Andrea Castillo and Erik Peper
We are what we eat. Our body is synthesized from the foods we eat. Creating the best conditions for a healthy body depends upon the foods we ingest as implied by the phrase, Let food be thy medicine, attributed to Hippocrates, the Greek founder of western medicine (Cardenas, 2013). The foods are the building blocks for growth and repair. Comparing our body to building a house, the building materials are the foods we eat, the architect’s plans are our genetic coding, the care taking of the house is our lifestyle and the weather that buffers the house is our stress reactions. If you build a house with top of the line materials and take care of it, it will last a life time or more. Although the analogy of a house to the body is not correct since a house cannot repair itself, it is a useful analogy since repair is an ongoing process to keep the house in good shape. Our body continuously repairs itself in the process of regeneration. Our health will be better when we eat organic foods that are in season since they have the most nutrients.
Organic foods have much lower levels of harmful herbicides and pesticides which are neurotoxins and harmful to our health (Baker et al., 2002; Barański, et al, 2014). Crops have been organically farmed have higher levels of vitamins and minerals which are essential for our health compared to crops that have been chemically fertilized (Peper, 2017),
Even seasonality appears to be a factor. Foods that are outdoor grown or harvested in their natural growing period for the region where it is produced, tend to have more flavor that foods that are grown out of season such as in green houses or picked prematurely thousands of miles away to allow shipping to the consumer. Compare the intense flavor of small strawberry picked in May from the plant grown in your back yard to the watery bland taste of the great looking strawberries bought in December.
The seasonality of food
It’s the middle of winter. The weather has cooled down, the days are shorter, and some nights feel particularly cozy. Maybe you crave a warm bowl of tomato soup so you go to the store, buy some beautiful organic tomatoes, and make yourself a warm meal. The soup is… good. But not great. It is a little bland even though you salted it and spiced it. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but it feels like it’s missing more tomato flavor. But why? You added plenty of tomatoes. You’re a good cook so it’s not like you messed up the recipe. It’s just—missing something.
That something could easily be seasonality. The beautiful, organic tomatoes purchased from the store in the middle of winter could not have been grown locally, outside. Tomatoes love warm weather and die when days are cooler, with temperatures dropping to the 30s and 40s. So why are there organic tomatoes in the store in the middle of cold winters? Those tomatoes could’ve been grown in a greenhouse, a human-made structure to recreate warmer environments. Or, they could’ve been grown organically somewhere in the middle of summer in the southern hemisphere and shipped up north (hello, carbon emissions!) so you can access tomatoes year-round.
That 24/7 access isn’t free and excellent flavor is often a sacrifice we pay for eating fruits and vegetables out of season. Chefs and restaurants who offer seasonal offerings, for example, won’t serve bacon, lettuce, tomato (BLT) sandwiches in winter. Not because they’re pretentious, but because it won’t taste as great as it would in summer months. Instead of winter BLTs, these restaurants will proudly whip up seasonal steamed silky sweet potatoes or roasted brussels sprouts with kimchee puree.
When we eat seasonally-available food, it’s more likely we’re eating fresher food. A spring asparagus, summer apricot, fall pear, or winter grapefruit doesn’t have to travel far to get to your plate. With fewer miles traveled, the vitamins, minerals, and secondary metabolites in organic fruits and vegetables won’t degrade as much compared to fruits and vegetables flown or shipped in from other countries. Seasonal food tastes great and it’s great for you too.
If you’re curious to eat more of what’s in season, visit your local farmers market if it’s available to you. Strike up a conversation with the people who grow your food. If farmers markets are not available, take a moment to learn what is in season where you live and try those fruits and vegetables next time to go to the store. This Seasonal Food Guide for all 50 states is a great tool to get you started.
Once you incorporate seasonal fruits and vegetables into your daily meals, your body will thank you for the health boost and your meals will gain those extra flavors. Remember, you’re not a bad cook: you just need to find the right seasonal partners so your dinners are never left without that extra little something ever again.
Sign up for Andrea Castillo’s Seasonal, a newsletter that connects you to the Bay Area food system, one fruit and vegetable at a time. Andrea is a food nerd who always wants to know the what’s, how’s, when’s, and why’s of the food she eats.
Baker, B.P., Benbrook, C.M., & Groth III, E., & Lutz, K. (2002). Pesticide residues in conventional, integrated pest management (IPM)-grown and organic foods: insights from three US data sets. Food Additives and Contaminants, 19(5) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02652030110113799
Barański, M., Średnicka-Tober, D., Volakakis, N., Seal, C., Sanderson, R., Stewart, G., . . . Leifert, C. (2014). Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: A systematic literature review and meta-analyses. British Journal of Nutrition, 112(5), 794-811. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114514001366
Cardenas, E. (2013). Let not thy food be confused with thy medicine: The Hippocratic misquotation,e-SPEN Journal, I(6), e260-e262. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnme.2013.10.002
Peper, E. (2017). Yes, fresh organic food is better! the peper perspective. https://peperperspective.com/2017/10/27/yes-fresh-organic-food-is-better/
A couple of customers reported that they could eat our baguette even though they were gluten intolerant. –Clerk at a bakery that sells organic baguettes
When I was a little boy, allergies almost never occurred. I remember only one boy in our class of 38 who had asthma and allergies. –71 year old male
Fruit flies fed on organic raisins, bananas, soy, and potatoes, lived significantly longer, had much higher fertility and survived longer after starvation than those fed non-organic foods. —From Chhabraet al, 2013). For more detail see: Live longer-Enhance fertility and increase stress resistance-Eat organic foods.
After a year of practicing stress management and changing to a totally organic food diet, to my own surprise my nut allergy totally disappeared. –-25 young woman (Peper, 2015).
Many people report being allergic to gluten, nuts, cat hair, etc, or have hay fever or some form of autoimmune disorder. In our 2014 survey 36% of 264 students at an urban university (average age 24.5 years) reported having allergies (Peper and Del Dosso, 2015 unpublished). Over the last forty years more and more people are reporting allergies. Allergies are often dismissed because they are not a serious—just uncomfortable and may limit what you eat or where you visit (e.g., I can’t eat a morning bun or I can’t visit my aunt because she has a cat). In rare cases it may trigger life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). By injecting a single dose of epinephrine using an EpiPen,® it helps the body override the allergic reaction for a short period of time. This allows people who are suffering anaphylaxis some time to get emergency care. Epinephrine does NOT resolve allergic reaction. Other drugs, such as antihistamine and steroids, are required to suppress the reaction while the body metabolizes the allergen. This usually takes many hours and people typically have to stay in the hospital for 8-24 hours to be monitored for their safety.
Allergies and autoimmune illnesses have become so common that we forget that they may be markers of immune incompetence and may affect the ability of the body to optimize health. The increase in allergies is an early indicator that something harmful is affecting the body. People who have allergies, autoimmune illnesses, diabetes or other disorders are possibly the “canaries in the coal mine” for the rest of the population. In earlier times before carbon monoxide and other poisonous gasses could be measured with instruments, miner used a canary as a poisonous gas meter. If the canary died, the miners would exit the mine before they would die of the poisonous gasses.
There are many factors that contribute to the radical increase in asthma, rhinitis, allergies, Type 2 diabetes and autoimmune disorders. These include excessive hygiene, lack of breast feeding and introducing foreign foods too early in the first year of a baby’s life, ingestion of acetaminophen (Tylenol) by the pregnant mother and during the first year of baby’s life, low Omega 3 levels during pregnancy, increased exposure to plastics and other endocrine disruptors, stress, etc. Many of these factors are outside of our control; however, diet and the ingestion of residual herbicides and pesticides in food appear to be a major risk factors.
In the last thirty years there has been a radical change in our diet. The food may look and even taste the same, yet it is totally different. Almost all grains, corn, soy, processed foods, and meats contain low levels of Monsanta’s herbicide Roundup® and other herbicides and pesticides. Almost all grain, corn, soy and cotton are now genetically modified crops and herbicide tolerant to Roundup®.
Roundup® was first introduced in 1974 by Monsanto and is the most widely used herbicide for farm and urban use. The active ingredient is glyphosate with numerous other inert ingredients which may also be harmful to humans. According to the US Department of Agriculture, as of 2012, 99% of durum wheat, 97% of spring wheat has been treated with herbicides. It is also used on rice, seeds, alfalfa, dried beans and peas, sugar cane and sweet potatoes (Swanson et al, 2014). As Roundup® and equivalent herbicides are used more and more, numerous illnesses including food allergies have increased. For the correlation between celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and glyphosate use see Figure 1.
Figure 1. The correlation between increase in celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and increase of the use of the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup®) on the genetically modified grain (From: Samsel, A., & Seneff, S. 2013).
Presently, more than 95% of all grain, corn and soy as well as cotton is genetically modified to be herbicide tolerant as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Adoption of GE crops in US to which glyphosate is applied. Reproduce with permission from: Swanson, N. L., Leu, A., Abrahamson, J., & Wallet, B. (2014). Genetically engineered crops, glyphosate and the deterioration of health in the United States of America. Journal of Organic Systems, 9(2), 6-37.
In the USA glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide and about 250 million pounds are applied to U.S farms and even lawns every year. In addition, the common wheat harvest protocol in the United States is to drench the wheat fields with Roundup® several days prior to harvesting. This allow crops to dry down for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest (Swanson et al, 2014; Sarah, 2014). Glyphosate and the many other herbicides and pesticides are in our food, animal fodder and thus in the meat, clothing, water supply and even air. Almost all human and animal food now contains low levels of glyphosate and its inert but poisonous additional ingredients which may impact our health.
The increased application of glyphosate with the increase of chronic diseases over the last 35 years correlates highly (great than 0.9) and is highly significant for obesity (R=0.96), diabetes (R=0.98), end stage renal disease death (R=0.97), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (R=0.94), death due to intestinal infection (R=0.97), autism in children (6-21 years) (R=0.99), deaths from senile dementia (R=0.99), and death from Alzheimer’s (R=0.93). Figure 3 and 4 shows the relationship between diabetes, autism and glyphosate.
Figure 3. Correlation between age-adjusted diabetes prevalence and glyphosate applications and percentage of US corn and soy crops that are genetically engineered. Reproduce with permission from: Swanson, N. L., Leu, A., Abrahamson, J., & Wallet, B. (2014). Genetically engineered crops, glyphosate and the deterioration of health in the United States of America. Journal of Organic Systems, 9(2), 6-37.
Figure 4. Correlation between children with autism and glyphosate applications. Reproduce with permission from: Swanson, N. L., Leu, A., Abrahamson, J., & Wallet, B. (2014). Genetically engineered crops, glyphosate and the deterioration of health in the United States of America. Journal of Organic Systems, 9(2), 6-37.
Correlations are not proof and similar correlations could be plotted between these illnesses and increased production of plastics, intake of high fructose corn syrup, computer use, cell phone use, antidepressant and ADHD medications. Correlations may suggest relationships that should be investigated.
Correlations may suggest possible relationship which should be investigated. It is very difficult to investigate the correlation because most people unknowingly have ingested glyphosate. When using naturalistic observations such as comparing people who eat organic versus non-organic foods, there are many other variables that could account for the differences.
Roundup® residues in food is harmful is from a biological perspective. The purpose of using glyphosate and its inert ingredients is to act as a herbicide and biocide to suppress weed growth and act as a drying agent to improve harvest. As human beings are biological organisms, glyphosate affects our cellular metabolism and especially our bacteria that live in our gut and are necessary for our health. As Samsel & Seneff, (2013) point out, ‘it kills the beneficial bacteria in our gut, leading to the steep rise in intestinal diseases.’ Specifically, Shehata et all (2012) found that “highly pathogenic bacteria as Salmonella Entritidis, Salmonella Gallinarum, Salmonella Typhimurium, Clostridium perfringens and Clostridium botulinum are highly resistant to glyphosate. However, most of beneficial bacteria such as Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcus faecium, Bacillus badius, Bifidobacterium adolescentis and Lacto-bacillus spp. were found to be moderate to highly susceptible” (Swanson et al, 2014).
Given the very strong correlations of increased disease with increased use of Roundup®, the demonstrated evidence that glyphosate disrupts gut bacteria balance, cellular metabolic processes, kills human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells, and acts as endocrine disrupters, the recent decision by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which is the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization that glyphosate is a possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), I strongly recommend avoiding glyphosate and other types of herbicide and pesticide contaminated foods. Use the precautionary principle and eat only organic foods.
If the radical increase of allergy and immune incompetence is linked to low level chronic exposure to glyphosate, than avoiding glyphosate and other pesticide and herbicide laced foods may reverse the allergy and immune incompetence. When people adapt an holistic lifestyle which includes stress management and eating organic foods, some report that their immune system became more competent and their allergies disappeared. For example, a 25 year old young woman who successfully reversed cervical dysplasia and eliminated high strains of HPV (her last Paps were normal and the HPV was gone) also found that her nut allergy disappeared (Peper, 2015). As she stated, “I was able to rid myself of a nut allergy that I developed when I was 19. I frequently had trouble breathing therefore I went to an allergist and they told me I had a nut allergy to peanuts (4 out of 4) and tree nuts (2 out of 4). This past July, knowing how truly healthy I had become and after noticing a little to no reaction when I accidentally consumed a nut, I decided to go back to the allergist. I got the test done, and no signs of a nut allergy came up. I believe it was due to this lifestyle change.”
In summary eat only organic foods when possible and follow the wisdom of numerous countries that have banned the use of Roundup®. This year, the Netherlands followed Russia, Tasmania, and Mexico to ban Roundup®. To understand more of the hidden dangers in our food supply from genetic engineering, herbicides and pesticides watch the following impressive videos by Robyn O’Brien presented at TEDxAustin 2011 and MIT researcher Dr. Stephanie Seneff describing in detail the politics and the harmful physiological impact of glyphosate.
Chhabra R, Kolli S & Bauer JH (2013). Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster. PLoS ONE 8(1): e52988. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052988
Peper, E. (2015). Thinking out of the box with biofeedback for the treatment of psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, vulvodynia, and CIN III carcinoma in situ cervical dysplasia. Paper accepted for the 46th Annual Meeting of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, Austin, Texas, March 11 – 14, 2015.
Peper, E. & Del Dosso, A. (2015 unpublished). Skipping breakfast a risk for blanking out on exams.
Samsel, A., & Seneff, S. (2013). Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. Interdisciplinary toxicology, 6(4), 159-184.
Sarah (2014). The real reason wheat is toxic (it’s not the gluten). The Healthy Home Economist, November 13, 2014. Retrieved January 10, 2015 http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/real-reason-for-toxic-wheat-its-not-gluten/
Saw, L., Shumway, J., & Ruckart, P. (2011). Surveillance Data on Pesticide and Agricultural Chemical Releases and Associated Public Health Consequences in Selected US States, 2003–2007. Journal of medical toxicology, 7(2), 164-171. http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/604/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13181-011-0152-8.pdf?auth66=1421018047_4db65b4e5f0e0349a608560a6c1392e7&ext=.pdf
Shehata, A. A., Schrödl, W., Aldin, A. A., Hafez, H. M., & Krüger, M. (2013). The effect of glyphosate on potential pathogens and beneficial members of poultry microbiota in vitro. Current microbiology, 66(4), 350-358.
Swanson, N. L., Leu, A., Abrahamson, J., & Wallet, B. (2014). Genetically engineered crops, glyphosate and the deterioration of health in the United States of America. Journal of Organic Systems, 9(2), 6-37. http://www.organic-systems.org/journal/92/JOS_Volume-9_Number-2_Nov_2014-Swanson-et-al.pdf