reframe that now is the time to be healthy and stay healthy. There is one piece of good news. The percentage of diseases that are completely genetic is single digit. That means that we each have some control over preventing these diseases. Your eating style is one of those areas where you can prevent – or at least markedly reduce – your chances of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and the other chronic illnesses.
Want another way to reduce your risk for these illnesses? Slow down your life. Specifically, slow down your eating. Do you know that 20% of what happens during digestion depends on what you are thinking? They have done studies on the absorption and distribution of nutrients. Selecting the right organic foods is important. But pausing to enjoy the food is also important. People who inhale their food, even if it is organic, absorb fewer nutrients – and some of those nutrients are the ones that help turn on genes to prevent cancer. So, if you are inhaling your lunch at the work desk while you are completing another work-related project, that path is great for your company, but horrible for your health. If you want to increase your health, pause and enjoy your food.
Hmmm … which is more important. Your work production or your health? I would argue your health. So, whether you are laboring at the office or running errands for the family at a hectic pace, I would encourage you to hit the pause button in the middle of each day for a relaxed, healthy lunch. In fact, I would encourage you to hit the pause button for each meal. The mind-body connection is much more powerful and much more complicated than we are able to comprehend. But know this much. You can improve your health simply by selecting healthy foods and simply by pausing to really enjoy those healthy foods with positive dialogue, good company, and a relaxed pace. That is a winning combination. But ask yourself: during the average week, how often do you eat your meals in this manner? Make some changes, yes?