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Confusing Choices: GMO, Gluten Free and Organics

BRENT P., Medford, OR: “I have a question, between GMO, organic, and gluten free options, are any of them that big of a deal? I’ve been eating every pesticide ridden, GMO tainted, enriched flour thing I could find since I was a kid and I don’t seems much worse for the wear. Food costs are skyrocketing and organic food is expensive. Can’t I just settle for non organic fruits and veggies and genetically modified whole grains? I’m not saying Monsanto isn’t an evil giant, but these food decisions seem exacerbating. Maybe this whole trend is a scare tactic to get us to pay even more for food? Thoughts?”    

TONI: Brent, your question is one that is on the minds of most people. There is so much confusion around all the latest science around the food we eat. And as you mentioned, self-serving food manufacturers spinning messages and obfuscating the facts make it even more frustrating for people who just want straight answers. You asked “what’s the big deal”? and I’ll share my perspective with you.

Gluten free foods are all the rage, and I find most people associate good health with going gluten free. That’s not entirely accurate though. If you have a serious gluten issue–that is a toxic reaction to gluten, called Celiac Disease as my two daughters have–then the answer is an overwhelming yes, by all means, go gluten free. The gluten eats away at the villi in the small intestine causing mal-absorption of important nutrients and even fertility and joint issues. If you have an allergy to gluten–the protein found in wheat–then eliminating or reducing it from your diet is beneficial. Many people association of gluten free products proliferating on store shelves with good health, but look closely at the labels. They often are the means of loading extra sugar and unhealthy fat into your diet. Best to stick to whole foods, rather than the processed, gluten-free counterparts.

As far as organic foods are concerned, there has been quite a bit of controversy over the subject and it’s way too complicated to go into here, but the bottom line is, if you have an opportunity to rid yourself of harmful chemical and toxin exposure, you should. Buy organic as you can afford. Yes it’s more expensive, but when it comes to what you’re buying (and even what you’re NOT buying — chemicals) your health is worth the investment. You can reduce the cost by going to local Farmers Markets and if you can catch them before they close for the day, they discount all their produce because it will spoil otherwise. Prioritize the organics you buy, such as the leafy greens and produce without skin. That will help reduce the chemicals you ingest, and at a minimum, wash your produce before you eat it to reduce pesticide consumption.

You also mentioned GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms), apply to all living things–plants and animals alike. I think scientific modification is different from farmers selective growing of their produce for size, flavor, insect resistance etc., which has been going on for hundreds of years. The wheat that was grown and consumed in the 1800’s is much different than it is today, genetically. This to me, is far safer than foods that are genetically modified through cross-breeding and the hormones fed to chickens in inhumane conditions. Part of your decision, I would imagine, depends upon social responsibility, humane conditions, food quality, cost, sustainability and convenience. It’s a lot to weigh and everyone must make their own decision. You mentioned you are not “worse for the wear” and the fact that you took the time the pose these questions tells me that at some level you are concerned, as you should be.

I’ve had way too many family members and friends become diagnosed with cancer, and I’ve lost people close to me. I’ve been up close and personal with people who thought they could “get by” with their current lifestyles and behaviors. What you don’t know is what is going on on the inside. Consider yourself very fortunate that you are young and disease free. Look around at family and friends, evaluate their choices and lifestyle, and how that has reflected on their health for better or worse. Some people abuse themselves and live long lives, some people take impeccable care and are called way too early. Life’s not fair, and there are no guarantees, but I hope you will consider taking proactive steps to ensure you wellness. You are far too beautiful of a man to get sick and you have many in this world who love and care for you. Take the opportunity to make some good choices.

Stay healthy and strong!


BRENT: That was a terrific response and super insightful. I hope others read it and it helps clarify decisions for them too. Believe it or not, I was getting stressed out over all the choices! The media discusses one or two different options here or there, but never really puts the whole conversation in context. Thank you!!!!! Hope you continue to grow your book brand big as it’s well deserving. I’m on the phone with Oprah now telling her all about it.  Thanks for the complements too!!


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