Dr. Friedman’s Health Blog

Ten Tips to Avoiding GMOs

By: Dr. David Friedman

      A couple of years ago, Traders Joe’s health food store opened up in my city. The line to get in on opening day was so long, it was reminiscent of when I was a kid waiting to ride Space Mountain at Disney World!   The frustrated guy in front of me asked the cashier, “Why are so many people buying their food here?” She smiled and replied, “Well, for starters, we don’t sell GMOs!” With a confused look on his face he said, “Why would anyone buy a car from a grocery store?”  

     For the few out there that still don’t know exactly what GMO foods are, they are genetically modified organisms (GMO), which have been altered in a lab through genetic modification, whether by high-tech modern genetic engineering, or long time traditional plant breeding methods. Scientists working in laboratories are gene-splicing vegetable seedlings with poisonous pesticides and herbicides so the plants are inherently protected from the worms and insects that damage them. They are often referred to as “Frankenstein seeds.”

    Eating GMO’s may potentially destroy some of the good bacteria of your gut. This can compromise your immune system and lead to a plethora of health conditions. Genetically modified foods were introduced into the marketplace in 1996, and the incidence of people in the United States with several chronic diseases almost doubled, going from 7 percent to 13 percent. Allergies and food-related illnesses increased 200 percent within five years of modified foods becoming mainstream.  The solution? Just avoid GMOs. I’m afraid that’s not so easy. Unfortunately, it’s becoming difficult to find anything that doesn’t contain GMOs. Eighty-five percent of U.S. corn is genetically modified, 91 percent of soybeans, 88 percent of cotton including cottonseed oil, and 70 percent of all processed foods at the supermarket —from soda to soup, crackers to condiments—all contain genetically modified ingredients. Thanks to a nonprofit organization called the “Non-GMO Project,” we are seeing more transparency with food products. Because consumers are becoming aware and demanding GMO-free foods, manufacturers are starting to offer more GMO-free options.

      In addition to looking for the “Non-GMO Project” seal on the label, another proactive step you can take is to shop at local farmers’ markets and health-food grocery stores. Buying fruits and vegetables from local farmers’ markets not only supports local agriculture, it also saves countless pounds of carbon emissions, since your food has not been shipped from afar to your supermarket. There is no such thing as fresh fruit from California if you are eating it in Georgia. Support your local farmers’ markets. Also, look for “USDA-Certified Organic.”   The USDA’s National Organic Program regulates the standards for organic farming.



Here are my ten tips for avoiding GMOs, a sneak peek from my upcoming book, Food Sanity:


  1. Avoid ALL processed foods that contain corn or soy that is not labeled 100 % “USDA-Certified Organic.”


  1. Avoid vegetable oil, vegetable fat, and margarine (made with soy, corn, cottonseed, and/or canola.) Instead use organic sources of grape-seed oil, virgin coconut oil, hemp seed oil, and olive oil, which are available at organic and whole-foods markets.


  1. Avoid ingredients derived from soybeans: soy flour, soy protein, soy isolates, soy lecithin, vegetable proteins, tofu, tempeh, and soy-protein supplements.


  1. Avoid ingredients derived from corn. This includes corn flour, corn starch, corn syrup, cornmeal, corn gluten, and high-fructose corn syrup. Beware! The food industry often tries to hide high fructose corn syrup on the labels by using deceptive names like, maize syrup, glucose syrup, and crystalline fructose.


  1. Avoid popcorn that is not labeled 100 percent USDA-Certified Organic.


  1. Avoid non-organic products that list “sugar” as an ingredient (and NOT pure cane sugar). Seeing just sugar listed almost always means it includes Genetically Modified sugar beets.


  1. Avoid sweeteners that use aspartame. This artificial sweetener is derived from genetically modified microorganisms and is the sweetener used in products such as NutraSweet and Equal. Artificial sweeteners, in general, are worse for your health than sugar and should always be avoided.


  1. Buy fruit juices that are 100 percent juice. Most pure fruit juices, except for papaya, are not genetically modified, but the sweetener used in many fruit juices (and sodas) is high fructose corn syrup, which is almost always derived from genetically modified corn. Be particularly careful when buying papaya juice or the fruit, because this is the most common genetically modified crops here in America. Choose papayas that are grown in Asia, Brazil, Belize, or Mexico


  1. Avoid any grains derived from corn. Instead, eat 100 percent whole wheat (including whole-wheat couscous), rice, quinoa, oats, or barley.


  1. Avoid eating produce with PLU (Price Look-up Code) labels that don’t begin with a nine.   The numbers on the stickers you find on produce indicate how the product was grown:      
  • A four-digit number indicates the food was conventionally grown.
  • A five-digit number beginning with an 8 is a genetically modified food. However, not all GM foods can be identified because PLU labeling is optional. An easy way to remember this: “The eight isn’t great.”
  • A five-digit number beginning with a 9 indicates its organic.


        By following these ten simple tips, you can eat healthier and be more proactive at avoiding GMOs.

About the Author

Dr. David Friedman is the author of the award-winning, #1 national best-selling book Food Sanity, How to Eat in a World of Fads and Fiction. He's a  Doctor of Naturopathy, Chiropractic Neurologist, Clinical Nutritionist, Board Certified Alternative Medical Practitioner, and Board Certified in Integrative Medicine.  Dr. Friedman is a syndicated television health expert and host of To Your Good Health Radio, which has changed the face of talk radio by incorporating entertainment, shock value, and solutions to everyday health and wellness issues.

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