We've heard a lot about the benefits of eating organic in the last few years. I admit, when I first heard about the health benefits, I thought it was just another diet fad. Critics of the organic lifestyle say it's needlessly expensive, and the health benefits are merely speculation at best.
But say that to Kathy Bero, and she'll tell you otherwise. In her case, eating those healthy, organic foods may have saved her life.
Stay with me here..
Bero, a mother of two, was diagnosed with three types of cancer in 2005. Among them — the most aggressive — was stage four inflammatory breast cancer. And the survival outlook for that particular cancer is bleak.
After three years of intensive chemotherapy treatments, Kathy wasn't improving. Her cancer wasn't going away, and she was feeling all the nasty side effects from the therapy.
Enough was enough.
Kathy decided to abandon the chemo and turn to alternative medicine. After much research, she discovered a type of food known to fight cancer head-on. They're called anti-angiogenics. Research showed those foods release an anti-inflammatory army of cancer fighting nutrients into the blood, stunting the growth of cancer cells.
"Somewhere between 30 and 60 percent of cancer is caused by the poor quality of our food. 30 percent of cancer is also caused by smoking. So our food is as bas as smoking, which is ridiculous," Bero said.
With medical supervision, she changed her diet dramatically. She immediately started eating a diet rich in protein-packed vegetables and nuts. She was amazed with how easy it was. She's been cancer-free for four years now.
The improvement was so marked — evident in her own life and in the lives of those around her — that she felt compelled to spread the word. And here's where it gets even more interesting.
She opened a farm.
It's called NuGenesis. Located in Pewaukee, it employs organic farming practices and provides food to area schools and hospitals. But Bero says, as a non-profit, it's a teaching farm first.
"Our educational programs are in the community, they're in school, they're in corporations, they're here on site," she said.
"Organic doesn't have to be expensive," she added, along with a chuckle.
One of the ways the farm is spreading the organic message is with its Good Harvest Pizza Garden. Every week, the farm invites families to harvest their own food and create something most everyone loves — pizza. With a registered dietician on hand, families tour the garden and pick fresh produce, all while learning about the health benefits of eating organic. After the harvest, they prepare their own pizzas and bake them in the outdoor pizza oven, just a few yards from the garden.
At first, I thought it would be hard to get children excited about eating kale and okra, but I was quickly proved wrong. The kids playfully hopped about the garden, asking questions and eagerly picking a colorful assortment of fresh veggies.
I asked each of them how they liked their vegetable pizzas baked on dough made from sprouted grain.
"Yummy," one child succinctly said. "It's always good to try something new."
NuGenesis also aims to reduce other illnesses besides cancer.
"We can actually prevent at least 30 percent of cancers, along with a myriad of other diseases, if we just change the way we eat," Bero said.
While she doesn't claim to have found the cure for cancer, Kathy is living proof of the benefits of a healthy diet. If you're interested in finding out more, take the drive to Pewaukee and check out the farm for yourself. The kale alone is worth it.