Perfection is something we are often bombarded with in the US. From photoshopped hips on magazine covers to pristine rows of glossy (waxy) apples, we seem to think that there is one, sculpted ideal. It has arguably become an expectation that both our food and our bodies are aesthetically perfect, without blemishes, bruises, or discoloration. I am not here to say what should be beautiful and what should not – that is completely objective and individual. The question is, does this ideology about what we look like and eat equal healthy?
Putting glossy magazines aside (for a future post), I will share my thoughts on those pristine rows of uniform sized, neatly stacked fruits and vegetables at your local grocery store. Most of these ‘perfect vegetables’ are conventionally grown, meaning that they are grown using pesticides and chemicals. Organically grown vegetables and fruit are sometimes misshaped and blemished; overall they are not as aesthetically appealing. They are grown without synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, and often are not genetically modified (GMO). Some argue conventionally gown versus organic taste different, although there are some major differences in other aspects, such as their nutritional value. According to Dr. Mercola, the nutritional value differs greatly. He stated in an article, “While I believe organic foods grown in healthy soils can be more nutritious than their conventional counterparts grown in depleted soils with synthetic chemicals, a major benefit of organically grown foods really is the reduction in your toxic load.”
Allison Aubrey, a writer for NPR, claims through several studies that “these cosmetically challenged foods” are actually more nutritious. The strength that the vegetables and fruit need in order to survive without pesticides, makes them more nutritious and they contain a much higher antioxidant level. Regardless, approximately 20 to 40 percent of fresh produce is thrown away simply because it fails to meet the cosmetic standards which we collectively influence as retail consumers.
Whole Foods is trying to now sell ugly fruits and vegetables through their Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables campaign, which started in Europe, to waste less and also offer less expensive food to customers. If a trendsetter such as Whole Foods can begin a such a campaign, it will be interesting to see if people change their viewpoint about what food should actually look like.
Here are 3 simple tips to grocery shopping for nutrition, rather than cosmetic perfection:
- Buy organic: this will decrease the amount of chemicals you consume and increase the amount of nutrition.
- Buy seasonal: fruits and vegetables that are in season are less likely to be GMO and more likely what are suitable for the needs of your body, given your current climate. Therefore, they are better for your skin, hair, and mood.
- Buy local: this will increase the likelihood that what you are buying hasn’t been picked too early and trucked across the country, not only decreasing in both taste and nutritional content, but also polluting the environment.
The irony in shopping for food that is cosmetically imperfect, is that cosmetically it is better for you. The more antioxidants you get from what you eat, the less your skin will age. Picking out the ugly fruits and vegetables will get you more vitamins and minerals, while also leaving a few extra bucks in your bank account. Everyone loves a good sale. I look at it like clever consignment shopping. If I can get a pair of Italian heels for less and still reap the benefits, I am winning.