Why Food Quality Does Matter

You are part of a food chain.  In fact, you’re a part of many of them, also known as a food web. This is a concept I taught to my freshmen biology students for years. We tend to think of ourselves as stand-alone species because we are at the top of that food web and access to food can be extremely easy and passive. Because we are at the top, we get all the good stuff, AND bad stuff, from the bottom up.


Here is what I mean by that.

Plants take up their nutrients from the soil, water, and the sun. Then small consumers eat those plants, larger animals eat those smaller animals and then we humans eat them all.

Starting to catch on? (I know it is hard to think way back to high school biology).

The quality of all those organisms and the micronutrients they take in affects our food quality. That is exactly why quality DOES matter. Quality isn’t just what food looks like. In grocery stores today, vegetables and fruit have been covered in pesticides to make them last longer before they rot. The grocery stores also want them to look prettier to the eye during the selection process. But food quality has a far greater significance than what the eye can actually see.

(Want to fuel your body with the best food for you so you can live a healthier lifestyle? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

But there are a few rules of thumb to think about when addressing quality in regard to produce.

Eat Less Processed Food

Quality foods are unprocessed, unpackaged, and unrefined.  They are “all-natural”. These foods should make up the bulk of your diet. I don’t care what research study you read. Food quality is key to any long lasting, nutrient-rich diet. If you could do one thing to change your life, all you have to do is eat less processed food.  I am not gonna lie, this is a hard one.

Processed is quick and tastes oh so good. When you step away from consuming it you will rekindle your tastes buds for real foods. It takes true effort to make it happen but there is no price tag on its value. Make baby steps it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

To Buy Organic or Not To?

Is “Organic” really all that it is cracked up to be when buying produce?  Yes and no. I have general knowledge about labeling requirements for organic foods but I actually went to the USDA’s website to educate myself a bit more too. For produce to be certified organic it must:

“…demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances.”

So essentially it must be good for Mother Earth and better for human consumption with lots of grey in between.

But I really wanted to know — is it worth my money?

In my opinion, yes. Here is why: In a 2012 study researchers concluded that the risk of chemical contamination from pesticides in traditional produce they surveyed was five times greater than organic produce.  In a second study, another group of researchers concluded that organic produce contained a far greater amount of antioxidant benefits and fewer heavy metals. I don’t know about you, but that is enough for me to be more aware of my food selections and choose organic when appropriate.

The Dirty Dozen

A great rule of thumb is if it has a thick skin around it, you can likely pass on buying organic. That is because the skin acts as a protective barrier to lessen harmful chemical exposure.  If you plan to eat the skin then opt for organic.

Avoid the dirty dozen from the main fruit and veggies section and invest in buying these few things organic. You can check the list of dirty dozen foods here.

Avoid Genetically Modified Foods

There are so many choices at the grocery store that I can see the glazed look come over some shoppers faces. We all want to feed our children the best foods we can.  I know our grandma grew up eating butter and lard and she is still doing awesome.

But here is the deal…Grandma’s produce didn’t face the agricultural tactics that our food faces now.  We have to be mindful in our food selections and not settle for the “My grandma ate it and so will I” thought process. One such tactic is genetically modified foods.

What are genetically modified foods or GMOs?

These are foods whose DNA has been significantly altered to try to create herbicide tolerance or another helpful trait to make that crop more apt for survival.  For example, a wheat plant might be injected with genes from a bacteria in the ground that is resistant to a specific weed killer.  This tolerance allows the plant to grow without being susceptible to destruction from that weed killer.  Except for the U.S. and Canada, all other developed countries do not allow their use.

Why do they matter to you?

They are harmful to us because the effects of modifying organisms’ DNA is damaging.  Because these crops are highly resistant to herbicides, they tend to have a higher than average chemical exposure.  And remember — we are at the top of the food chain. What they are made of is what we are made of. Look for the Non-GMO label on your foods to guarantee their safety. Here are some great tips from Whole foods on how to shop for non-GMOs.

My role as a nutrition coach often focuses on healthy eating and living. Choosing how to fuel your body can be completely overwhelming because of so many choices. Plus, it always seems like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are calling your name (ok, well my name too) at every turn.

My ultimate goal is to educate you (and educate myself along the way too) to make choices that will benefit you and your family a lifetime. Knowledge is power!

Keep it up — you are doing great things! Just with these few simple rules, you’ll be an expert at food quality in no time.

Do you think about quality when buying produce?

Work Hard, Be Kind


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