A Stanford study that was released a few weeks ago claimed that, “…they did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives.” It seems to be a commonly held belief that organic food is somehow healthier than conventionally grown food, which I find surprising because my interpretation of the term “organic” is simply “grown without pesticides.” The USDA assigns an organic label to crops that are grown in safe soil with no modifications. The soil is not given any synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage-sludge based fertilizers (gross!). As far as livestock is concerned, animals must have access to the outdoors and be given organic feed. They are also forbidden to receive antibiotics, growth hormones or any animal by-products.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer my food to be non sewage-sludge based, so why not go for all organic all the time? For one thing, it’s more expensive to eat non contaminated food (seems a little strange right? That’s another topic for another day.). That extra $1 per pound doesn’t sound so bad at first, but if you’re eating a balanced diet full of a variety of fruits and vegetables and incorporating various animal products, multiplied by three meals a day…it can really add up! So is it worth it?
Let’s look at the benefits of organic food:
- It’s free of pesticides- Some of the negative affects of accumulated pesticide build-up include headaches, birth defects, and added strain on weakened immune systems. It is of primary concern for children and fetuses because of their less-developed immune systems and still-developing brains. Exposure can cause developmental delays, behavioral disorders, and motor dysfunction.
- It’s usually fresher- Because it doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer and it’s (often) grown on smaller farms near wherever it’s sold.
- It’s better for the environment- Organic farming reduces pollution, conserves water, reduces soil erosion, increases soil fertility, and is better for the people who harvest our food.
Pretty compelling evidence, but there’s still the cost issue to consider. The good news is, you don’t have to buy all organic produce to reduce your risk for chemical contamination. This list from the Environmental Working Group tells you which fruits and vegetables contain the most chemicals and which ones are the least contaminated:
Dirty Dozen (Buy these products organic)
- Blueberries (domestic)
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Kale/Collard Greens
- Grapes (imported)
Clean 15™ (Lowest in Pesticide)
- Sweet Corn (frozen)
- Sweet Peas (frozen)
- Kiwi fruit
- Sweet Potato
- Honeydew Melon
Use this list when shopping to help make the best choices for you and your family, and when you feel you must buy conventionally grown produce, use this homemade vegetable wash to remove as much pesticide residue as possible:
-Add 1-3 tablespoons hydrogen peroxide (you can substitute lemon juice or vinegar) and 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda. Let produce soak for 1-2 minutes and rinse with cold water. You can also put it in a spray bottle for further use.
Check back for Part II of this topic where I’ll investigate our processed organic foods like jelly beans, cookies and potato chips. Can these heavily processed foods be considered healthy because of their organic label?
Article written by:
Ashleigh Gurtler, Holistic Heath Counselor, FitEngine health advisor and reporter
Click here for more information about Ashleigh and Holistic Health Counseling