Ounce by Ounce: Organics for Antioxidents

What’s a quick way to get more nutrition from your backpacking food choices?

Go organic.


Sure the organic/non-organic nutrient research is controversial:

  • Recent study indicates organic food is not more nutritious than conventional
  • Environmental Working Group (EWG) sets the organic record straight

Germ theory was controversial, too, back in the mid-1800s! In the same way, however, that most of us days wash our hands regularly to prevent the spread of disease, so too might we consider eating organic food in order to more fully nourish our bodies.

Organic food is important at home, but even more so on the trail. Doesn’t it make sense that when we are asking our bodies to carry us up & down sometimes shocking elevation changes, at a rate of 10-15+ miles per day, on limited rations, that we provide the highest quality support we can? You drink pure water, breath clean air, wear good shoes & socks, rest in a warm sleeping bag and eat—opps!

What’s in that foil bag, kids? Modified Corn Starch, Hydrolyzed Corn Soy Wheat Gluten Protein, Chicken Fat, Sugar, Onion Powder, Spices, Citric Acid, Soybean Oil… Try some home-dried organic food instead & see how your body likes THAT.

Organic for Antioxidants

More & more
evidence suggests that eating organic not only benefits the planet, and our long-term health, but also provides us with immediate nutritional pay-back:

  • more antioxidents, including critical vitamins A, C & E along with flavonoids including quercetin, kaempferol, phenolics & anthocyanins
  • higher food quality
  • higher concentrations of minerals such as potassium, magnesium & phosphorus
  • possible increase in salicyic acid (the anti-inflammatory “active ingredient” in aspirin)
  • fewer nitrates
  • higher levels of beneficial fatty acids such as CLA & omega-3, especially in milk & meat from pastured organic cows

Antioxidants are a critical phytonutrient/phytochemical for hikers. As the Mayo Clinic* explains:

Antioxidants … can neutralize free radicals, which are toxic byproducts of natural cell metabolism. The human body naturally produces antioxidants but the process isn’t 100 percent effective and that effectiveness declines with age.

Notice that key phrase “cell metabolism” & think carefully about what is going on while you are hiking. Lots of cell metabolism!

Avoid Pesticides


Organic food also provides fewer nitrates & lower levels of pesticides to slow your body down while on the trail. Pesticides—substances used to kill a variety of pests, including insects, weeds, and even fish—can’t possibly be good for your body. A multitude of studies link the everyday, regular ingestion of pesticides by humans to numerous diseases, from asthma to cancer, especially prostate and breast cancer.


A quick & inexpensive way to
avoid pesticides in your backpack without going organic is to choose foods from the “consistently clean” list and avoid those on the “dirty dozen.”

*More on That: Other websites, such as Dr. Weil’s, may provide more information than the Mayo Clinic regarding individual phytonutrients; I chose a more conventional mainstream source to demonstrate the wide-spread acceptance that these nutrients are in fact useful.

Next post, we’ll explore more individual ways to increase the nutritional content of your foods.