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There has been a huge rise in health foods due to consumer demand for naturally grown, minimally processed foods.  The organic food industry was valued over $1.7 billion in 2014 and continues to grow, becoming a very lucrative business for suppliers and manufacturers.  The rise has been largely due to growing consumer health consciousness and an increase in discretionary incomes.  The explosion of cooking shows has also raised the importance of home cooking to get the best nutritional benefits from your meals.

People are also being educated on the hidden dangers in our highly processed foods. There is plenty of research linking highly processed foods to causing serious illness and disease due to the use of artificial chemicals in our crops and packaged foods; aimed to improve crop yield, shelf life, flavour and food appearance.

We now have a new dilemma; what is healthy?  The Herald Sun recently reported that a supermarket study found almost half of the food promoted as natural (included natural, nature’s or nature in the brand name or on the packaging) are unhealthy and were high in saturated fats, sugar and/or salt.  Furthermore, the word natural is most commonly used to label products like snack bars, muesli bars, chips, crackers and lollies, yet the study found almost 9 out of 10 of the 97 snacks researched were unhealthy. “Dietitians are worried that clever marketing and the lack of guidelines surrounding the term ‘natural’ convince some shoppers to overindulge in processed food at the expense of fresh fruit and vegetables and other better alternatives.” (1)

Here’s are some suggestions to help you choose genuine healthy food:

  • When possible buy certified organic or biodynamic food as farmers’ must follow strict Australian Guidelines which requires no use of chemicals or artificial additives in the growing or processing stages.
  • Certified organic food can be expensive, so an alternative is to buy vegetables and fruits that are in season.  Seasonal crops usually grow easily, when grown in their natural seasonal period, and therefore require less intervention.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables that have a natural thick skin as it may reduce some of the pesticides and chemical intake and wash them thoroughly before consuming.
  • Buy meats that are from cattle that have been grassed fed their entire life and were not given antibiotics or growth hormones.
  • Read the packet labels to make sure there are no chemical additives or flavourings.  If you can’t recognise an ingredient, don’t buy the product as it is most likely a chemical additive which the body can’t process.
  • Avoid hydrogenated oils in packaged foods as their natural state has been altered through intense heating and mixed with hydrogen gas to transform them from liquids to solids for use in food products.  Hydrogenated oils are found in foods that also have saturated fats such as margarine, fried foods, packaged snacks and often in pre made baked goods.
  • Buy produce at the farmers’ market so you can speak directly with the farmer about the crop growing, harvesting and production process.
  • If you have any space where you live, start your own garden patch or if you are limited to a balcony or a sunny window seal, then at least grow your own herbs and spices and avoid the pesticides and herbicides that may be used on herb crops.  Or join a community garden group in your area.

Mary Sticca

Founder Health Food Hub

(1)     Karen Collier, Herald Sun, Wednesday August 10, 2016.

 

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