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The Complete Organic Pregnancy
By Deirdre Dolan
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Deirdre Dolan
All right reserved.
Why organic matters
Definitions of the word organic can be technical (see box on next page), but it basically means that crops aren't chemically fertilized or treated with chemical pesticides, and that animals are fed grains produced from pesticide-free crops. Since organic food has grown in popularity, a number of studies have supported its health benefits. To name a few: The 2005 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals cites a study that found that preschool-aged children eating organic fruits and vegetables had concentrations of pesticides in their urine six times lower than children eating conventional produce. A 2002 study by the Consumers Union (the publisher of Consumer Reports) and Organic Materials Research Institute published in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants found that "Organic foods had consistently minimal or nonexistent pesticide residue." Finally, a 1999 study sponsored by the Department of Agriculture found that pastured animals (meaning they can walk around) provide less saturated fat and more nutrients than their factory-raised counterparts.
For a mother-to-be, this knowledge can turn groceryshopping into an empowering experience. Choose organic, and you've already done something good for your baby. Pre-pregnancy is the perfect time to shift your diet and clear your system of toxic food. We'll focus more on which pesticides to avoid and how in Part 2. But before we do we want to suggest that there is more to eating organically than the fact that it's good for you. Ask organophiles why they eat this way, and their answers are often philosophical: They believe that the way they're eating helps not only them, but the farmers who grow their food, and the earth in general. "Organics is about living without harming yourself and your environment," says cookbook author Deborah Madison, founding chef of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.
On a practical level, choosing organic food over conventional involves some extra effort when shopping, more time in the kitchen (it's harder to eat organically when dining out or ordering in), and sometimes a little more cash. But the best part is, without a middleman, food tastes a whole lot better.
Whole foods diet
For us, organic eating doesn't really involve much besides fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, meat, and sometimes fish. Though you can now buy everything from certified organic frozen burritos to certified organic gummy bears, packaged foods don't provide the same nutritional value as whole foods. This isn't to say those gummy bears (made with organic cane sugar, plus beet and carrot juice to dye them various colors) aren't tasty. But they don't do anything for you. And you want your body in tip-top shape as you try to get pregnant.
We're not going to spell out a strict diet for you to follow. Every person varies in what he or she wants and needs to eat. We've never liked the specific do-and-don't diets in traditional pregnancy books. We'll always insist a whole foods diet is the best way to go, which simply means eating food as close to the form that it came out of the earth as possible. "I don't believe in artificial things, even if they call them organic," says Joan Dye Gussow, former head of the nutrition department at Columbia University and author of This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader. "How can you have a natural margarine? I have always eaten butter." Gussow strongly believes you should eat food that travels the shortest distance from the farmer to you so that you know how your food is being grown.
The word "whole" should be taken literally, too. When possible, we try to think of our chickens as complete birds instead of parts, all of which can be put to some use. Try to take the same approach with carrot tops and celery fronds--if you have time, they make great vegetable stock.
Eating organic while trying to conceive
We all have toxins in our bodies. Our theory is this: get out as many as you can now in preparation for your new tenant. Stocking up on as much iron and calcium and folic acid and other good-for-baby food could help during your first trimester, when many women have a hard time stomaching vegetables (or anything for that matter). Cleaning up your act now will also help set up a good, healthy base, as it is harder to change your diet once you start feeling bad. "This is something you have to do for life, for your child, and for forever," says chef Alice Waters, a pioneer of the organic movement. "It's a way of looking at the world and understanding the relationship of food, of health, well-being, culture, and environment."
When shifting your diet to a more organic, whole foods approach, one of the first things to do is to look at the amount of sugar you consume and cut back. These are empty calories, devoid of nutrients. When you're pregnant, you'll want to make sure pretty much everything you consume contains essential nutrients. Sweetened beverages--including fruit juice--are a big source of sugar. So are packaged foods. Get in the habit of reading labels at the supermarket if you don't already. The shorter the ingredient list, the better. If you don't recognize an ingredient, you can look it up, but it's probably not good for you.
Though the sweetener you add to things like tea is negligible compared with what pops up in packaged foods and corn-syrup-filled sodas, choose it wisely. We always thought brown sugar was more nutritious than white. But it turns out that in this country, due to government regulations similar to those for raw milk cheese, all sugar is first processed to white to clean it, which removes any valuable nutrients. Brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added back in. Maple syrup isn't much better; it's filtered. Opt for honey when possible (although it should never be given to an infant under one year old). Another reason to avoid high fructose corn syrup is that you never know what pesticides and herbicides the corn was sprayed with, or if the corn was genetically modified.
Excerpted from The Complete Organic Pregnancy by Deirdre Dolan Copyright © 2006 by Deirdre Dolan. Excerpted by permission.
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