5 Tips Every Woman Should Know. Period.

By Sammy Seefeldt, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Ever since I was 13, I have spent weeks of my life with cramps, mood swings, migraines, and flat-out – grumpiness. All because of an inevitable natural process… menstruation. I am sure many of you can relate to this. Below are 5 useful tips to not only manage, but triumph, over your dreaded “time of the month.”

There is a historical stigma revolving around the subject of menstruation conspicuous in the culture of the past and of today. Most are uncomfortable discussing this topic openly, yet it is an experience of nearly half of the population!

Because of this stigma, there is a severe lack of resources to help combat the symptoms of this biological process. It is time we talk about the inevitable fate of females dreading their “times of the month” and support women towards action. Who is ready to triumph during this time??

Tip #1: Limit Sugar, Alcohol, and Caffeine

During the menstrual cycle, hormones fluctuate and with that so do our emotions. Our appetite. Our thoughts. Our well-being. One way to promote hormonal balance is to limit sugar, alcohol, and caffeine during your cycle. In addition, limiting these things can help reduce cramping as they have been found to actually trigger cramps during menstruation

Tip #2: Eating Whole Foods Every 3-4 Hours

Mood swings during your cycle can also be due to cortisol spikes. Cortisol is an important hormone that works with your brain in order to regulate things such as mood. To avoid these mood swings, try to eat every 3-4 hours. Eating more frequent smaller meals, focusing on whole foods, could help regulate cortisol levels in your body and thus help avoid mood swings. Try this, and you may find yourself not bouncing like a yo-yo between emotions and energy levels quite so much.

Tip #3: Drink Herbal Tea

If you do experience painful cramping, one tip is to drink herbal tea. Examples would be chamomile, ginger, and dandelion. All of these herbs are shown to help with inflammation and can help reduce pain. So whenever you feel a cramp coming on, brew yourself a nice cup of herbal tea… mmmm.

Tip #4: Increase Iron Intake

Around 1mg of iron is said to be lost every day blood loss occurs. That is a significant amount of iron considering a recommended daily intake of 18 mg of iron daily for women ages 19-50 (compared to 8mg a day for men). With that much iron needed, any loss needs to be accounted for! Eating foods such as dark leafy greens (spinach) and red meats, liver, lentils, and fortified foods is imperative! Pair these foods with vitamin C (oranges, strawberries, etc.)  to help with iron absorption!

Tip #5: Magnesium Rich Foods

To help with fatigue, eat foods rich in magnesium. These foods include spinach, pumpkin seeds, bananas, almonds, and dark chocolate. These delicious foods can be your first step in fighting fatigue associated with the later phase of your cycle.

If you or a friend suffer symptoms, from menstruation, that make living your “normal” day to day life more difficult, then starting with these 5 simple tips is for you. Hopefully, they will help you make your “time of the month,” into a time of the month still full of enjoyment and prospering!

Check out a UC Davis run program, Davis Period, offering more resources on their instragram! How do you cope with your menstrual cycle discomforts?

Secret Food Hacks from a Healthy Aggie Insider

Basic Needs Center, University of California, Davis

By Hannah Squire, UC Davis, Healthy Aggies Coordinator

School has started, and that means for many of us…no more family meals. Is grocery shopping for yourself a whole new world? Are you struggling to budget for your groceries? If you can relate to this (as most college students can!), you’re not alone. In just a short 3 minutes you will have some amazing resources that will keep you nourished and ready to tackle whatever comes your way!

  • CalFresh (SNAP)- This is a federal program that offers electronic benefits to buy most foods in most stores for those who meet the federal income eligibility rules. It is extremely easy to sign up, and will get you well on your way to be able to purchase the foods that are most nourishing to you! To sign up, go here!
  • Fruit and Veggie Up! & The Pantry– Do you like FREE fruits, veggies, and canned goods? Just bring your Student ID to the Memorial Union any day of the week for The Pantry, and every Monday & Thursday 10AM – 12PM at the South patio of the MU for free locally grown produce. It’s a great resource to get the foods you need for a thriving lifestyle! Find out more about The Pantry here, and Fruit and Veggie Up!  here!
  • Healthy Aggies- Now that you know these free and accessible resources available to you, Healthy Aggies is an amazing community to learn about how to use your free groceries. Get some foodie inspiration from our insta @ucdhealthyaggies, or try out some recipes on THIS website, and meet us in person in the West Quad every Wednesday of October between 11am – 1:30pm!

There are so many other resources available if you are in need of food! Here are some…

Now that you have all the tools to get the food you need to live a balanced and nourishing life, comment on your favorite seasonal veggie and how you prepared it. We are looking forward to meeting YOU at the Farmer Market this Wednesday (10/13)!

Are there other resources you know of? Let us know in the comments!

Boost Your Health and Social life!

By Hannah Squire, Health Aggies Coordinator

After more than a year off campus working remote, are you feeling disconnected from campus? Feeling like you want to get back into an in-person routine that promotes a healthy lifestyle? Well it turns out, you’re not alone!

Here are just 5  easy and accessible ways you can boost your health and social life while getting acclimated to campus life this Fall:)

  1. Come chat with the Healthy Aggies Team at our table in the Quad and make a new friend Wednesday’s October 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th on West Quad from 11am – 1:30pm!
  2. Take pictures with the Healthy Aggie props at our table and tag @ucdhealthyaggies when posting on Instagram.
  3. Try some irresistible free snacks like smoothies and veggie chips at the Healthy Aggie table Wednesday at the Farmer Market in the West Quad.
  4. Read the Healthy Aggie blog posts to pick up some cool health and wellness tips & tricks and implement the habit in your life.
  5. Bring a friend to pick up some fun Healthy Aggie swag at our Wednesday Farmer Market tables  at the West Quad to represent all around campus!

Now that you have 5 ways to make the transition to campus more fun, this coming school year, share these tips with a fellow Aggie. The Healthy Aggie Team can’t wait to see you very soon!  Oh, and sign up for our monthly newsletter, here and tell us how you’re boosting your fun in the comments!

Are Probiotics a Scam?

By Meigan Freeman, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Probiotics, prebiotics, and now synbiotics? What are these biotics and what can they do for your health; or are they just another health scam that ultimately burdens your wallet? I’ll go through their purposes, food sources, and possible benefits. But first, let’s review our gut bacteria, an important part of probiotics.

            Your colon hosts millions of bacteria, which scientists refer to as the gut microbiome,  which help you digest food, heighten your immune system, and give you essential nutrients. In fact, they contribute more genes towards human survival than humans themselves do! We have evolved with them and without these important symbiotic bacteria, humans would not be able to survive. We are completely dependent on them. (Consider reading my other post on bacteria and the microbiome for a deeper dive!)

            We have established how important our gut microbiome is to our survival, so shouldn’t we do everything we can to keep them alive, including eating all the probiotic supplements we can? Not quite. The human body has long evolved and survived healthfully without supplements, so I wouldn’t be too eager to start taking them now. But I have gotten ahead of myself, we need to define and differentiate between probiotics and prebiotics first. Probiotics are live bacteria which are ingested and intended to promote health. They naturally occur in fermented food products, like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi, and can also be taken as over-the-counter supplements. On the other hand, prebiotics are not living organisms, but rather food particles that feed and support the life of the bacteria which already live in your gut. Oligosaccharides, mainly fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS), and inulin are carbohydrates that cannot be digested by humans, but support healthy strains of bacteria in our gut. These oligosaccharides can be naturally found in many fruits, vegetables, and beans and are a significant part of many people’s diets around the world. Synbiotics are only contained in supplements and are a mixture of both prebiotics and probiotics. Providing probiotics (living bacteria) with prebiotics (food source) make the probiotics live longer and become more shelf-stable.

            As touched on earlier, probiotics and prebiotics are naturally found in many types of food that you probably already eat. Fermented products like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and sourdough bread contain probiotics while prebiotics are found in nearly all fruits, vegetables, and beans. Because probiotics and prebiotics are available in many different types of food, I personally do not see a need in taking supplements. However, if you have certain digestive disorders or a very limited diet, a dietitian may recommend you to use such supplements. Remember, what is healthy for me is not necessarily healthy for you! Health is a very individualized process.

A healthy microbiome can be marked by healthy digestion. If you have a regular poop cycle, your microbiome is probably very happy! Sometimes our cycle gets out of whack and we get sick with diarrhea or constipation for whatever reason. Thankfully, probiotics have been the most researched for their prevention of diarrhea and constipation, including people who have IBS, IBD, and even traveler’s diarrhea. An increased intake of fermented foods may be helpful during or after bouts of sickness to reestablish a healthy microbiome. Other probiotic claims, such as their effects on obesity, aging, and diabetes need to be further researched before any definite declarations can be made.

Overall, probiotics and prebiotics are not a scam. They are definitely real and can have real benefits. Fermented foods have been consumed for thousands of years across multiple geographies and cultures across the globe. However, not everyone needs to take supplements, in fact, most people probably don’t need to take them! As a rule of thumb, it is usually better to get nutrients, including probiotics, from whole foods, rather than supplements, because whole foods are richer in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and other important nutrients.

Problematic Diet Culture Vocabulary

Photo credit: https://rafflespress.com/2016/11/07/riot-at-the-diet/by

By Claire Benoist, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Diet culture is a lot like the monsters that used to live in our closet and under our beds as kids: scary and intimidating. With those monsters, we could usually just hide under the covers and try our best to ignore the noises and shadows until we eventually fell asleep. Unfortunately, diet culture is a really big monster that makes a lot of noise, making it difficult to ignore. So, this is one that we are just going to have to face and conquer. Let’s break down some of the most common diet culture vocabulary words, and tackle this beast one word at a time.

Cheat
Let’s start by break down the word cheat. In school, cheating on an exam or on an assignment, results in serious disciplinary action. In a relationship, cheating breaks trust and can lead to breakups and divorce. Cheating is an ugly thing that leads to heartbreaking consequences. This word does not belong anywhere near food. Using cheat or cheating to describe meals and treats makes us believe, even subconsciously, that we are doing something morally wrong. And in case no one has told you recently, there is nothing wrong with indulging in your favorite foods.

I am a big believer that we shouldn’t need cheat days. We should be able to enjoy all foods without rules or the need to break them. Prioritizing a balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, proteins and whole grains means exactly that: we are prioritizing those foods. Meaning we can also eat all the other foods we want, too!

The bottom line, call “cheat meals” what they are: pizza, ice cream, a treat, a food that reminds you of your childhood, comfort food, a traditional family recipe…and whatever you call it, savor it and leave cheating out of it.

Guilt-free
Food can be and do a lot of things. It provides us with necessary nutrients that fuel our everyday activities. It can be a celebration of culture or religion. It can provide comfort and pleasure. It can be nostalgic. But food does not and cannot hold moral value. Nothing you eat can make you a bad person for eating it. This term “guilt-free” insinuates that you should feel guilty when you eat something that isn’t a fruit, vegetable or whole grain. Well, we at Healthy Aggies are here to tell you, that’s not true!  

Natural
Natural is one of those buzz words that sounds so good. #nofilter am I right? A study conducted by Ohio State University showed that people believe that foods featuring the words “natural” or “all-natural” on their labels are of higher quality and nutritional content and are therefore willing to pay more for those foods. But what does natural actually even mean on a food label?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a food as natural when it contains “nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source)”. That’s a very broad definition that can describe a lot of foods. For example, sugar is a natural product. It’s extracted from plants and then goes through processing to be purified, lightened, dried and packaged for distribution. Nothing artificial and no coloring added. But as we all know, table sugar isn’t exactly high in nutritional content or quality. So, save your dollars Aggies, natural is just a marketing buzz word brought to you by our old friend diet culture that doesn’t actually tell you much about its contents.

Processed
This is a big one. But let’s break it down. Yes, some processed foods have a ton of added sugars, saturated fats, sodium and a lot of other ingredients that are questionable at best. But that’s not the only example of processed foods. Nuts and seeds have to be processed (shelled, roasted and ground) to become nut or seed butters. Frozen produce is processed (washed and cut) before it is packaged and stocked in your local grocery store freezer. Fruits have to be processed (pressed) to become fruit juice. See? Processed foods aren’t that scary after all!

Clean
I’ll keep this one short: unless your food has literal dirt on it, it’s clean!

Words are powerful. They can have a significant psychological effect on us whether we realize it or not. Diet culture is not a monster we will defeat overnight or in a single article. But the more we know, and the more we break down the myths we are led to believe, the less powerful it will eventually become. Happy eating, Aggies!

Choose MyPlate!

By Claire Benoist, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Have you heard of MyPlate? MyPlate is one of my favorite tools to use as a nutrition peer counselor. I’m not a big fan of math or measuring. To me, figuring out how much protein 0.8g per kg of body weight would be or keeping track of all the vitamins and minerals I need to eat every day sounds like too much work. As a visual person, I prefer to think about filling my plate according to MyPlate guidelines. This way, I know my body will get the nutrients it needs without having to make it complicated. I also like not counting amounts and cups because then I can fill my plate according to my appetite rather than restricting or overeating based on arbitrary numbers.

Ok sounds good but, what is MyPlate?

Glad you asked! Let’s break it down:

Veggies/Fruit
Fill ½ of your plate with your favorite fruits and vegetables. Bell peppers, carrots, oranges spinach, mangoes, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, grapes, broccoli, fresh, frozen, canned, cooked, raw whatever you prefer! Note that you can choose to have a half a plate of fruit or vegetables or a combo! Getting a variety of fruits and vegetables will allow you to get all the minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients and fiber our bodies need and love.  

Protein
Fill ¼ of your plate with protein. This can be an animal source of protein: chicken, eggs, beef, fish, pork, yogurt, etc or plant source: tofu, beans, lentils, tempeh, etc. Protein helps to keep you full after a meal and gives your body the building materials it needs to make muscle, enzymes and all kinds of important proteins your body needs to function and thrive.

Grains/Starch
Fill the last quarter of your plate with grain/starch. This includes bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, barley, tortilla, potatoes, sweet potatoes etc. These are full of carbohydrates which are our bodies’ favorite source of energy. Whether you’re studying, working out or watching Netflix all day, these will prepare you for any activity you have planned.

Liquid oils (not pictured)

Liquid oils like olive oil, canola oil, and avocado oil provide our bodies with unsaturated fats which help us feel full and provide many important functions throughout the body from lowering “bad” cholesterol to reducing inflammation. Though not technically liquid, fish, avocados and nuts are great sources of healthy fats too! If you did not cook the foods on your plate with any liquid oils, a little drizzle over your vegetables could be a good topper.

Claire, you forgot about the cup of milk!
Good eye, I did leave out the milk. The cup of milk is added because dairy is a great source of calcium and vitamin D (which helps our bodies absorb calcium), and calcium is important for bone health. However, we can get these nutrients from other sources. If yogurt or cheese is your source of protein, boom, there’s your calcium. Beans, lentils, seeds, some nuts and leafy greens, and tofu also contain calcium. Not to mention foods and drinks that might be fortified with calcium (like some cereals, fruit juices and non-dairy milks).  So, if you are consuming a variety of foods, you should be able to meet your calcium needs without the milk. If you like milk, go for it! I just personally prefer drinking water with my meals and getting my calcium from other sources.

A couple notes:

  • These won’t always be neatly separated into sections of your plate. Sometimes you’ll make a salad or a wrap and it will all be mixed together. That’s ok!
  • You can use MyPlate for snacks, too! The portions might be smaller but the proportions are the same.
  • Remember this is just a guideline. A tool that can help you think through composing a balanced meal. I love this tool but if it feels restrictive or confusing to you, make an appointment with a nutrition peer counselor and we can help you figure it out or find another model that will work better for you.

Now for some examples!

Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry served with Rice.

(photo from eatingwell.com)

Greek chicken salad

(Photo from foodnetwork.com)

Bell peppers, hummus and crackers (or pita)

(photo from eatingwell.com)

Toast topped with ricotta cheese and fruit

(photo from eatingwell.com)

What is your favorite balanced plate? Share in the comments!

Oh My Milk!

By Meigan Freeman, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Do all those new milks have you overwhelmed? Well I am here to help, because we all have 99 problems, but milk shouldn’t be one! I’ll break down the nutrition content of each milk, environmental impacts, and cost so you can make an informed decision of which milk is most fitting for you.

Dairy: The longest standing milk out there, dairy is the classic that comes from cows. You can find four types at most grocery stores, skim (fat free), 1% fat, 2% fat, and whole milk (3.25% fat). Out of all the milks I compared, dairy has the highest in saturated fat which we should strive to avoid. It also has less calcium than its plant milk alternatives, which may seem surprising at first, but the other milks are fortified with calcium and therefore have more. Fortification is the process of adding nutrients into foods and helps people get adequate amounts of nutrients that Americans, on average, do not consume enough of. Healthy Aggie Tip: When available, try to buy fortified and enriched food for a nutrient boost!

            Dairy milk is about $2.69/gallon and is therefore a sound financial choice.  Environmentally, dairy has the highest impact. In a 2018 study, dairy milk produced higher GHG emissions and required much more land than soy milk. Cow agriculture is pretty tough on the environment, they take up a lot of land, produce a lot of methane, and drink a lot of water.

Pros:

  • Classic and consistent flavor
  • Low cost
  • Good for baking and recipes
  • High in protein

Cons:

  • Highest environmental impact
  • High in saturated fat
  • Slightly lower in calcium than plant milks

Oat: Oat milk has recently become very popular for its creamy and thick mouthfeel. This plant milk may be the most similar to dairy in terms of taste, but its nutrients are much different. Oatly’s brand oat milk is fortified in vitamins and minerals, with comparable or higher amounts than dairy and other plant milks. It has a moderate amount of protein that is less than soy and dairy, but higher than coconut and almond. 

At $5.29/ gallon, oat milk is an expensive choice. However, oat milk is one of the least intrusive milks on the environment’s land, water, and gas emissions.

Pros:

  • Creamy & rich flavor
  • Fortified with lots of vitamins and minerals
  • Small environmental impact

Cons:

  • Usually high in added sugar
  • Pricier than dairy milk
  • Less protein than dairy milk
  • Sometimes separates in drinks like coffee or tea

Soy: Soy milk is the OG, traditional plant milk. It has just as much protein as dairy, and is also a complete protein. A ‘complete’ protein (meat, eggs, dairy, quinoa, soy) contains all essential amino acids, whereas an ‘incomplete’ protein (beans, grains) contains only some amino acids. Fact Check: Soy milk has a bad reputation for causing increased estrogen levels, but this is just a rumor! It is true that soy milk can slightly increase estrone, a minor, weaker hormone, however, you would have to drink A LOT of soy milk to notice any harmful effects.

Pros:

  • Only plant milk with as much protein as dairy
  • Low in saturated fat
  • Fortified with lots of vitamins and minerals
  • Easy to find unsweetened versions
  • Low environmental impact

Cons:

  • May separate in drinks like coffee and tea
  • More expensive than dairy ($4.29/gallon)

Almond: Have you ever had homemade almond milk? Someone made it for me once and it was delicious! Here’s a recipe. Almond milk has a moderate amount of some vitamins and minerals, but often not as much as soy, oat, or dairy. It also has very low protein, so if you enjoy this milk, make sure you are getting adequate protein from other sources! It costs about $4.29 per gallon. As for the environment, this milk has low impact on gas emissions and land, but uses a large amount of water (still less than dairy though!).

Pros:

  • Homemade milk is simple to make and may be more cost effective
  • Low in saturated fat

Cons:

  • Low amounts of vitamins and minerals
  • Low amount of protein
  • More expensive than dairy ($4.29/gallon)

Personally, soy milk is my top choice for its high protein content and low environmental impact. However, our nutritional needs and goals likely differ from each other, so this doesn’t mean soy milk is right for you! I enjoy oat milk in my lattés, so sometimes my milk choice just depends on my mood and the use. I hope this article helps you find what milk is best for you; remember that everyone is different and no milk is ‘bad’ or ‘good.’ It all depends on you and your individual, special self! For a more in-depth analysis of plant milks (including coconut not mentioned herein) check out the milk spreadsheet I made which outlines the nutrition content of each milk.

Debunking the Master Cleanse

By Brandy Carrillo, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

With the warmer weather and blue skies, it’s common for many to enter a period of re-invention this time of year, through our own rituals of “spring cleaning” or starting new regimes to improve our health. With the ever-increasing rise of diet culture, advertisements for the latest fad diets are scattered all over the web calling for extreme restrictions and regulations and promises of fast and drastic results. Many are sucked into these empty promises and want to kickstart their newfound healthy routines with a period of detox or a cleanse, but are those actually as effective as the influencers claim?

On the surface, cleansing and detoxing seem beneficial and something that we should be doing daily. Detoxification is essentially just the act of removing harmful toxins from your body via excretion, urination or sweat. So if this all sounds so positive and helpful, why is it actually not such a good thing?

The main issue with most self-proclaimed detox regimes is that they claim to help eliminate this so-called build-up of toxins in your body to help rest its natural metabolic processes. Detoxes and cleanses often require participants to engage in some kind of calorie restriction, specific food elimination, supplement or herb use, laxatives, juices, or other drink concoctions all with the goal of improving one’s health in mind. In reality, your body is already doing this on a day-to-day basis via your liver, lungs, kidneys, and large intestine. Any supplemental means of “cleansing” or “detoxification” is unnecessary and in some cases, harmful to the body. Many of these cleanses make promises of weight loss, metabolism repair, body fat burning, reduced inflammation, and are marketed as an “all-around cure.” We know that while some detox diets may help users achieve some of the promised benefits, the results are likely unsustainable and are coupled with harmful effects and increased risks.

 How exactly does the famous Master Cleanse play into this?

The Master Cleanse also referred to as the Lemonade Diet, the Cayenne Pepper Diet, the Maple Syrup Diet, and even the Beyonce Diet, is a complete liquid fast with a primary goal of rapid weight loss. The detox regime was first introduced all the way back in the 1940s by Stanley Burroughs as a means of body reset, healing, and all-around “internal cleansing” prompting followers to drink at least 6 or more cups of only the drink consisting of lemon juice, maple syrup, water, and cayenne pepper for anywhere between 10 days to 2 weeks. The diet calls for users to only drink this concoction for the first 10 days along with a supplemental laxative tea for optimum “colon cleansing” and then to slowly reintroduce solid foods for the next few days. While testimonies have shown that the master cleanse does provide rapid weight loss, these results aren’t permanent or healthy. The Master Cleanse is simply another means of fasting, with the maple syrup the only real source of calories during the cleanse. This lack of essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.) and caloric substance can lead to a number of harmful effects on the body including increased fatigue, body weakness and achiness, digestive issues, loss of muscle mass, and many more.

At the end of the day, your body already has the set machinery needed for natural detoxification processes and there is no need to engage in any supplemental cleanses or detox diets. Focusing on eating a balanced plate and including a regular exercise routine in your life is much more sustainable and can provide the lasting effects these so-called detox diets claim they can provide.

Is Organic food better?

By Wenjun Liu, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

When it comes to organic foods, there are two commonly asked questions.  The first is are they healthier and the second, are they safer than conventionally grown products. 

Many of us used to believe organic foods had higher vitamin and mineral content. A recent systemic review on human studies found that there was no significant difference in vitamin and mineral content between organic and conventional plant or animal products, but a difference was noted in polyphenolic phytonutrient content. The study reported 19-69% higher levels of phytonutrients in organic foods as compared to conventional foods. Research has not yet identified why organic foods contain higher amounts of these disease-fighting factors.

When trying to decide between organic or conventional, there are a few things to consider. Organic foods tend to be harder to find and when you find them they are more expensive – up to 40% more than their conventional partner. 

Another reason people might choose to consume organic produce is for a reduced likelihood of pesticide residue.  Pesticide use is heavily regulated in the United States and you are not likely to find much residue, even on a conventional product. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes the “Dirty Dozen” annually.  This list identifies particular plant products that you may want to consider buying organically, if you are concerned about chemicals.  There is a companion “Clean Fifteen” list that includes products that normally contain very little pesticide residue.

Overall, aim for consumption of more whole, unprocessed plants and/or plant-based foods whether organic or conventional, because they contain abundant fiber, vitamins, and minerals.                      

Is Organic Healthier?

By Wenjun Liu, UC Davis, Healthy Aggies Nutrition Peer Counselor

When it comes to organic foods, there are two commonly asked questions.  The first is are they healthier and the second, are they safer than conventionally grown products. 

Many of us used to believe organic foods had higher vitamin and mineral content. A recent systemic review on human studies found that there was no significant difference in vitamin and mineral content between organic and conventional plant or animal products, but a difference was noted in polyphenolic phytonutrient content. The study reported 19-69% higher levels of phytonutrients in organic foods as compared to conventional foods. Research has not yet identified why organic foods contain higher amounts of these disease-fighting factors.

When trying to decide between organic or conventional, there are a few things to consider. Organic foods tend to be harder to find and when you find them they are more expensive – up to 40% more than their conventional partner. 

Another reason people might choose to consume organic produce is for a reduced likelihood of pesticide residue.  Pesticide use is heavily regulated in the United States and you are not likely to find much residue, even on a conventional product. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes the “Dirty Dozen” annually.  This list identifies particular plant products that you may want to consider buying organically, if you are concerned about chemicals.  There is a companion “Clean Fifteen” list that includes products that normally contain very little pesticide residue.

Overall, aim for consumption of more whole, unprocessed plants and/or plant-based foods whether organic or conventional, because they contain abundant fiber, vitamins, and minerals.