Congratulations, you've gone green. Now, you need to "grow green," starting with that little bundle of joy growing inside. Dr. Lynda Fassa shows readers how in "Green Babies, Sage Moms." Here's an excerpt:
You are what you eat, and so is your babyYou need an extra 750 calories a day when you’re expecting. Sounds fun — and it is, but not all calories are created equal. You are a glowing baby factory, and what you choose to consume will never be more important.
Everything that you put into your mouth (especially in the first trimester) is the stuff you are using to build your baby.
Generally speaking, the fresher the food you eat, and the closer to its natural state, the greater its nutritional value — more bang for the caloric buck.
Although there’s nothing wrong with stashing an occasional energy bar in your bag to equalize your blood sugar roller coaster, a banana or an apple is even better.
You may occasionally slip and inhale a bag of salty potato chips, but probably you’ve already committed to a fresh and healthy diet for baby’s sake. But what is healthy, really, and what about all the hoopla regarding organic? Is organic really better for you, and your beautiful bump? Or just a gimmick, and an expensive one at that.
People often ask me: What is organic? There are a host of very specific and wonderful things that define organic, but most importantly and simply put, here is what organic means:
Produced without pesticides, because pesticides are poison.
Consider this: The EPA states “There is no safe level of pesticides, only those with an acceptable level of risk.”
But when what you eat is forming the most important person in the world, that doesn’t sound so “acceptable.”
How did this “risk” become such a huge part of our food chain? Do we need pesticides to grow food? It seems almost unbelievable that we have come to a point where we are risking our health, individually and as a society, and the health of people we absolutely depend on to survive in this world, farmers, because of a food system that depends on poison to work.
Conventional agriculture in America is subsidized by the federal government. Often farmers are paid to NOT grow crops so that the super-low prices of the subsidized goods don’t go even lower. In the late 1940s, after the Second World War, American industry was booming. Many of the chemicals that had been developed for the war were still in high production. It was discovered that the poisons developed during the war to combat the gargantuan mosquitoes of North Africa and Southeast Asia could be used against another threat, crop-eating bugs.
This simple idea became linked to the promise of bounty for all, an effortless end to shortage and starvation. At the outset this seemed like a potentially beautiful solution — that chemistry could liberate us from toil and provide an endless abundance. What went wrong? It is still possible chemistry will provide that Utopia, but at the moment we are looking at a much darker picture.
True, we produce more than enough for all, but things are out of whack — there is still rampant malnutrition and even starvation. Cheap food became a boon for affluent consumers, but a bane for farmers. Industrial agriculture and its super-high yields demand more and more chemicals, and push the land so hard that we have wiped out entire ecosystems.
Farms, once living landscapes filled with rich biological variety, have become arid wastelands that produce flavorless food and poison surrounding communities and waterways with their chemical runoff, in much the same way the manufacturing industry did a hundred years ago. Chemically dependent agriculture has also brought us to epic deforestation, rising cancer rates, an end to the era of the family farm and a business climate that sees over 30,000 suicides by farmers annually, many related to debt to chemical companies.
Can we really continue to drop poison — poison strong enough to kill resistant insects — on our food supply and think everything will be OK?
And there are other risks. Scientists have speculated that the rise in obesity in the West is connected to the growth hormones and genetic engineering inflicted on the American dairy cow. If we (and our children) consume milk from cows that are goaded into growing abnormally large and producing so much more than is natural for them, it is possible that what made those cows so big and fat might do the same to us.
We simply do not know how years of consuming rBGH milk and dairy products will affect our health. But we do know that rBGH, or Bovine Growth Hormone, is administered to cows so they produce more milk, and antibiotics are then given to treat and reduce the sometimes resulting infections — infections that can have extremely unpleasant results, such as pus in the milk, so you may be getting a dose of tetracycline in your latte.
If that doesn’t convince you, some studies suggest a link between cancer and rBGH. According to Dr. Samuel Epstein of the University of Illinois at Chicago, “GE (genetically engineered) milk is entirely different from natural milk: nutritionally; biochemically; and immunologically.”
It is also contaminated with antibiotics used to treat mastitis and pus; the GE hormone; and high levels of the naturally occurring growth factor IGF-1. Elevated levels of IGF-1 have been strongly associated with high risk of colon, breast and prostate cancers, besides promoting their invasiveness.
In spite of such well-documented scientific evidence, FDA approved the sales and marketing of GE milk in 1984, while blocking all labeling. (Statement on Public Health Hazards of GE Milk and Food, Samuel Epstein, M.D.) Dr. Epstein goes on to say, “With the active complicity of the FDA, the entire nation is currently being subjected to an experiment involving large-scale adulteration of an age-old dietary staple by a poorly characterized and unlabeled biotechnology product, BGH (biosynthetic Growth Hormones), which is genetically engineered by Monsanto. Even more disturbingly, it poses major potential health risks for the entire U.S. population.” (Epstein, "Unlabeled Milk from Cows Treated with Biosynthetic Growth Hormones: A Case of Regulatory Abdication," International Journal of Health Services Vol. 26, No. 1 (1996), pgs. 173-185.)
The FDA, unlike the government in other nations, has sided with the manufacturer of rGBH (Monsanto) and decided U.S. consumers do not need to know which dairy products have been produced with rBGH, so there is no label you can check. However, by choosing organic milk, you don’t have to guess. Organic milk means no rBGH, no synthetic hormones and no antibiotics are given to the dairy cows producing the milk.
Growing greenWhen you’re expecting, organic makes sense for fruits and vegetables and grain, too. Conventional produce grown with heavy doses of pesticides developed to kill hardy insects, and dropped from planes flying high above onto the food we eat, is not the best choice, especially when you’re in baby factory mode. If there were a fly on your apple, would you spray it with Raid, wash it off and eat it? Sounds ridiculous, but it’s basically what we’re doing every day. Worst of all, we are doing it to foods that are otherwise especially life-giving and healthy — fresh fruits and vegetables. And these pesticides don’t just contaminate our produce. They harm our water quality in a number of different ways. They seep into groundwater on the farm, and also go back into the ecosystem as we work to wash them down the drain in our kitchen sinks.
How can you reduce your and your unborn baby’s exposure to these health risks? The shining ray of hope and health is organic.
In order for foods to be certified organic they must meet a series of strict criteria that include:
* No synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides were used on the crop (or land) for at least three years.
* No GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
* In the case of meat, no growth hormones or antibiotics are given to the animals and all feed is vegetarian and certified organic.
Keep in mind, though, that any conventionally grown food you buy was grown with pesticides, and even if you personally are not consuming much of their residues, like in the case of bananas, the toxins are still in the environment and will have an effect not only on whoever is involved in the growing process, but on the land somewhere. By choosing organic, you are supporting a cleaner and more sustainable world.
Excerpted from “Green Babies, Sage Moms,” by Lynda Fassa. Copyright 2008 Lynda Fassa. Reprinted with permission from Penguin Book Group. All rights reserved.