Most of us aim to eat some what healthy right? Well, the very basics of Good Eating is knowing WHAT you're eating! There's a lot of Fake Food on the market – in fact, most of it these days can be called fake or ‘modified.' From chemical pesticides and fertilizers to genetic alterations, it's safe to say Modern Food is not what it was even just 100 years ago. And, with that change comes a ripple effect of other changes that affect our lifestyles and ultimately, our quality of life. We might be living longer, but the ailments that plague us in the long term are, for the most part, preventable.

One of the most impactful ways to prevent disease is to pay attention to your diet. From the building blocks we know as blood cells, to your liver, plus everything in between and beyond—our bodies rely on vitamins, minerals and nutrients for proper function. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is almost completely void of those essentials and often, full of toxins instead. Have no fear! No one is confined to sub-par standards, unless they want to be. If you choose not to stand for what you and your body deserve, please keep reading.

We can group most foods into three different categories:
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Conventional Foods are original (genetically un-altered) foods that are usually grown with the assistance of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to maximize their yield. After harvesting, they tend to be processed and preserved with various additives.

Organic Foods are original (genetically un-altered) foods grown specifically without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, are minimally processed, and contain little to no preservatives and additives.

GMO Foods are genetically altered through their DNA to create new breeds of food items, resistant to factors that limit or lessen their yield.

GMO foods are the least beneficial of the three categories. In fact, they can be detrimental to your health and "several studies have linked them to serious health risks that range from infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system." (-the American Academy of Environmental Medicine)

Of these food types, organic contains the highest nutrient content and least amount of toxins. Special caution must be heeded with this labeling though: many natural foods are marketed as organic, and that can be misleading. The real Organic Foods will specifically say "organic" or "made with organic ingredients" on the label. Anything less than that (i.e. ‘natural') is a general term that is widely used and rarely regulated.

It is your job as a consumer to educate yourself and make wise choices when it comes to the food you eat. Companies have no obligation to ensure your health, and the organizations that monitor food-production companies can be fairly lack on their requirements.

So, the following is a simple guideline to general shopping and what's beneficial to keep your eyes on:

The SKU code.
Conventional foods are four numbers long.
Organic foods are five numbers long and begin with the number 9.

GMO foods are five numbers long and begin with the number 8.
MOST fresh fruits in the US are not GMO, but if they are canned or packaged then they may be Conventional cows are often given an injection called the Bovine Growth Hormone, aka rbST or rbGH. The hormone helps them produce a greater amount of milk than they would otherwise produce without it. However, studies are finding health risks associated with the injected hormone and it has now been banned for use in New Zealand, Canada, the European Union and other places. The U.S. still allows it.

Dairy (in moderation) can offer a multitude of healthy nutrients, so to get your share of benefits, look for milk and dairy products that are made without the use of rBST or rBGH – it will say so on the label. The FDA requires all companies who go do so to also say on the label that it is not proven there is a difference between cows treated with rBST or rBGH and the cows that aren't, but we know better. The choice is still up to you.

The foods below are the most common GMO foods in the U.S. The top three listed (corn, soy and the sugar beet) dominate the food system, so unless it's marked organic, you can assume it's been genetically modified. In this particular case, assumption is a safety precaution.

Sugar beets (which end up as common table sugar or granulated sugar. 90% of the 2010 crop was genetically modified.)
Hawaiian Papaya (most of the crop is GMO)
Zucchini and yellow squash (only some of the crop is GMO)

*Many health-conscious people indulge in soy foods and products. When doing so, check to make sure it has "organic" or "non-GMO" listed on the label, or you risk the same slew of nastiness found in ordinary food!

Corn…. which comes in many forms, such as: corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, corn flour, corn itself, and more. Estimates sometimes as high as 90-95% of the food available on the market may contain some form of corn, which is THE MOST genetically modified crop in the country. Read the label – if you see it on the list of ingredients (sans the word ‘organic'), then think twice before you eat it. High fructose corn syrup should be especially high on your awareness – it has been linked as a primary cause to many health complications including diabetes and obesity.

Sweeteners – most conventional and GMO foods contain artificial sweeteners. They show up on the labels as Aspartame, NutraSweet, AminoSweet, and are basically the same thing as those packets of sugar substitutes called Splenda, Sweet N Low, or Equal. These sweet additions are actually not so sweet; to your body that is. They are now being tied to Leukemia, Lymphoma, and many other diseases. The artificial sweetener is technically a neurotoxin, and often found in diets drinks and foods.

INSTEAD – there are other ways to sweeten your food if your prefer the taste of sweet. Stevia stands as the best natural sweetener, directly derived (and unaltered) from the plant source itself. It might be a distinctive taste at first, but you can gradually introduce it to your diet in order to adapt to the unique flavor. To go this route, start out with ½ organic or cane sugar and ½ stevia, then gradually lessen the amount of sugar altogether. Honey is a great sweetener as well! If you truly can't find satisfaction with anything other than pure sugar, opt for (organic) cane sugar.

The Valley is rich with places to get good food these days, you just have to know where to find them and how to filter the REAL good food from the not-so-good. The following offers a few places to start:

Local Farmers Markets …. The most recommended route of purchase. Here you will usually find the best price, support the local economy, and ask specific questions from the source itself! Find out where and how things are grown and get answers for any other questions you might have.
CSA Farms … this option can set you up for a routine supply of foods fresh off the farm, and in some cases, delivered directly to you! Get familiar with what's in season and diversify your menu according to your weekly ‘bag of goodies.'

Health Markets… Sunflower, Sprouts and Whole Foods are the most recognizable markets, found all over the valley. Individual stores like Luci's Marketplace are also popping up around the area and offer good foods within a unique atmosphere.

Most importantly and above all else: consider your state of mind. Whether you are eating a healthy meal or something you picked up from the McDonalds around the corner— eat it with a sense of joy and gratitude, and your body will intuitively transform toxins into something useable. However, your mind is wise and cannot be tricked…. All things must be done in moderation. This tactic cannot replace the essential building blocks your body needs to be its best.

Here's to you, your Health, and Happy Eating!

Author's Bio: 

Becca Briley-West: I am happily supporting and serving Southwest Institute of Healing Arts ( as the e-Marketing Specialist. SWIHA a nationally accredited (ACCET) private college and community-healing center for Holistic Healthcare careers and continuing education. I submit articles here on behalf of our teaching staff, students, graduates, and support SWIHA overall on all other online edeavors. ~ Blessings