Thursday, 13 September 2012

To buy organic or not to buy organic. That is the question

You know the scenario. Standing in the supermarket, halfway down the meat aisle looking at two seemingly identical chickens. On your left the chicken is wrapped in plastic (truth be told probably looking ever-so-slightly anaemic) with no discernable credentials, maybe a "Farmed in UK (or insert other country in here)" Aside for that little else than stating it is indeed a chicken and should be kept refridgerated.

On your right however you have a second chicken. This one looks a little perkier or at least less grey and dull than the previous chicken. The packaging on this chicken is much the same with an exception of an organic symbol.

The main difference however is the price tag. Yes, the non-organic chicken is cheaper.
So, it would seem financially savvy to choose the non-organic chicken on your left.
I am certain the amount of people choosing the non-organic chicken have increased since the articles recently saying that organic is not healthier for you than non-organic foods.

The articles certainly do have gripping headings. Fast catchy statements may get people reading the articles but they may not be telling the whole story.

Most coverage on this story explains that scientist expected the vitamin and mineral content in the produce to be higher than in the non-organic counterparts but this was shown not to be the case. Instead the vitamin content was found to be much the same in both options. However, I wasn't aware that this was why organic was desired? I wasn't under the impression that organic produce magically contains more vitamin or minerals than non-organic. I thought it was more due to what's not in the produce. Be it pesticides, antibiotics, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, other chemical sprays or added or injected ingredients.

Also, I know people who are very much into organic say this all the time but organic really does taste better. The organic chicken I buy from Abel and Cole (especially the chicken thighs - seriously, fry a couple of these babies in a generous spoonful of coconut oil, cut into strips and serve on a simple salad and that's all the taste I need! Heaven!)

I do however understand, as most of these articles highlight, that organic foods do still contain some chemicals. Unfortunately nowadays I think added chemicals in whatever form are incredibly difficult to avoid when almost everyone is using them. I will still choose the organic. Lower levels of harmful chemicals is better than nothing don't you think? And of course, the higher price allocated to organic products is offputting but when it comes to health that's too important to gamble on.

So which would I/ do I choose? Given the option I personally will always choose organic.
To me it tastes better, I like to get as close to real food as possible in this day and age, this includes not having any chemical side orders with my dose of my naturally vitamin packed vegetables. This also ties in to better animal welfare and better/ kinder farming methods.

What do you think? Which chicken would you choose? Do you buy organic or non-organic produce (meat/ vegtables/ fruit /nuts/ eggs)? Does the financial gain outweigh the health claims?

A few references;
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/04/organic-food-health-produce-food_n_1853995.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19465692
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9517246/Organic-food-is-not-healthier.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/03/opinion/kristof-how-chemicals-change-us.html

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The "Perfect Chronic Poison"?

One of my favourite things to do is to wander round markets, especially farmers markets but any market will do. I get drawn into the informal, personable nature of the stalls. The hustle and bustle of people walking down the street. And I'm pretty sure I'm going to be on my own with this one, but I'm like  magpie when it comes to vegetables. I think it must be all the colours. Obviously I just get dazzled.

Sometimes my attention is diverted by a gust of air, laced with the scent of freshly baked bread. That warm scent, filled with memories of old forgotten foods, toys with my mind. Clouding my judgement. I'll be fine if I just have one bite. I've been known to give in at times like this or when out with friends. Eating with other people who don't follow your way of eating can be especially tough.

A bite or two into the sandwich or piece of pizza or whatever vice that happens to be an achilles heel at that precise moment doesn't ever taste as good as it used to. The smell that promised to take me back to a time when I was happy eating this food seems deceiving as eating it now, the flavour is different. Instead of the flavourful slices they were years ago, now I can't get past the cardboard taste.

I end up regretting the choice and usually my health ends up paying spectacularly over the next few days (or sometimes even weeks) for that momentary relapse. Luckily nowadays this rarely ever happens. Maybe a couple of times a year but I'm gradually starting to get it through my head that I will have to pay afterwards with my health for a momentary disgression that, at the end of the day, isn't even worth it.

Yes, the foods which are bad for us (highly processed, high in sugar,refined carbohydrates and grains) can be exciting either tantalising for our taste buds or our emotional side. But if my personal experience is anything to go by then it is not worth it. Junk food isn't worth it. I don't want to treat my body that way. If I want it to work the way I want it to and to be as healthy as it can possibly be then I have to put in the right fuel.

This means eating real food. Whole, unprocessed foods. A common thought for this is if you don't know how it was made or got onto your plate then don't eat it., this also goes for food packets; don't understand what's written on the packet then put it down and back away. Fast.) There's nothing wrong with simplifying things (there will be a blog post in the near future on this topic).

So instead of reaching for tempting but health devastating foods, occasionally it helps me to read up about why I no longer eat grains and processed/ refined foods. Articles such as this; http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505269_162-57505149/modern-wheat-a-perfect-chronic-poison-doctor-says/?tag=pop%3bstories
Dr William Davis states that the wheat that we are eating nowadays is not the same wheat we were eating, even up until a few decades ago and this could be a large contributor to the addictive quality to overeating and weight issues.

They may be very simple reminders and of course I know deep down why I don't eat such a bad diet anymore but sometimes in the moment when a bagel schmeared with sugary spreads is flaunting itself under my nose, a quick and easy reminder can help me to confidently turn down the bad food and instead pick up some whole food. I know I will be happier and healthier for it.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The greenest avocado pesto "pasta" ever...

Recipe time me thinks.

Sorry for the long wait. After my rendition of the Elvis burger recipe left me in a state of bacon induced pleasure I've been resting up for my next post. Maybe I'll take a little break from the bacon for a little bit? I know, I know, it's not right but it won't take long till I crawl back to it's salty crispiness...

I thought about doing a salad recipe...

Hey! Don't fall asleep just yet.

I've been making salads pretty much everyday (and loving it - I never eat a boring salad. Or what I would classify as a boring salad anyway) but despite the weather being in a perfect salad crunching state, I wanted a little bit of a change. But nothing heavy. Summer is not for heavy food. Unless you are at a BBQ, in which case ignore that completely and bring on the burgers! (bun-less for me please :) I know we're now coming to the end of summer but I'm still in light meal mode. I think it'll still be a couple of weeks yet till I crack out the soups and stews.

So last night (as no exception to most summer days) I didn't feel like any heavy cooking. A dinner ready in around about 10 minutes? Sounds ideal to me. Now, salads were my immediate thought but suddenly a crazy pesto craving came out of nowhere. So that meant pasta time.

Of course, apart from the first hurdle of having no pesto in the house and little desire to run an errand for this sole purpose (this would take far longer than my ideal 10 minute target), the second minor detail of eating pasta whilst grain free is probably something to think about.

Fortunately I've had enough experience with the oooh-I-really-fancy-that...damn-I-can't-actually-eat-that-oh-:( moments to know that it's no cause to give up. To be perfectly honest, the best bit of a pasta dish is the topping anyway :D

As in my book when I use julienned cougettes with a tomato sauce, I decided to apply the same idea, this time using long strips of courgette and julienned green beans. I think these act as a perfectly neutral base for a pesto topping.

Having the base sorted, I then moved on to the main attraction. A super simple pesto. Instead of using the traditional quantities of oil and nuts as a base, I wanted to experiment a little and remembered that I've been planning an avocado pesto for a while now. Using the avocado means a fairly voluminous pesto with a creamier texture and flavour than a traditional pesto. Such a simple recipe and great for a night with only 10 minutes to spare.

(Also, I apologise for the photos this time as my julienne slicer is broken and so i ended up cutting the courgettes into rough strips. I also used already julienned green beans for this recipe.)

Green pasta with avocado pesto

Serves 2

For the "green pasta"

2 courgettes
150g runner beans
Pinch of salt
  • Julienne the runner beans and courgettes so you are left with long, thin strips (or, like I did cut the courgettes into the finest strips you can manage. You can also get pre-sliced or traditionally cut runner beans if time isn't on your side.)
  • Boil the runner beans and courgettes with a pinch of salt in a saucepan for about 2-3 minutes depending on the size of your vegetable strips and how al dente you prefer your vegtables (the great thing about using vegetables aas a base in this way is that they literally take a few minutes to cook through)
  • Once cooked through to your liking, remove the saucepan from the heat and drain the water
  • Set the vegetables to one side while you make the pesto

For the avocado pesto

1 ripe/soft avocado
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
30g fresh basil leaves
Pinch of white pepper
Salt to taste (I use coarse sea salt and crumble this in, so if you are using a finer sea salt you will need less salt. I used just under 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt.)

  • Scoop the fleshy insides of the avocado out and place in a bowl
  • Add the basil, lemon juice, olive oil, white pepper and salt
  • Using a hand blender, blend the pesto ingredients together until a smooth, creamy consistency is reached
  • Taste the pesto, adding salt and pepper is more is needed. I always start out with less salt and add more later if I'm unsure as it's easier to add salt than take it away.)
  • Add the pesto to the vegetables and stir together to coat
  • Et voila!

P.S. You could always add some crumbled bacon to this dish.
P.P.S. Told you I wouldn't last long!