Everything's organic

Friday, January 13, 2006

An OFF! writer finds out she can get almost anything organic, except pizza rolls

If you're anything like me, you rolled out of bed New Year's Day feeling a heavy weight in your stomach: the regret from consuming about a thousand pizza rolls and other snacks. My resolution to read more novels was gone. I knew I had to eat healthy.

But where could I begin? Dieting? I considered how many loaves of bread I consumed in the average month. The Atkins Diet wouldn't work. I remembered the whole Subway diet with that fat guy who got thin from -- get this -- eating low-fat sandwiches and actually walking somewhere, but I didn't really feel the need to fit into one of my pant legs.

I decided on a trip to the local supermarket to go organic. I'd always passed the "health food" aisle with curiosity, and steered my cart to the mostly green boxes, some with pictures of cute animals on them. Eating organic was going to be fun! However, my spirits were dampened by the inflated prices ($5 for a small box of cereal? $6 for waffles?) and labeling confusion (Organic? All-natural? What's the difference?) I cleared out of there and bought ice cream instead, and more pizza rolls.

I decided that if my revised New Year's resolution was going to happen, I'd have to ask someone what was going on with all these organic foods. I went to the only health food store in town that I actually knew about, Natural Health Organic Foods on 135 S. Broadview. I talked to Becky Brown, who owns the store with her husband, Mike.

Apparently when Mike moved to Cape Girardeau, he noticed there were no health food stores. Mike and Becky were tired of driving to St. Louis for their organic needs, so they opened their own store. Natural Health will be celebrating its tenth anniversary in April, and business is great.

Becky has owed her and her children's good health to organic and natural food.

"Organic foods are grown without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Lately, the food supply in this country has been tainted with genetic engineering and chemicals.

"The pharmaceutical corporations exert a lot of control over healthcare, and therefore, people would rather take a lot of drugs than look for alternative means to be healthy. As an industrialized nation, we pay less for food than most countries and pay much more for healthcare."

I mentioned the price difference that may turn off some consumers. Becky told me that the high cost of organic food was due to the fact that farming subsidies are given mostly to big agribusiness and not small organic farmers. Natural Health gets much of its produce from local farmers.

Becky also told me that there were many options available to those who wanted to eat organic. "It's not just sprouts and granola anymore. The organic market is growing at the rate of 20 percent a year.

"As far as the cost is concerned, you have to look at the long-term expenses of doctor's visits health problems as opposed to just eating healthy in the first place. The way I see it, God gave us all the food we needed, and didn't put chemicals on it."

It was a lot to swallow (pun intended). I walked around the store for several minutes, taking everything in. A room in the back sold rows and rows of vitamins and supplements and things with names like "elderberry extract" and "dandelion root." I decided to take Becky's advice and start small. She said the best way to begin eating naturally is with fresh fruits and vegetables, and unrefined flour and sugar.

From bins where one can purchase protein, oat bran, flax seeds, and more, I poured myself some "pure crystalline fructose," an unrefined fruit sugar. I noted the taste: sweet, a little different from sugar but not unappetizing like synthetic sugar substitutes. It would go great in my unhealthy, inorganic coffee (start small).

Walking around the store, I noticed that there was indeed a wide variety of items that were organic or natural, like cookies, mac n' cheese, soda, dog biscuits and cat food, cleaners and even hair dye. I also noticed that many of the foods, such as soy ice cream, had almost as much fat as their regular counterparts. I guess I'd have to be selective while eating these foods as well.

Since the selection was better than at the supermarket, I was able to shop with price in mind and actually got some good deals. Eating healthy would be a bit of a challenge, but with the good selection of organic and natural foods available, I could do it.

I have yet to find an organic pizza roll.

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