Food Buyer’s Guide to Health and Wellness

by Jessica Morgan, MD

Whole, real, fresh food is the most powerful medicine you can use to prevent, treat, and reverse chronic illnesses. As a consumer of groceries, what you buy has an impact on agriculture, energy consumption, the environment, politics, the economy, and your biology. The more demand there is for clean and healthy food, the cheaper and more available it will become. You have the opportunity every time you make a purchase to be part of the change towards a healthier you, a healthier family, a healthier community, a healthier world.

To make room for health-giving foods, first throw out the disease-promoting junk. Get rid of foods with high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, and sugars. If fat or sugar is one of the top 2 ingredients on the label, toss it. Next, stock up on real foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and lean animal protein such as fish, chicken and eggs, or even tofu.

Dirty-Dozen-Clean-FifteenGo organic. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers can mess with your metabolism, thyroid function, sex hormones, and our planet. Sometimes buying organic can be expensive.  The Environmental Working Group keeps a list of low-pesticide retaining foods (aka The Clean 15) and those that have higher levels of toxins (aka The Dirty Dozen). If you’re on a budget, the dirty dozen are the ones you are going to want to make sure you buy organic. You can request a free PDF of these lists at www.ewg.org.

Eat Clean. Look for animal products that are pasture-raised, grass-fed, and antibiotic, hormone, and pesticide-free. Animal fat is great at storing pesticides and other toxins. The quality of fat in animals raised naturally is drastically different than from that of animals raised on feedlots, pesticides and fertilizers aside. Choose the best-quality meat you can afford. Keep your mercury intake low by sticking with small, wild, or sustainably farmed fish. Salmon, shrimp, and scallops are low-mercury and low-toxin options. Tuna, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass are heavy on the mercury. Eat them sparingly, if at all. Be conscious of the environmental impact your foods choices have.

farmers marketStay Local. Peruse the local farmer’s market or join a CSA (community supported agriculture project). The foods from these places are generally healthier, taste better, and are usually sustainably grown. CSAs deliver fresh produce to you once a week or every other week. They typically require membership based on harvesting seasons. Other companies such as Farmhouse Delivery allow you to order one box at a time or schedule regular deliveries any time of year. Here are just a few of the farmer’s markets in the Austin area for you to check out.

SFC Farmer’s Market at Sunset Valley, Saturdays 9am-1pm

Barton Creek Farmer’s Market, Saturdays 9am-1pm

Lone Star Farmer’s Market at Bee Cave, Sundays 10am-2pm

Dripping Springs Farmers Market, Wednesdays 3pm-7pm

Stay Super Local. Plant a garden in your backyard! The Sustainable Food Center offers classes for new gardeners. Closer to Bee Cave, The Natural Gardner, has plenty of supplies and information to get you started and keep you going. Plus they have an amazing butterfly garden the kids are sure to enjoy.

To get started on using whole, fresh produce in your daily diet, try this delicious recipe I adapted from Williams-Sonoma. It makes plenty for leftovers. Freeze for a quick ready-to-go meal in the future.

Farmers Market Roasted Vegetable Soup with Cashew Pesto

Enjoy your food! And your health!