Organic food: what is it,
why and how?
It was in New York when I was 20 that I discovered yoga and organic food; a completely new world to me that I was keen to explore and understand. The more I learned about it, the more I understood the paramount importance of what we put in our mouth and how this affects our organism. A subject that I of course could not exclude from my book “Yoga, un estilo de vida” and that I am returning to in this post.
Once again, I have teamed up with my good friend and nutrition expert Maria Antonia Rodríguez, whom I presented you to in the cold-pressed juices post. The other day we discussed the confusing messages and mistaken ideas that exist around organic food and that we hear, such as: “is ecological or organic better?”, “to keep a slim figure, it’s best to eat low-fat, sugar-free products…”, “instead of sugar I use sweetener”,… We are looking for a balanced diet. How can we be autonomous when it comes to choosing our own diet? What should we buy and how should we eat?
This conversation between passionate food-lovers, added to the questions you often leave for me as comments, leads me to share this post with the answers to your doubts; the same ones I have had myself.
Ecological or organic?
Years ago, when I started out with this type of diet in New York, I used to buy in “organic” supermarkets, but I also read and heard the words “eco” and “ecological”. I used to ask myself: “what is the difference between the two concepts?” In actual fact, there is none. According to European regulation, they are synonyms and refer to the fact that the production respects the environment in all phases of development and production. “Ecológico” (ecological) is perhaps the term we use more in Spain, while “organic” is used in English. What really matters is that the product is certified organic by the European Community stamp.
What does a “balanced diet” mean?
We can fill our pantry with organic products, but if we are not aware of what our body needs, it is pointless.
I would almost go as far as to say that we could find this knowledge in our school biology notes. Understanding the different food groups (fats, high and low glycaemic index carbohydrates and proteins) and how our digestive system processes them is essential to design a menu based on these. If you have read my book, you will have come across a few pages dedicated to explaining this subject in simple terms.
In short, a balanced diet is one based on quality food items (because of their macro- and micro-nutrients and their origin) which are handled minimally and which we cook bearing in mind the proportions of carbohydrates, good fats and proteins that our body needs.
However, be careful! Just because a product is organic does not mean that it is good for our health. For example, we might think: “It doesn’t matter; these delicious biscuits that I’m gobbling up are organic…” Organic is not a synonym of balanced. Let us not forget that sweet food items can contain high amounts of sugar and high-glycaemic index carbohydrates which, as we already know, are not beneficial for our health, whether organic or not. It is true that we are escaping pesticides and chemical products, but we should not let ourselves be carried away by trends, and make sure that we are the masters of our own decisions, through knowledge.
Where to start?
Going back. My first years of independence were spent in New York, and although it is paradoxical, that is where I began to buy fresh produce in small organic supermarkets, re-familiarising myself with the good habits of our daily or weekly market culture, which my mother and grandmother taught me and with which I grew up. As well as filling my fridge with fresh produce, I reduced my intake of carbohydrates, refined sugars and saturated fats. I began to read the labels on products, not to find out the number of calories, but to determine what additives and preservatives the products contained, and thereby avoid them.
Something else that made a great difference in my life was the change to 100% wholegrain cereals and grains, for both breakfast and my other meals. Later, when I shared an apartment with a Canadian model, also a yoga enthusiast and a fan of organic produce, and who read up a lot on food and diet, I learned how to introduce a lot more vegetables and superfoods into my diet in the form of shakes and juices, which I could have at breakfast or between meals.
How should organic food be cooked?
In our conversation, Maria Antonia repeatedly mentioned the importance of washing organic food thoroughly. As they have not been treated with pesticides, we are avoiding ingesting toxic products, but we are exposed to something as natural as parasites or parasite eggs.
At home, we thoroughly wash all the fruit and vegetables that we are going to eat raw and with the skin, especially those that have been in direct contact with the earth. The best formula, recommended to me by a friend, is a mixture of apple vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Fill a bowl with enough water to immerse the vegetables or fruit that you are going to eat, and add 150 ml of apple vinegar and a big spoon of bicarbonate of soda. But be careful, the bicarbonate of soda and the vinegar produce a reaction that lasts a few seconds, so stir it until it settles and soak the food items in the mixture for 30 minutes. Rinse before using.
Will it burn a hole in my pocket?
It is true that filling the trolley with organic products can mean an extra monthly cost. In particular, animal protein tends to have a higher price, but in basic products like cereals, there is not a great difference.
A good way to start is by choosing a group of products, such as fruit and vegetables or your breakfast items. Another idea is to opt for local and seasonal produce from small vegetable plots and farms, so you know where your food is coming from.
Lastly, with this personal and homely photo, I close this new post of many about this topic, diet and the quest for wellbeing, which you can find in this blog.