History in the Making: Dietitians of South Texas Tour Their New 100% Organic Grocery Store

In a city of McDonalds, Whataburger, Wal-Mart, obesity and diabetes, a world saving beacon of health and sustainability opens; fully equipped with the highest quality produce/products, demonstration kitchen, vitamins/herbs/supplements, beauty products, books, and, it’s love!

natural grocers
Natural Grocers 100% Organic Grocery Opens March 15, 2016

Today, I had the opportunity to get a tour of the store with the Corpus Christi Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics group lead by the wonderful dietitian there, Kelsey. I was extremely impressed by this tour. A grocery store tour to dietitians? Please, as if they could learn anything more, but we all did! Like how Kelsey pointed out that the hemp seeds, walnuts, and other unstable fats are kept in the refrigerated section (polyunsaturated fats become rancid very easily, creating free radicals, so they must be kept cool). I have learned this previously but I have never seen a grocery store actually put their nuts and seeds in the refrigerator!

20160331_180626
The sign above us says, “100% organic produce,” yes, I am the obnoxious intern that made everybody get in front of the produce section and asked the cashier to take our picture 🙂

The Tour~

Kristen gave us all a LONG list of things that Natural Grocers will NOT carry.  Including ingredients that I am quite familiar with like GMOs (genetically modified organisms), hydrogenated oils (trans fats), bleached flours, parabens (mimic estrogen and cause reproductive disorders), dairy products from cows given rBGH (recombinant  Bovine Growth Hormone), artificial sweeteners (all of them), and artificial colors and flavors, as well as so many that I have seen before but even (a nutrition nerd grad student studying nutrition) have seen but no clue what they are!

Ingredients like DBP (dibutyl phthalate) which is a fragrance ingredient, plasticizer, and solvent that is a reproductive and developmental toxin, endocrine disruptor, and a known human respiratory toxin.  Also, BHA and BHT (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) and (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) are preservatives that have been shown to be carcinogenic and cause allergic reactions in humans.  I could go on..This place doesn’t even carry chemical based sunscreens or antibacterial soaps! Amen!

A few more reasons why I’m in love with this place:

  • No bags, you have to bring your own! (or they use a cardboard box)
  • GF (gluten free) items are all marked clearly next to price on shelf
  • Local is emphasized and marked clearly with a Texas flag on shelf
  • Lots of cheap “Health Hotline” sale items
  • Bulk specialty items from mulberries and goji berries to raw buckwheat groats
  • WIDE variety of vegan items
  • Reverse osmosis water filter, only $0.25 to refill a gallon
  • Nutrition experts- these people know their stuff!
  • To reduce waste and cut cost of items: no deli/freshly prepared items (ever wonder where all the fresh baked goods from Whole Foods goes at the end of the day? Yup, in the trash #wasteful. !
  • No self serve bulk bins but still has large packages of items in bulk – reduces contamination and food waste
  • Huge wall of shelves with high quality nutritional reference and cookbooks

They even have cool events like this Saturday they have a gluten free tasting expo and health fair! Aw chocolate avocado pie food demo, and “How to live an alkaline lifestyle” is on Monday April 11th. Check out their website for more info on events.

A little bit about my internship…

I can’t believe it, I completed my food service and community rotations last semester and am now half way through my clinical rotation! Eeek! As a snob from the Boston area who  works at a raw vegan cafe called “Organic Garden Cafe” back home, I was nervous that I wouldn’t get to learn new innovations of nutrition while working as an intern in a program that emphasizes the low income communities of South Texas.

I could not be more pleasantly surprised and excited about my feelings towards this internship right now.  It brings me such joy and power to have worked with the people of this community. Diabetics who do not know what a carbohydrate is, teen mom’s going out for a cigarette, and people who are truly afraid to lose weight because they have (and their family and friends) have always been big, so if they lost weight, what would they think!? Many of these people do not want to change, and even if they did, where to even start? As my sister, the writer, put it, “You need to learn the script before you can re-write a new one.

My clinical preceptor now, Shannon Aguilar, has helped me to not only be a much more confident clinical dietitian, but to take it a step further, too.  It is one thing to study nutrition, it is quite another to actually care enough to reflect on our own lives and practice what we preach.  My preceptor, Mrs. Aguilar, is more than a dietitian, she is also a health coach, and helped me to see how important it is to learn who our audience is before we try to help.

Seeing a grocery store like this open in Boston or Vermont would have been a, yawn. Another natural grocery? But, HERE! I get to see history in the making. These people having access to this kind of world saving expertise is dream come true for me.

There is something really cool about the idea of helping people who really need it AND want it. I could talk coconut oil and kale to the organic junkies back home all day every day, but that doesn’t reverse our obesity epidemic now does it? I may have thought that my second round match was a mistake, but actually, it was the best eye-opening and invigorating experience.  To be able to explain what a carbohydrate is to someone who has no clue? Check. Next: to reverse their disease through diet and lifestyle! No matter where I end up, I hope to make a positive impact and continue to be pleasantly surprised by all that I learn from the experience.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Shake My Head (SMH).

gmoomgwtf

The controversial pro-GMO vs. no-GMO hysteria has a lot of people talking.  Especially for us here in CornVille (aka Indiana).  Let’s talk food.  Of course it is better to increase fruit and vegetable consumption whether or not it is organic- but think you know what’s on your plate?  Inspired by my Public Health Nutrition Text, pg. 58: “Food is not a constant thing.  Vitamin content can vary… Farming techniques also change our food supply on the most basic level.  A cow fed a corn-based diet is not nutritionally the same as a cow that grazes on grass.  We may think we are comparing the proverbial apples to apples, but in reality often those apples have very different nutrient contents.”  Maybe that’s not the nourishment you think it is… let’s find out!

Apple-GMO

What are GMOs? GMO=Genetically Modified Organism.  According to Monsanto’s website, GMOs are plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs. In general, genes are taken (copied) from one organism that shows a desired trait and transferred into the genetic code of another organism.

GMOderp6

Hold up- what is Monsanto? According to the Huffington Post, Monsanto is one of “The Big 6” chemical companies including Dow, Dupoint, Syngenta, BASF, and Bayer.  It was founded as a drug company, and its first product was saccharin for Coca-Cola – a derivative of coal tar that was later linked to bladder cancer.  The Huffington Post describes Monsanto as a company who manufactures the world’s most destructive chemicals, and is a pioneer of biotechnology; their first product being artificial recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), and they have sued companies for labeling their products as “rBGH-free”.

genetically-modified-foodtomatoes

Why care?  A lot of our food is genetically modified to resist bugs and grow bigger, brighter, and sweeter in all kinds of weather.  In Indiana, most farmland is GMO corn and soy.  The “big 6” companies have a lot of power here.  Our Indiana farmers need to do everything they can to maximize their profits- that means with every new chemically altered seed that comes out- they better invest if they want success.  It is brilliant what these companies have come up with, but there are some adverse outcomes worth discussing.

gmogirl

Disease and allergies- Fact is- researching health outcomes based on food consumption is difficult.  There are so many barriers and variables.  Studies have been done by the FDA and the CDC that did show allergy and inflammatory responses from people who consumed genetically modified corn products, but they concluded, “These findings do not provide any evidence that the reactions that the affected people experienced were associated with hypersensitivity to the Cry9c protein (a protein genetically modified into the corn). The difficulties of this investigation highlight the importance of evaluating the allergic potential of genetically modified foods before they become available for human consumption.”  Funny thing is about this conclusion, we eat GMOs all the time, and nobody evaluates their allergic potential.  All the evaluations I could find end in questionable conclusions like this.  Nobody even lets you know your food was messed with.  And I won’t go into the science- but you are what you eat, and if you mess with the genes of your food, the potential for mutated genes certainly increases.  #cancer.

80-percent-gmos

Other Countries, Education, and The Environment:  GMOs are required by law to be labeled in lots of countries including Europe, Australia, and Japan.  Why not America?  Is there something they’re not telling us? Why would they not want something labeled GMO if they are so safe?  GMOs are in almost every packaged food- it’s about time us ignorant Americans actually knew what we were eating.  Might I add the disruption to the soil, and the superbug insects that these technologies could be creating?

top_ten_genetically_modified_foods

How to avoid GMOs?

  1. Buy USDA Organic certified food and food products
  2. Look for Non-GMO seals.
  3. Grow your own food
  4. Avoid risk ingredients that are commonly genetically modified:
  • corn (as in corn oil, cornmeal, cornstarch, and other corn based ingredients
  • soybeans (as in soybean oil, soy protein, soy lecithin, soy milk, tofu, and other soy-based ingredients)
  • canola (canola oil), cottonseed (cottonseed oil), sugar beets (the “sugar” listed on food labels is almost always derived from sugar cane and genetically modified sugar beets)
  • most Hawaiian papaya
  • some zucchini and yellow squash
  • and beware of dairy products, which may come from cows injected with genetically modified bovine growth hormone, and meats from animals (including farmed fish) that have been fed genetically modified foods.  Look for dairy products labeled No rBGH or rBST, artificial hormone-free, or organic; wild-caught fish; and meat labeled organic or 100% grass-fed.

cowgmono

This was a hard article for me to write, because I know and love a lot of people in the ag business.  They are kind, whole hearted people, and truly do want the best for the world.  I came to Indiana to see their side of the story.  However, as a dietetics student, it is up to me to educate about exposures to various foods, and the possible outcomes.  There is a difference between a farmer, and a global chemical corporation.  Let’s do what we can.  We can talk to our food providers and parents about starting to grow our own food and consume more local, organic food.  We are the promising future.  Not a science experiment.