by Gwen Lewis

My family has been eating mindfully for years. We avoid preservatives, hormones, and chemicals whenever possible. While not every purchase that I make is perfect, I strive to buy natural ingredients and organic when the budget allows. And I have become a devout shopper of stores that share my family’s values and food concerns.

Consumers are wiser than most stores realize. Today’s shoppers read labels before making a purchase. When I notice preservatives like TBHQ, I put the product back on the shelf. While some families might believe that avoiding artificial ingredients and chemicals is beyond their means, many low-cost stores are making the switch to better ingredients including the removal of artificial colors and hydrogenated oils. Aldi’s—the budget grocer and perennial favorite of cost-conscious consumers—has recently removed artificial colors from the majority of their offerings. They’ve even pledged to pull artificial growth hormones from their dairy products, and they now offer a nice variety of organics. All at a reasonable price.

Of course, Trader Joe’s has been the leader of budget-friendly chemical-free foods for years. And T.J.’s is no “whole paycheck.” I’ve snagged quite a few deals from the store and especially love the prices on organic produce.

While many experts will say that there is no real difference between organic and standard produce, I feel better knowing that my food is free of chemicals—especially pesticides. And with a husband who has an allergy to Red Dye #40, I have to be on the lookout for artificial colors. Reading labels is an ingrained habit at this point.

Preservatives 101

For families interested in eating green or limiting the number of chemicals and preservatives in their food, the best advice is to study the labels and become educated about the most common preservatives used in foods. TBHQ, for example, is a form of butane. You will see this preservative listed in the ingredients list of popular crackers and other food items. It’s also in cosmetics. BHT—or butylated hydroxytoluene—is a preservative used to keep food from oxidizing. The chemical also is used as a medicine to treat herpes and AIDS.

Yes, these preservatives have been approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and have been deemed safe in certain quantities, but it is the consumer’s choice whether or not they wish to purchase foods containing these additional chemicals.

Organic vs. Conventional

Organic simply means that the product was grown or raised without the use of hormones, chemicals, or pesticides. All items must pass a rigid certification process to be deemed organic. And the term ‘natural’ is not synonymous with organic. I always look for the USDA Organic stamp!

Benefits of Eating Green & Clean

Living a greener, cleaner lifestyle allows you to be mindful of what you put into your body. Obviously, if you’re eating clean, then you’re avoiding many processed foods and opting for whole foods. Consuming diets rich in fruits and vegetables offers numerous health benefits for the body. Spinach and kale, for example, contain antioxidants integral for eye health. According the WebMD, both of these green giants are chock full of lutein and zeaxanthin. These awesome antioxidants help protect the eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts and arm the eye against harmful sunlight, cigarette smoke, and pollution.

Strawberries, oranges and other fruits and veggies high in vitamin C may help boost the immune system, lower cancer risk and protect against heart disease.

But eating healthy, green and clean also makes the body feel better. The adage ‘you are what you eat’ has many hidden truths. While we won’t transform into a donut, eating sugar-laden goodies will contribute to a higher percentage of belly fat and other health issues. Be mindful of the body and eat a diet that is fueled with foods that are chemical-free with limited ingredients. Chances are, if you can’t pronounce the name of an ingredient, your body is better off without it!

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