You’ve probably heard a lot of people talking about the evils of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, but what are they?
GMOs are essentially the result of a laboratory process during which genes from one species are inserted into the genes of another with the aim of obtaining a certain characteristic or result – like growing an incredibly large melon, for example.
A number of animal studies have been conducted and report some serious health risks associated with a GMO diet, including immune system problems; infertility; faster aging; changes to the major organs; issues with the gastrointestinal system and even faulty insulin regulation.
So these days physicians are advising patients to stay far away from foods that have been genetically modified, and that means we need to start shopping smarter.
For starters, you should try going organic. The USDA National Organic standards actually prohibits genetically modified organisms and shopping organic is the perfect way to avoid them altogether. What’s more, organic foodstuffs have little to no pesticides, fungicides or herbicides while boasting a higher vitamin and mineral count.
Another smart way to shop to avoid GMOs is to load up on the fruits and vegetables. Many fresh products are not genetically modified but do tread carefully when it comes to edamame; zucchini; sweet corn; yellow summer squash and papaya that is brought in from China and Hawaii – they’re considered high risk in the GMO range. Only purchase those products if they are labeled as “Non-GMO” or “organic” to be on the safe side.
The third smart shopper tip is to keep an eye out for the non-GMO-verified seal. Foods that have been genetically modified don’t have to be labelled such and this seal is the best way to tell when foods are organic. A lot of companies won’t advertise that foods have GMOs, so these seals are a good way to find foods that don’t have GMOs.
Next, join a campaign! For example, the Tipping Point Campaign comprises a group of activists who are hard at work educating communities about the dangers of GMOs. The whole idea is that the more consumers start avoiding GMOs, the more likely those ingredients become a marketing liability and be removed from the shelves.
When you’re shopping, remember to read labels carefully and understand additives. Five of the most common GMOs (sugar beets; corn; cotton; soy and canola) often land up as additives in packaged foods. Check labels for the likes of sugar; corn syrup; thickeners; oil and flavoring agents and stay well away.
If you love seafood, only buy wild-caught varieties as a lot of farm-raised fish tend to eat feeds that are genetically modified in one way or another.
What about eating out? The next time you’re planning on going out for dinner, put some thought into “invisible ingredients” including salad dressing; soy sauce and cooking oils that could very likely contain GMOs. But don’t be scared to ask for special orders like calling in advance and requesting that your fish be fried in olive oil instead of, say, canola.
Another good GMO-free shopping tip is to focus on fiber like beans; nuts; grans and seeds which are typically GMO-free. And while you’re checking out labels, stay well away from aspartame. You’ll find it predominantly in diet sodas as well as low-cal foodstuffs and sweets. Aspartame is made purely from GMOs or even via a chemical process. Not sweet at all.
Here’s another one to watch out for: canned soups. These ready-made varieties have a lot of ingredients that contain GMOs. Many list high fructose corn syrup as one of their biggest ingredients and according to research, 88 percent of corn planted in the U.S is genetically modified. Another big ingredient in canned soups in vegetable oil which, while the label might tell you the oil doesn’t come from corn, 90 percent of rapeseed, soybeans and cottonseeds farmed in the USA are GMOs.
When you’re whizzing up and down the aisles, avoid the frozen food section, too. All too often frozen goods are sweetened with the likes of non-cane sugars which are genetically modified.
While you’re in the store, skip the sweetened juices on your shopping list. At present, the only genetically modified fruit that is readily available to the average American shopper is the Hawaiian papaya. While the majority of fruits don’t have GMOs, a lot of juice companies add non-cane sugar to make juices more enticing to kids.
Finally, read labels carefully before choosing cereals. While you’re not that likely to encounter GMOs when dealing mainly with grains in their natural state (except corn), cereals – and especially those made for kids – contain a lot more than natural grains. Two of the biggest ingredients are corn start and sugar which are both highly likely to consist of GMOs.
All this talk of GMO can get a bit stressful, but take a deep breath and start off slowly. Try not to get overwhelmed by it all, just do what you can and start off by eliminating GMOs just for a few weeks. Take note of changes to your energy; weight; moods and health and take note of your kids’ attention spans. Once you start noticing the positive changes, chances are GMO-free will become the only way to go in your household.