Why Buy Oraganic?
We all want to eat as healthy as possible. However, a healthy diet is more than just trying to cut things out of our diet that are not good for us. It also includes the choices we make for the foods we do keep in our diet. The best choices for our bodies are also the best choices for the planet. Organic food choices are all around us and can be found in most grocery stores.
An “Organic” product is one that is raised, grown, and processed without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, antibiotics or hormones. Farmers must get certified to be organic and follow the guidelines set up by the USDA, which includes a third party accredited agent to verify everything is being done properly. Unfortunately, not all farmers can get the organic labels that ensure it is organic so make sure to ask. Some farmers will practice organic farming but are not able to get the actual certification due to a variety of reasons.
Just a few reasons to buy Organic..
- Look after your own health. Several pesticides that are banned in the U.S. and Canada are used on foreign crops and shipped here for consumers to buy.
- Protect the health of our children. Children are exposed to four times the level of pesticides in food than adults. Pesticides affect children more profoundly due to their higher metabolisms and smaller body mass.
- Safeguard the health of farm workers. Studies have shown that conventional farmers have six times the cancer risk of non-farmers. Because fertilizers and chemicals are often distributed by air, farm workers can be exposed to large quantities of chemicals without protection.
- Preserve the soil. Over three billion tons of topsoil are lost each year in the United States and Canada due to erosion caused by conventional farming methods.
- Protect the water. Pesticides are known to contaminate groundwater, which affects the drinking water supply in most of the United States and Canada. If pesticide-contaminated water reaches lakes, rivers and other bodies of water, it allows the rapid growth of algae and suffocates the natural aquatic plants and animals.
- Conserve resources. Conventional farming uses a vast amount of petroleum-based herbicides to kill weeds, while organic farming uses labor-intensive practices such as weeding by hand.
- Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient than conventional farming methods.
- Fight global warming. Petroleum-based fertilizers give plants the nitrogen they need for rapid growth, but these nitrogen compounds can enter the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Conventional farming produces 40% more greenhouse gases.
The Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15.
The downside to buying Organics is the higher cost that is usually associated with the initial purchase. The long term benefits of going organic for your health will make the initial price well worth the costs. However, if going completely organic is just not an option, try to make smaller organic choices, but make choices that will have the most impact. Purchase Organic for the produce that is grown using the most pesticides and continue to purchase conventional for the produce that is grown with the least amount of pesticides. Every little bit helps.
Please keep in mind that the lists for the “Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean 15” produce were compiled after the USDA washed the produce using high-power pressure water systems that most of us don’t have in our kitchens.
Check out the full list at www.foodnews.org. The full list contains 49 types of produce, rated on a scale of least to most pesticide residue.
The fruits and vegetables on “The Dirty Dozen” list (when conventionally grown) tested positive for at least 47 different chemicals, with some testing positive for as many as 67.
The Dirty Dozen:
- domestic blueberries
- sweet bell peppers
- spinach, kale and collard greens
- imported grapes
All the produce on “The Clean 15” bore little to no traces of pesticides, and is safer to consume in non-organic form.
The Clean 15:
- sweet corn
- sweet peas
- kiwi fruit
- sweet potatoes
- sweet onions
Whether going totally organic or opt to mix conventional and organic foods, be sure to keep these tips in mind:
- Wash and scrub fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water. Washing helps remove dirt, bacteria and traces of chemicals from the surface of fruits and vegetables. Not all pesticide residues can be removed by washing, though. You can also peel fruits and vegetables, but peeling means losing nutrients and fiber.
- Buy fruits and vegetables in season as often as possible. To get the freshest produce, ask your grocer what day new produce arrives. Or check your local farmers market.
- Select a variety of foods from a variety of sources. This will give you a better mix of nutrients and reduce your likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.
- Read food labels carefully. Just because a product says it's organic or contains organic ingredients doesn't necessarily mean it's a healthier alternative. Some organic products may still be high in sugar, salt, fat or calories.
- Whether organic or conventionally grown produce is selected, eating five to ten servings of fruit and vegetables each day is still the healthiest way to get the vitamins, minerals and fiber that is needed as a preventative health measure.
- Don’t forget to look for organic grain and meat options as they can also contain unwanted exposure to extra chemicals, hormones and pesticides.
According to the 2005 State of Science Review (SSR) by the Organic Center, antioxidant levels are about 30 percent higher in organic food than chemically-grown foods produced under the same conditions. Most antioxidants are found in the peels of fruits and vegetables, but many people cut away the peel of conventionally grown produce to reduce their exposure to pesticides. Since it is safer to eat the skin of an organic fruit or vegetable, people can get the maximum amount of antioxidants from the produce when it is organic.
Besides potentially providing more nutrition per bite, organic food may also help to fight off disease. Flavonoids are produced in response to environmental stresses and contain high levels of antioxidants, which serve as the plant’s natural defense and help us fight disease as well. Research suggests that pesticides and herbicides interfere with the production of these protective compounds.
Scientists now have a better understanding of how disease and environmental toxins are linked and have proven that exposure to chemical fertilizers and pesticides does impact our health. Some pesticides have been shown to disrupt the human endocrine system (which regulates our hormones), while others have been linked to a wide variety of other health conditions.
Farmers began using chemical fertilizers and pesticides around 50 years ago in order to boost crop yields. Over time, insects, weeds and plant diseases have developed resistance to these pesticides, which has prompted the development of stronger pesticides and the need for multiple applications during the growing cycle.
A study conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute shows that 40 percent of the world’s agricultural soil is seriously depleted due to erosion (a result of planting the same crop over and over again), nutrient depletion (due to the use of chemical fertilizers) and salinization (the build-up of salt in the soil due to excessive irrigation).
The good news is that organic farming methods, such as rotating crops, using compost or manure instead of chemical fertilizers, and careful water use can reverse this damage and rebuild healthy soil.