Editor's note: upwave is Turner Broadcasting's new lifestyle brand designed to entertain the health into you! Visit upwave.com for more information and follow upwave on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram @upwave.
(upwave.com) -- It seems like everyone is talking about the dangers of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) these days. But what are GMOs exactly?
They're the result of a laboratory process that inserts genes from one species into the genes of another to obtain a desired trait or characteristic (e.g., fast-growing salmon).
Jeffrey M. Smith, author of "Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives" and founding executive director of The Institute for Responsible Technology, a leading source of GMO-health-risk information, says several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
In fact, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has asked physicians to advise all patients to avoid genetically modified foods altogether.
Ready to go GMO free? Here are 10 ways to shop smarter:
1. Go organic. The USDA National Organic Standards prohibit GMOs, so shopping organic is a great way to avoid them. "Plus, organic foods have (fewer) or no pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, and have a higher vitamin and mineral content as well," says health and wellness expert Kathy Gruver.
2. Load up on fruits and veggies. Most fresh produce is non-GMO, says Smith, but zucchini, yellow summer squash, edamame, sweet corn and papaya from Hawaii or China are considered high risk and are best avoided. Only buy those high-risk fruits and vegetables if they are labeled "organic" or "non-GMO," he advises.
3. Look for the non-GMO-verified seal. Since GMOs require no labeling, this seal is one of the best ways to tell when foods are free of genetic modification. "Most companies won't tell us what foods do have GMOs, so these seals help you seek out foods that don't have them," says Gruver.
4. Join the Tipping Point Campaign. This network of local activists is working to educate communities on the dangers of GMOs. "The concept is that by consumers avoiding GMOs, these ingredients will become a marketing liability, and companies will remove them," says Smith, whose organization launched the grass-roots movement.
"If being non-GMO increases market share, this could cause a tipping point for food companies." He says we're at a critical, unprecedented moment to drive GMOs out of our food supply, so check out the program to educate yourself and get involved.
5. Beware of additives. The five most common GMOs -- corn, canola, soy, cotton and sugar beets -- often end up as additives (in the form of corn syrup, oil, sugar, flavoring agents or thickeners) in packaged foods, says Gruver, so check ingredient labels carefully.
6. Choose wild-caught seafood. Some farm-raised fish eat GMO feed, says Smith.
7. Just say no to at-risk ingredients. Skip soybeans, canola, cottonseed, corn and sugar from sugar beets, which are at highest risk of being genetically modified, says Smith.
8. Call ahead before eating out. The next time you plan a nice dinner out, beware of "invisible ingredients" like soy sauce, cooking oil and salad dressing, which might contain genetically modified ingredients, says Smith. But don't be afraid to make special requests. "You could call in advance to ask if the chef can cook your fish in olive oil versus canola oil, for instance," he says.
9. Focus on fiber. Most grains, seeds, nuts and beans are non-GMO, says Gruver.
10. Avoid aspartame. An ingredient in diet sodas and low-calorie "sweets," aspartame is indeed sometimes made from genetically modified microorganisms. (It can also be produced through a chemical process.) And that's anything but sweet.
Does all this GMO talk stress you out? Take a deep breath, and just start with baby steps. "Don't feel overwhelmed -- just do the best you can," says Smith. "Start by eliminating GMOs for just a couple of weeks and pay close attention to your health, weight, energy and mood. If you have kids, take note of their attention spans. See what positive changes you notice by being on a non-GMO diet, and go from there."
This article was originally published on upwave.com.
© 2013 upwave, All Rights Reserved.