Does Eating Organic Help Reduce Inflammation?
These days the big wave in the health industry is to eat organic, and while many brush it off as just as the newest hip fad, for many it is either a way of life or health standard to strive for. I personally fall into this latter category, for the following reasons:
1) What we now call 'organic' was the standard no more than 50-60 years ago, which is when mass-produced processed foods (and many major diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes) really began their meteoric rise in western society.
2) Organic foods help balance the Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio in our bodies. The ideal ratio is around 3:1 but most Americans are around 20:1 or even 50:1 in some studies. This is due to the abnormally high omega 6 content in unhealthy and processed foods. In other words, we have obtained this imbalance by not eating real, naturally grown food.
3) The Omega 6: Omega 3 ratio is also crucial to keeping chronic inflammation down. This form of systemic inflammation is now making its forefront in medical circles as one of the main causal factors in major health diseases these days.
4) Eating organic eliminates or greatly reduces our bodily exposure to thousands of chemicals, hormones, antibiotics and more that are found in modern, processed foods. Personally, when I eat organic, I remind myself that Im eating real food, instead of pink slime-laden ground beef or ammonia-washed chicken. Chronic inflammation 101
There are 2 types of inflammation -- acute (good) and chronic (really bad).
Acute inflammation is the type that our body needs and uses to protect us...from ourselves. This form of inflammation occurs when the body responds after sprains, bruises, cuts, etc. by swelling up and making the area painful so you don't use it, which gives it time to heal.
The opposite is low-level, chronic inflammation, and this is the real killer in hiding. In an all-too-common scenario, the body is steadily in repair mode against what it perceives to be foreign invaders (chemicals, toxins, etc. from unhealthy foods and lifestyle factors). Tissue is being broken down and repaired on a constant basis until the inflammation is removed. At the same time, free radicals are dispersed to fight in the inflammation -- this is OK for acute trauma, but with chronic inflammation, we then have these detrimental free radicals constantly flowing through our system and eventually breaking down healthy cells and good DNA. And as our unhealthy diets continue, the inflammation never goes away and the body is stuck constantly using up its precious resources and defenses. In the shorter-term, this can open up the body to frequent sickness and a host of ailments. Over the long-term, this chronic, system-wide inflammation can have severe consequences on our health and wellness (studies have shown inflammation to be a causal factor in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, some cancers, etc.).
The Omega-6: Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio
In reference to the Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio, typical Westerners have a ratio somewhere around 20:1, whereas the ideal ratio is between 4:1 and 2:1. Omega 6's are the unhealthy fats found in heavily processed foods, refined grains, commercially raised meats, and many often-used cooking oils (soybean, vegetable, corn, sunflower, etc --- yes they sound good, but they are NOT good for your body). Stick to organic coconut oil (for high-heat cooking) and extra virgin olive oil (for low/medium heat cooking). Omega 3's are the good fats found in naturally raised meats, beans/legumes, oily fish, and some nuts.
As for meats, most animals were naturally intended to graze and feed in open pastures, and those that do so tend to have much higher levels of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids in their bodies. Unfortunately, many of us eat commercially raised meats which are fattened on low quality grains, corn, soy, and in many cases the leftover scraps of actual animals. These animals bodies are not intended to be stuffed full of grains, animal meat, and other junk, so to prevent (and react) to eventual animal sicknesses, farmers will pump them full of antibiotics (and then hormones to encourage further growth). As an end result we, the consumer, eat meats that have a much higher unhealthy Omega 6 fat content, AND we ingest the remnants of antibiotics and growth hormones.
Moral of the story, watch your diet and buy organic when necessary!
A quick guide to foods with generally high pesticide/chemical/antibiotic counts (in descending order) that should definitely be purchased organic:
Fruit: Peaches, Apples, Strawberries, Nectarines, PearsVeggies: Spinach, Bell Peppers, Celery, Hot Peppers
As for meat/fish:
Beef: Buy organic, GRASS-FED (very important)
Poultry: Buy organic or free-range
Eggs: Buy organic and cage-free (eggs from sick, antibiotic-pumped chickens are not what you want to be ingesting)
Fish: buy wild caught (farm raised might sound good, but think about, since when are fish found anywhere remotely near a farm??)
In regards to budgeting, while organic foods are fairly expensive, they can be quite affordable once we cut out all the snacks, extra sodas and other junk in our diets!
Until next time, eat natural, live natural, and live healthy!
- Sayan Sarkar, CEO of InvigorateNOW
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