By Sarah Whitman
Senior Staff Writer
WESLEY CHAPEL — Healthy eating is a popular topic these days. Many believe eating natural and organic foods is the key to living a long and healthy life.
The newly opened Nutrition Smart in Wesley Chapel will have a Heart Health Day Feb. 13 to teach customers about the importance of making smart food choices.
“When you eat healthy, the benefits are tremendous,” said Maruchi Rodriguez, community service coordinator for Nutrition Smart. “Eating right helps keep disease away.”
Food and vitamin vendors will have booths set up at Heart Health Day, serving samples and offering up information from 11 a.m. to noon. A vegetarian cooking class will follow from noon to 3 p.m. Students will learn to cook Dijon broccoli soup and a soy dish with garden peas.
“Vegetarians generally eat less processed foods,” Rodriguez said. “The less we are exposed to chemicals, the better off we are. That’s why eating organic is good. You can eat the same food but if you buy organic, it has more nutrients in it.”
Lutz dietician Barb Malmeister agrees.
“If you can afford to, you should eat organic,” Malmeister said. “Organic foods haven’t been injected with growth hormones and antibiotics, or exposed to pesticides.”
Malmeister said harmful chemicals found in non-organic foods cause significant health problems. She believes many modern day health crisis like obesity are the result of unnatural eating habits.
“The antibiotics injected in foods are the reason we are resistant to so many antibiotics,” she said. “Processed foods cause gluten and dairy problems.”
According to MJ Logan, marketing director for Magnolia Organics LLC in Wesley Chapel, organic foods taste different too.
“The freshness and the flavor of all the foods we grow is amazing,” Logan said.
Magnolia is a relatively new organic farm. It opened in 2008 and has since provided goods to many area stores, including Nutrition Smart. The farm does not use any chemicals to alter produce.
“When you consume a non-organic vegetable or piece of fruit, you are eating a genetically modified product,” Logan said. “Organic foods look different. They don’t look perfect like some of the foods you see in the grocery store. It’s hard trying to make people understand that something that doesn’t look as good is better.”
In addition to appearance, Malmeister sites the cost of eating organic as a factor for most families, but said prices are gradually coming down.
“They have organic yogurt at Wal-Mart now,” she said. “It’s becoming more accessible.”
Nutrition Smart offers a variety of organically grown produce, as well as free-range meats, organic grains and other natural foods. They advertise affordable prices and a vast selection.
“We’ll have samples and promotions going on Heart Health Day, Rodriguez said.
Nutrition Smart also offers weekly courses to keep people on the right track.
“We even have a raw foods class,” Rodriguez said. “It’s amazing what the cook can do with raw foods. He can make a loaf and pie crusts.”
Logan thinks people would like natural foods more if they were more widely marketed.
“I hope one day organic food will be the norm,” she said. “It all depends on people and what they decide to do.”
Malmeister and Rodriguez also believe education is the key.
“I recommend people watch the movie Food Inc.,” Malmeister said. “The movie shows what is going into our food and why we need to grow our own food if possible, and get back to the way it was years ago.”
Rodriguez hopes programs at Nutrition Smart help spread awareness.
“The more we can get the word out about the benefits of eating healthier, the better off we’ll be as a society,” Rodriguez said.
Nutrition Smart is at 1821 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. For information, call (813) 341- 4444. For details about Magnolia Organics, LLC, call (352) 588-3687. Barb Malmeister practices at Dr. Peggy Watson’s office in Lutz. To make an appointment, call (813) 949-2950.
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