The organic buzz never ceases to fade down. We all know it’s better for our health and environment to consume organic products; however, what we know is not always what we can afford or what we can easily find. No one can deny that organic food is expensive especially if you are shopping for a family of four or five. The grocery bill is sure to tally up quick but the medicine bill is not far off if we continue shoving down our throats no matter what. Yet, is organic food really worth the price and are we doomed if we continue eating from conventional sources?
Organic food by US Department of Agriculture definition is food produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge (semisolid leftovers from wastewater plants used as fertilizer), bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. Organic farming implies that the animals are allowed to grow naturally without the use of synthetic growth hormones and the regular use of antibiotics.
A study in 2003 led by Cynthia Curl, a researcher from the University of Washington, followed 42 children aged 2 to 5 for three days. The kids who had at least 75% of their diet organic had lower than minimum levels* of organophosphate pesticides in their urine. The kids who consumed conventional diets had four times higher than the official safety limits. A subsequent study followed children who were fed conventional diets at first then ate nothing but organic food.The levels of pesticides in their urine disappeared after a few days and then reappeared after they resumed their consumption of a conventional diet.
I am currently reading Dr. Servan-Schreiber’s book, Anticancer: A New Way of Life where he mentions these studies and many others highlighting the effect of the environmental and dietary impact on the spread of cancer.
Here’s a list from his book** of the fruits and vegetables that are the most contaminated and are better bought organic. If you cannot find or afford organic and they can be peeled, peel them. The most herbicide and pesticide residues lie in the skin. Unfortunately, you will lose some nutrients namely fiber in the process.
Fruits : apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, grapes.
Vegetables: peppers, celery, green beans, potatoes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkins.
The fruits and vegetables that are the least contaminated or are the cleanest.
Fruits: bananas, oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, pineapple, melons, watermelon, plums, kiwi, blueberries, mango and papaya
Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mushroom, asparagus, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, peas, radishes and avocado
If you cannot afford organic produce or they are not available to you easily, do not despair. Wash all produce extremely well even citrus fruits, melons…, peel the skin, remove outer leaves from lettuce, cabbage…, remove all visible fat from meat as chemical residues tend to accumulate there. And remember, better have conventionally grown fruits and vegetables than not having them at all. The nutrients and the phytochemicals in them are more beneficial than the possible harm caused by pesticide residues.
As with any product, the laws of supply and demand apply to organic produce. If you demand and buy more of the organic products, your local store will have to supply them and the farmers can afford to lower the prices. At the other end, if you refuse to buy unseasonal and genetically modified produce, your store would have to find another resource and the farmers must change their farming methods to stay in business.
Going organic is not an all or nothing situation. Start gradually and slowly make shifts starting with the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. And if you have the space, why don’t you try to grow a small garden ?
I try to buy organic food as much as I can, although I don’t always have access to free-range chicken, meat and eggs among others. What about you? Do you consume organic products? If so, what organic items are on your grocery list?
* Levels are set by the Environmental Protection Agency
** The list in his book is more inclusive of the lists already known by the “dirty dozen” and “clean dozen”