When people ask me how to lose weight, I ask them if they eat organic foods.
Most are surprised that it matters.
But there are at least two reasons for eating as much organic food as possible — besides the fact that it’s better for the planet.
Some studies have shown that organic food is more nutritious — although some experts dispute that.
Other studies have shown that the chemicals, pesticides and hormones found in non-organic foods add stress to the body. Stress can make you lethargic, affect your hormones and lead to swings in blood-sugar levels. Chemicals and pesticides also cause inflammation in the body.
Researchers are looking at how certain chemicals used in food affect body weight, leading to a new term called “obesogens.” It’s not yet a household word. But it may be soon, as the evidence linking this group of chemicals to weight gain mounts.
In 2009, a study released by The Endocrine Society linked pesticides to impaired thyroid function. In another report, researchers found a fungicide called tributylin activates the retinoid X receptors in human cells, which led to fat cell formation. And mice exposed to obesogens were predisposed to weight gain later in life, according to research conducted at the University of California.
There are enough red flags that the National Institutes of Health began a three-year research project in 2011 to explore the role of environmental chemical exposures in obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
But you don’t have to wait for the results to test the theory. For the next three weeks, follow these steps for a cleaner diet. You might find it easier to shed those stubborn pounds.
Be picky about produce • You can reduce your pesticide exposure by almost 80 percent, according to the Environmental Working Group, by choosing organic fruits and vegetables. Specifically pay attention to the “Dirty Dozen — the 12 nonorganic fruits and vegetables that have the highest amount of pesticides. These are: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, cultivated blueberries, lettuce and kale/collard greens.
Proteins • Eat organic meat and dairy products whenever possible. Generally, animals higher on the food chain have more pesticide/chemical loads.
Chemical watch • Avoid the chemical bisphenol A and phthalates. Both chemicals have been used in food packaging, pesticides and children’s toys. They mimic estrogen and can predispose your body from childhood to fat gain. In particular, look for canned goods, acidic tomatoes and tomato-based sauces that are “BPA free.”
So long, soy • Avoid soy, unless it is fermented into products such as tempeh and miso. Unfermented soy products, such as tofu and soy protein, contain phytoestrogens that some experts say can disrupt the estrogen systems in the body. Also, nonorganic soy sometimes is produced with hexane, which has been linked to nervous-system disorders.
Read labels • Avoid foods that contain artificial or even natural “flavors.” And stay away from anything that contains ingredients you can’t pronounce. A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize.
Scrambled eggs, yes! Aspartame, no!
Lya Wodraska is a certified CHEK Practitioner and Holistic Lifestyle Coach. E-mail her at Lwodraska@sltrib.com