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10 Reasons to Eat Organically—and Locally

By Steve Edwards

"Think globally, act locally" isn't just for bumper stickers anymore. This grassroots politics-type slogan has become an important way of thinking about where your next meal should come from. But the implications here are far more than political. Buying local—as well as organic—foods allows you to protect your family by feeding them in the safest way possible. Here are 10 reasons to add "visit the local farmers' market" to the top of your to-do list each week.

Vegetables in Wok

  1. Local foods are safer. Or at least you can find out if they are. Organic food standards are high, but there are still companies out there attempting to cloud the rules. When you buy locally, it's easier to check out what you're buying, and you won't have to hire Magnum, P.I., to do it. The great thing about local media is that they love to cover this stuff. If for any reason a local farm is mixed up in nefarious activities, there's a good chance your paper has a reporter dreaming of a gig at The New York Times who'll be on the job for you. Even if this isn't the case, you can be inquisitive at the farmers' markets—you'll be surprised how quickly you can get up to date on the local scoop. Farmers who adhere to a strict code of ethics love to talk about others who do, and those who don't.
  2. Organic TurnipsOrganic foods are safer. Organic certification standards are the public's assurance that their food and products have been grown and handled according to sustainable procedures, without toxic, synthetic, irradiated, or genetically modified elements, including chemical fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, and other additives. At least that's what the law says. But even though many companies still cheat the system, most of them play by the rules. These rules are in place to help both soil longevity and the health and safety of the consumer. Many Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Now, the EPA considers 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides, and 30 percent of all insecticides, none of which meet organic criteria, to be potentially cancer causing. You can't always be certain you're getting safe food, but eating organic foods stacks the odds in your favor.
  3. Organic food tastes better. Many people would be amazed to taste the difference between garden-grown fruits and vegetables (and wild meat) and the offerings you find down at your local mega-grocery-mart. The main reason for this disparity has to do with something called trophic levels, which is determined by where plants and animals fall on the food chain. When food—even natural food—is manufactured, as when plants are grown in poor soil with some added nutrients, or animals are raised using drugs and a nonnative diet, their physiological chemistry is altered. This doesn't just change their nutrient content—it changes the way they taste.
  4. Vegetables on a ForkOrganic food is more nutritious—which stands to reason, based on the whole trophic levels thing. When soils are depleted and then fertilized, only certain nutrients are added with fertilizers. This results in the loss of many of the plants' original phytonutrients. While these lost phytonutrients aren't necessarily a major component of any individual plant, they add up in your diet and become a major component of who you are. This lack of phytonutients in the plants in our diets has a lot to do with many modern-day maladies. With regard to meat, it's basically the same story. Animals that are fed a poor diet are, as you might imagine, less healthy to eat, because they're also missing out on essential nutrients thanks to the trophic level paradigm—just like you are.
  5. You won't have to eat genetically modified organisms (GMO). A GMO is a plant, animal, or microorganism whose genetic sequence has been modified to introduce genes from another species. Because the long-term impact of GMOs on our health isn't known yet, they're forbidden by the Soil Association Standards for Organic Food and Farming. Furthermore, in order to qualify as organic, animals can't be fed GMOs, nor can they be fed antibiotics, added hormones, or other drugs. It is not currently required, however, that GMOs be mentioned on food labels, so it's very likely that anything not certified organic contains some GMO ingredients.
  6. WaterYour drinking water will be safer. The EPA estimates that pesticides contaminate groundwater in 38 states, polluting the primary source of drinking water for more than half the country's population. Because organic farmers practice water conservation and don't use toxic chemicals that leach into your groundwater, organic farming leads to less waste intrusion into our aquifers, which helps keep your drinking water healthier.
  7. Your kids will be healthier. The toxicity of pesticide residue is determined not only by the chemicals used, but by our body weight in relation to how much we consume. This means that your children are even more at risk than you are. It's estimated that the average child receives four times more exposure than the average adult to at least eight widely used cancer-causing pesticides in food. To try and minimize this risk, buy organic, but also make sure that your family eats a wide variety of foods.
  8. Local FarmerTo help farmers and farm communities. It's estimated that the U.S. has lost more than 650,000 family farms since 1990. The USDA predicts that half of the U.S. farm production comes from only 1 percent of farms. Organic farming may be one of the few survival tactics left for the family farm and rural communities. The majority of organic farms are still small-scale operations, generally on fewer than 100 acres, and using an average of 70 percent less energy. Small farms use far more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices than large-scale farms do. For example, small farms use manure to fertilize soil, naturally recycling it to keep the land productive.

    Industrial farms produce so much manure that it's a human health risk. The overspill of manure has contaminated water wells with E. coli and other pathogens. This brings up another subject: Industrial farms still—though now illegally—feed animals the ground-up remnants of other animals that aren't naturally part of their diet. This has led to pathogens like E. coli getting into our foods in the first place.

    Furthermore, farm workers are much safer on small farms. A National Cancer Institute study found that farmers exposed to herbicides had six times more risk of contracting cancer than nonfarmers did. Due to their direct exposure, field workers on conventional farms are the most vulnerable to illness as a result of pesticide use. Organic farms eliminate that risk by eliminating harmful pesticides and other chemical inputs from their practices.
  9. For more humane treatment of animals. Factory farms treat animals like commodities. They are usually kept in tightly confined pens or cages and often never move more than a few feet for their entire lives. They are also fed the cheapest foods available, no matter how it affects their—and then our—health. Besides the fact that a host of illnesses have entered our world as a direct result of this practice, it's also just not nice. Animals on organic farms are far likelier to be raised without cruelty. They are also fed a diet much closer to what they would eat naturally, and studies tell us—surprise!—that these animals tend to be significantly healthier than their factory-raised counterparts.
  10. EconomyTo promote a vibrant economy. Organic products only seem more expensive because people base their cost on their sticker price alone. However, retail price represents a mere fraction of their true cost. Market prices for conventionally grown foods don't reflect the costs of federal subsidies to conventional agriculture, the cost of contaminated drinking water, loss of wildlife habitat and soil erosion, or the cost of the disposal and cleanup of hazardous wastes generated by the manufacturing of pesticides. Compared to local farms, there's also transportation—and the pollutants that result from it—to consider. All of this means that essentially, you can pay now or pay later—just remember that you're going to be charged interest, mainly in the form of a socially and ecologically diminished world to live in.

What if you can't find organic food? One of our members, who lives in a rural area, went to her local market and requested healthier options. Now the store owner can't keep them on the shelf. You can, with a little initiative, make a difference. After all, retail stores are in business to serve you. If this doesn't work, hit the Internet. Since "organic" is the current buzzword of the food industry, there will be options. And of course, there's always your local farmers' market.

For more information on organic and local produce, check out the Web site for the Organic Trade Association, or type "Community Supported Agriculture" into your favorite search engine.

Related Articles
"7 Key Foods to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Workout"
"5 Things to Cut Out of Your Diet"
"7 Foods That Make You Smarter"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Thursday, February 17th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

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10 Great Vegetarian Sources of Protein

By Joe Wilkes

Anyone who's read the latest studies about high-protein diets knows that we need to get a substantial amount of protein in our diets—about a third of a gram for every pound of body weight. Meat provides one of our best and most readily available sources of protein, but there are a lot of good reasons to think about cutting back or cutting out our consumption of animal products to satisfy our protein needs.


Aside from the obvious animal-rights issues, there are several economic and environmental considerations to consider. The USDA estimates that it takes roughly 16 pounds of grain to make one pound of beef. When you consider that one-third of the world's population is classified by the World Health Organization as starving, it's easy to see where some of that grain could be put to better use. Beef production also impacts the ecosystem, from the clear-cutting of rainforests for grazing to water pollution to methane emissions, which contribute to greenhouse gases. And the cost of meat to your personal health is also significant. Although packed with protein, many meat choices contain high levels of saturated fats, the overconsumption of which can lead to heart disease and cancer.

At any rate, this article isn't intended to be a polemic about the benefits of vegetarian living. Picking up a book like Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation or Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, not to mention any of the vast Internet resources available on the subject, might convince you to replace meat with an alternative protein source a couple of meals a week.

One challenge in going vegetarian is finding enough "high-quality" protein. High-quality protein is defined as protein that contains all eight of the essential amino acids: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Most meat sources have all of the amino acids in one place. Plant sources usually have some of the acids, but not all in one place. So the key is combining foods to get a full complement of amino acids. Here are some of the top ways to get your proteins sans meat. (Vegans, skip to #3, and keep in mind that #7 uses egg whites as a binder). We'll omit soy for the time being—it has its own set of conundrums and contradictions.

  1. Eggs. Egg protein is commonly referred to as a "perfect protein," because it contains all eight essential amino acids. There's a reason Rocky drank eggs during training; they contribute greatly to muscle recovery. One egg contains 6 grams of protein, with only 80 calories and 5 grams of fat. It also contains more than 200 milligrams of dietary cholesterol, which is high, but dietary cholesterol isn't the same thing as blood cholesterol. In fact, some eggs are now produced with high levels of omega-3s (achieved by adding fatty-acid-rich seeds to the hens' diets), which can actually aid in the lowering of blood cholesterol levels.
  2. DairyDairy. One cup of 2 percent milk contains 8 grams of protein, only 5 grams of fat (3 of which are saturated), and about 120 calories. Switch to skim milk and you get just as much protein, no fat, and 30 percent fewer calories. An ounce of Swiss cheese also has 8 grams of protein, 8 grams of fat (with 5 grams saturated), and a little over 100 calories. Nonfat yogurt may be your best dairy option: 8 ounces has 14 grams of protein and only 137 calories. Or try cottage cheese, which boasts 28 grams of protein in one cup. Many dairy products still have the same saturated-fat issues as meat, and not all people can tolerate dairy well; a not-inconsiderable percentage of the population is either lactose-intolerant or allergic to dairy.
  3. Legumes. You probably already know some of the great health benefits of legumes. Not only are they high in fiber, they're high in protein too. A cup of chickpeas has about 17 grams of protein, while a cup of lentils has about 16 and a tablespoon of peanut butter has about 4. Some people blame beans for intestinal distress. It actually isn't the fiber in the beans that causes gas, but a sugar that requires an enzyme (which humans lack) to help digest it. When soaking beans, add a pinch of baking soda to the water. It'll help leach this sugar out of the beans, making you less gassy after eating them. Also, to avoid the sugar, don't cook the beans in the water you soaked them in. Another cautionary measure is that if you weren't much of a bean eater before, introduce them into your diet slowly to give your system time to get used to them.
  4. GrainsGrains. Usually we think of grains as carbs, but when we're talking whole grains, they actually have a fair amount of protein. A cup of barley, for example, contains almost 20 grams of protein. A cup of buckwheat flour contains 15 grams of protein. A cup of couscous (dry) contains 22 grams of protein. A cup of oats for oatmeal provides you with 13 grams of protein. If you always choose whole-grain varieties of your favorite grains, you'll also get most of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of fiber as well. But carb-watchers should beware: Whole grains are the "carbiest" of the protein sources available.
  5. Nuts and seeds. The mighty almond, which also has the most fiber per ounce of any of the common nuts, also has the most protein—6 grams per ounce. Almonds do have 16 grams of fat per ounce, but only one gram is the unhealthy saturated kind. Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, have 7 grams of protein per ounce (about 140 seeds) with 13 grams of fat (2 grams saturated). Other seeds, like sunflower and flax, are also good sources of protein, with about 5 grams per ounce.
  6. SeitanSeitan. Seitan is a meat substitute made from processed wheat gluten. Popular for centuries in Asia, it has gained in popularity in America in the past few decades, but is still largely only available in health food markets. It's not very flavorful, which makes it an ideal ingredient for replacing meat in any dish—it will assume the flavor of the sauce or spices you use. Many Asian dishes use it as mock pork, chicken, or beef. Just three ounces of seitan contain 20 grams of protein, almost twice as much steak, and only 130 calories and 2 grams of fat. Try it in a stir-fry—you might fool your family!
  7. Quorn®. Quorn is the most well-known brand name of a fungus-based protein source that has only been available commercially since 1985. Quorn is processed into different forms and flavors, like hot dogs, burgers, and faux chicken nuggets. Three ounces of Quorn, depending on how it's prepared, can have 10 to 16 grams of protein, with low fat and calorie contents. As with seitan and other meat substitutes, you should keep an eye on the sodium content; salt is usually the go-to ingredient when attempting to disguise a meat substitute's origins. Also, there have been some reports of people having allergic reactions to Quorn, so it may be worth checking with your doctor to see if you're sensitive to it..
  8. YeastNutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast can be used as an additive in a variety of recipes. It's very popular in Europe and Australia, and is gaining popularity in America. It has a slightly cheesy flavor and can be added to shakes, soups, and sauces, or used as a substitute for Parmesan cheese or as a popcorn or garlic-bread topping. It's especially rich in B vitamins. A two-tablespoon serving has 8 grams of protein (and is a complete protein, containing all amino acids), only one gram of unsaturated fat, and 50 calories.
  9. Spirulina. Also known as blue-green algae, this has been a food source for centuries in Africa and South America. It has a lot of vitamins and minerals and is a complete protein. One ounce of dried spirulina contains 16 grams of protein, only 2 grams of fat, and 81 calories. Algae aren't the most appetizing foodstuffs, and much of spirulina is consumed in pill form or mixed into super-green drinks (like Beachbody's Shakeology® meal replacement shake). But it can also be used powdered or fresh in dips, salads, and sauces. Take a look at Internet message boards and Web sites, where enthusiasts post lots of recipe ideas.
  10. QuinoaAmaranth and quinoa. These are often referred to as "pseudograins." Both are actually seeds but are similar to grains in texture and flavor. Both are complete proteins, containing all eight essential amino acids, and have high levels of fiber and minerals. Amaranth can be used as flour, puffed into breakfast cereal, or cooked into soups and stir-frys. One ounce has 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, and 105 calories. Quinoa can also be used for breakfast cereal, and, when boiled, makes an excellent substitute for rice or couscous. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, and 222 calories.

Another way of getting extra nonmeat protein in your diet is with Shakeology, Beachbody's delicious meal replacement shake. Available in Chocolate and Greenberry flavors, Shakeology packs 17 grams of protein per serving and is great either in place of a meal or as a snack. And of course I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Beachbody Whey Protein Powder. With 18 grams of protein in every scoop, and available in chocolate and vanilla flavors, it's a great addition to your health shake, containing the highest concentration of branched-chain amino acids—critical for muscle development—of any protein source. Additionally, if you're thinking of cutting back on fish in your diet, you might want to consider adding a decent omega-3 supplement to your regimen.

Quorn is a registered trademark of Marlow Foods Ltd., LLC.

Related Articles
"Going Vegan, P90X® Style"
"Tropic Plunder: 6 Super-Healthy Exotic Fruits"
"Tropic Plunder II: More Super-Healthy Exotic Fruits""

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Thursday, February 17th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

Submit A CommentTell A Friend Bookmark and Share

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The Ins and Outs of Organic Food

What does "organic" mean? What makes a fruit or vegetable organic? What about meat? And what are the benefits of buying and consuming organic foods rather than conventionally grown ones? Click below to learn more.

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Recipe: Vegetable Minestrone with White Beans

By Kathy Smith, creator of Kathy Smith's Project:YOU! Type 2®

Recipe: Vegetable Minestrone with White BeansWith 9 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber per serving, this soup is rich, hearty, healthy...and vegan! Just the thing to help you make it through the last few remaining weeks of winter (if you can trust that Pennsylvanian rodent's prognosticative powers).

  • 2 cups precooked white beans
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced into medium pieces
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 medium stalks celery, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 6 to 12 cloves garlic, peeled and trimmed of root ends
  • 1 cup cubed squash
  • 4 cups spinach (or any preferred greens)
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 cups (64 oz.) vegetable stock or broth*
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt, pepper, and Italian herbs (to taste)

Heat stock. In a separate large soup pot, heat olive oil. Add carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and potatoes. Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add greens and sauté for 5 minutes, then add white beans, parsley, and squash and season lightly. Add hot stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until vegetables are fork-tender but still retain their shape. Adjust seasonings. Serves 6.

*For thinner consistency, add more water and simmer an additional 10 minutes.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 to 45 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
281 9 g 8 g 42 g 9 g 1 g

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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