Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Intelligent frugality tip #1 - is buying organic worth the extra cost? Part one.

Last week, I had the honour to be a co-panellist with Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai for the WXN Network. Dr. Ruth as she's affectionately referred to by her patients is not only one of Canada's premier wellness experts, she's also the past president of the Canadian Medical Association with a resume as impressive as she is delightful.

As Dr. Ruth shared her wisdom and nutritional insights, she vented her frustration with the food industry likening them to the stunts of the tobacco companies. She told us that if you were to locate a cereal box from 20 years ago, you'd see that most did not add salt or sugar to their products. Today, she lamented that you'd be hard pressed to find one that didn't add salt and sugar.

Her reasoning for this deceptive behaviour is that most cereal makers also sell beverages such as juice and pop. She explained, and I won't even try, how a person's insulin spikes from excess sugar which then make us hungry (we then eat foods with excess sodium) and of course, salt makes us thirsty. Thus, these food manufacturers have their products covered. Sugar to make us hungry, salt in the food to make us thristy, more sugar, etc. and the spiral of obesity continues.

She implored attendees to never eat processed food.

I beamed, sat up with a smirk on my face and nearly patting myself on the back for the fact that I rarely eat processed, fried or fatty foods and mostly made the healthiest of choices - or so I thought. Why I also read the label in supermarkets and take the experts advice to avoid the middle isles (focusing on veggies, fruit and not the packaged junk in the centre.)

I've had a break recentsly from work travel and have been in Edmonton enjoying the very warm weather we've had over the past few weeks and with a busy as ever schedule, have switched to my summer menu. After hearing Dr. Ruth's sage advice that morning, I further gloated to myself how healthy my dinner was that evening, even though it was prepared on the fly.

I had a vine ripened tomato and lettuce sandwich on whole wheat bread, a whole (but small) jar of salsa (lots of cayenne pepper for the metabolism and other health benefits), a quasi guacamole, a very small amount of sour cream and copious amounts of multi grain chips. Scrumptious, low in bad fats and what I thought was a perfectly healthy summer meal.

As someone who's always read the label for saturated fats and high calories, I thought I'd better have a look at the other label items from my meal.

From my viewpoint, it was as fresh and healthy as one could hope for. Oops, I forgot about the prepared salsa and yep, the chips. As I investigated further (and I'm not counting the other items as they were fresh other than the sour cream), here's what I found:

  • One full jar of Western Family fire roasted salsa contained only 126 calories, 0 fat, 0 cholesterol but a whopping 2,386.80 mg of sodium - that's 94.5% of my daily allowable limit according to the label - yikes!
  • The chips - and I figure I ate about 40 chips - that accounted for 540 calories, 26 grams of fat (but only 2 grams of saturated fat), 10 grams of fiber (they were the multi grain chips) or 40% of my daily recommended amount and 0 cholesterol. So again, I though I was doing pretty well. As for the sodium, again, it was higher than expected at 300 mg or 12% of my daily limit.

Even though I rarely purchase boxed cereal, frozen meals or eat at fast food restaurants, I figured I was eating better than most. Apparently, what we think is healthy can be deceiving.

The point of this missive is that your health is the most imporant investment on the market. Without it or life itself, money is literally worthless! To cheap out on our health and what we ingest would be the silliest of frugality stances.

I'll be heading out to the market in the coming week or so and will report back whether or not organic is really worth the extra cost (based on my menu of chips and salsa and a few other items), the health factor and what the actual cost will be.

Stay tuned for part two shortly.


Mark said...

Isn't it depressing finding out that they have discovered a way to ruin salsa for us?

Have you ever been to ? It's an excellent resource for healthy eating.

Kelley Keehn said...

Fantastic website Mark!! Thanks for dropping a line. And I'm on the hunt for sodium free salsa!