By Gwenyth Shears
When people hear the term “soul food,” it brings up connotations of good ‘ole southern cooking – fried chicken, candied yams, cornbread, and collard greens. It is food that, for many, is hard to resist. While there is a time and a place for enjoying the comforting flavors of traditional soul food, here at Bauman College we mean something different when we talk about S.O.U.L.
Our S.O.U.L. stands for seasonal, organic, unprocessed, and local. We believe that focusing on food in this way is best for maximizing nutrient density, avoiding illness, and reaching optimal health. For food to work with rather than against your body, it is important to know what you are eating and from where it comes. With that in mind, here is our S.O.U.L. story:
When food is in season, it is fresh, has the best flavor, contains the most nutrient density, and provides more variety in the diet. A lot of money and energy are spent transporting food from afar so that grocery stores can provide the same produce all year round; this is costly to the environment and your pocketbook. Eating foods in season means you get the most for your money while supporting sustainable farming and the local economy. It’s a win-win for everyone! To find out what is in season in a particular area, visit a local farmers’ market, ask a produce worker in a local store, or look online. Here are two seasonal food guides that can help: Sustainable Table, Eat the Seasons
With the amount of pesticides and herbicides that are used on crops, and with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in abundance, it is important to buy organic food as often as possible. Pesticides pollute soil and water, kill insects that are essential for plant pollination, and contain cancer-causing substances. Some say organic meat, dairy, and produce contain more nutrients than those that are conventionally grown/raised. While this is up for debate, there is no denying the fact that organic food has better flavor than its conventional counterpart, is better for the environment and the body, and is absent of GMOs. To find out which foods you should always buy organic, visit the Environmental Working Group’s website to see their list of the “Dirty Dozen.”
In this day and age, food comes in all forms and is found in boxes and bags, on shelves and in freezers, and in crates in the produce aisle. It’s easy to pick up a product in a box, pop it in an oven, and call it dinner, but more often than not that “food” is full of indecipherable ingredients. Eating unprocessed food means consuming food that is in its natural state with its full complement of nutrients – a piece of fruit rather than a fruit rollup, brown rice instead of white, whole corn instead of corn syrup. With the industrialization of our food came an increase in adverse health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. To combat this, we must return to our agrarian roots and focus on real food, not labels that boast great flavor and list a mishmash of chemical additives. If it’s true that you are what you eat, wouldn’t you rather be a potato than a potato chip?
Most of the food that is sold in stores is manufactured in far-away places and controlled by a few large companies whose interests lie in their bank accounts rather than in the health of their consumers. However, there is a way to avoid supporting these multinational corporations… Buy and eat food that has been grown/raised locally. There are many benefits to doing this; supporting local farmers is one.
Local farmers harvest their products closer to ripeness, which means the flavor and nutrient profiles are at their peak. When food comes from growers in other states or countries, it is picked early to account for transport time and has to ripen in a box. Some items may even be exposed to irradiation or waxed to preserve freshness. Local farmers don’t need to take such measures because their products come straight from the field to the market. This is a sustainable practice that not only benefits farmers, it benefits the environment, the body, and the palate as well.
If you would like to find local produce in your area, here are two resources: Local Harvest (to find farms, farmers’ markets, and local seasonal produce in your area) and The Eat Well Guide® (a directory of over 25,000 restaurants, farms, markets, and other sources of local, sustainable food throughout the US).
We hope you find the S.O.U.L. in everything you eat!