We have always talked about how important food is to our health. We all know the old sayings, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and “You are what you eat.”

Unfortunately, the foods we eat today are not the foods our grandparents ate. Modifications have been made over time, first as an attempt to increase the production of food hoping to feed the world and later for profit.

What can we do to help protect our health from all the modifications made to our food? The first step is to start clean eating. Clean eating is about eating whole foods, or "real" foods, those that are minimally processed, refined and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.

Clean eating is very beneficial to cancer patients. Eating the right kinds of foods before, during and after cancer treatment can help the patient feel better and stay stronger.

Over the next few columns, I will be going over ways to improve your eating habits and overall health by teaching you how to clean eat. Let’s first start with organic foods. Once found only in health food stores, organic food is now a regular feature at most grocery stores. The word "organic" refers to the way farmers grow and process their fruits and vegetables.

When you go down the fruits and vegetables aisle at the market, you think to yourself, “This section must all be good for me.” Unfortunately, it is not. If the food is not labeled organic, there has been no care taken to prevent herbicides and pesticides from “soaking” into your food.

Recently, the Environmental Working Group released its top two dirty dozen fruits and vegetables: strawberries and spinach. Eating these without the organic label is like eating the poison you sprayed in the garden! Please seek out the organic label. It will taste more like you remember, it’s more nutritionally dense and it is herbicide- and pesticide-free.

Next month, we will travel down the deli and frozen food section and talk about everyone’s favorite additive — sugar!

Dr. Kris Gast is a board certified radiation oncologist. She has been in practice for 28 years, the last 21 at Fort Smith Radiation Oncology. Her column Cancer Demystified appears the third Friday each month in the Times Record. Send questions to info@fsro.net.