In a world where there is constant information being thrown at you, hundreds of different magazines educating men and women on health science and restaurants, advertisements and labels being thrown around, deciding what to put in your body can be overwhelmingly confusing.
First of all, we do live in a busy time where fast and cheap food usually isn’t associated with the best nutrition. Even when consciously deciding to eat healthfully, it can be hard to know what exactly you should be eating. Labels like “Organic” or “Locally Grown” or “Non GMO” can be confusing when you aren’t sure exactly what they mean. You trust advertisements to reassure you that what you are putting in your body is going to nourish you, but in order to really make the best decision, we have to look at these labels more closely and figure out why eating a “organic, locally grown plant-based diet” is actually one of the greatest gifts you can give your body.
While Hillary is the biology major (all scientific experiment questions go to her), we are both very interested in nutrition and enjoy eating A LOT of vegetables. I am a vegetarian while Hilary likes occasional chicken and fish. I go in and out of veganism but the bottom line is: WE BOTH CAN’T GET ENOUGH PLANTS IN OUR DIET!
One of my favorite parts of working in the garden is being able to see my food from the very beginning. Ever wonder where that banana you’re eating is coming from? Where it was grown? Who touched it? How did it make it into your kitchen?
Hillary and I talk about that all the time! So we absolutely loved being able to see organic farming from preparing the soil through harvest. We know the exact compost and organic fertilizer that nourishes our soil. We plant the seeds right on our campus. We watch our plants grow without conventional pesticides. Then, we pluck our produce right from our beds and eat it, fresh, on the spot.
It’s magical to me!
"Organic" essentially refers to the way plants are grown and processed. Organic farming is separated from conventional farming in the way that organic farming does not use synthetic pesticides and does not genetically modify the plants’ DNA. Organic fertilizers have ingredients like chicken feathers, which take longer to break down than synthetic fertilizers, and are less concentrated so they benefit the plant over time as the bacteria in the soil break them down. Rather than spraying plants with chemicals like synthetic pesticides, organic pesticides can even be made at home using organic material such as garlic!
Organic farming opens a whole new world of possibilities for creativity. From compost to fertilizer to pesticides to disease control, farmers are always looking for new ways to produce the best plants using organic matter that is most healthy for the plant. I like to think of organic gardeners as plant doctors or plant nutritionists.
Not only is farming “organically” good for the plants’ health, but it is better for the environment and, most importantly, you! Organically grown food is in it’s most natural state, locking in the most nutrients without chemicals and they even taste significantly better (the biggest difference I have tasted so far are organic strawberries in comparison to conventional strawberries - the former are so much juicer and more delicious!).
Before you bite into your next piece of produce, ask yourself where it came from and what it had been through in order to get into your hands!
That brings us to our next label: “locally grown.” Locally grown foods are foods that have been planted, grown and harvested near the area it is being sold. In some cases, like ours, produce can be grown right on your campus. Locally grown food can also be grown a few towns over or even just over a state line. The idea behind locally grown food is that you know exactly where your food is coming from but also self-sustainability and local economies flourish. By buying locally, you are enhancing the production, distribution and consumption of a food economy in a smaller community rather than on a larger scale, where you are not sure exactly where food is coming and going from.
Locally grown foods are usually more fresh and organically grown. Locally grown foods are not always organic, but check out local farmer’s markets near you and find out where your food is coming from in your community!
Lastly, a “plant-based diet” refers to the majority of foods one eats. A diet more concentrated on fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes is plant-based (vegetarianism, veganism or even a little bit of animal protein) while a animal-based diet includes many foods that come from animal fats and protein.
Plant-based diets usually have more fiber, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants than animal-based diets. While some may think plant-based eaters do not get enough protein, there are plenty of plant-based proteins that replace animal protein - such as quinoa, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Even fruits and vegetables have more protein that many people think, such as broccoli, avocado and spinach (which also replaces iron!). Plant-based diets also tend to be somewhat lower in caloric intake and saturated fats.
Diets that are plant-based are overall better for your health because they replace fatty foods and junk food with fresh fruits and vegetables that offer the best nutrients for a well-functioning body. They tend to give you more energy and many are cancer-fighting, immune-boosting, antioxidant producing and heart disease reversing! Even if you don’t become a vegetarian or vegan, incorporating more fresh produce in your diet can do wonders for your energy level, blood pressure and overall health. You will FEEL the difference!
Hopefully, this post helped you get a better idea of what it means to eat organically, locally and plant-based and how eating this way (in our garden) is really the best way to be eating! Try the recipes we made think more about what you put in your body!
Hillary and I love learning to be more self-sustaining and reaping the health benefits of our beautiful campus garden!