Why Buy Organic Produce?
I’m not rich!
I’m not a snob!
I’m not a hippie/crunchy person!
I don’t have health problems!
If you are reading this article, chances are that you have overcome the objections listed above and are interested in eating organic foods. If you check out the prices of food in your local grocery store, you also are probably aware that organic foods cost more than conventional foods. The question is whether this price difference is really worth it. Each person has to decide this for themselves based on their values, health status and their budget. Only you know your personal values and budget, but I will discuss some of the health benefits of organic produce in this article.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the FDA and the EPA, tests samples of 48 popular fruits and vegetables for pesticide contamination on a yearly, rotating basis. They test both imported and domestic foods and the sampling process is designed to be representative of the food chain as a whole. For the latest testing, over 99% of the pesticide residues found were below tolerance levels established by the EPA.
While this is good, is it enough?
Since I am not a chemist, one organization that I rely on is the Environmental Working Group. They analyze the USDA data every year and produce a report called the “EWG Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce”.
EWG reported that nearly 2/3s of the produce samples tested in the latest published USDA data (2013) contained pesticide residues. They also found 165 different pesticide residues on these foods. When you eat organic foods, you will eat fewer pesticides because the type of chemicals and fertilizers used on organic produce is strictly limited. A recent study found that people who ate organic produce often (or always) had significantly less insecticide residues in their urine, even though they ate MORE servings of produce than those people who never purchased organic produce. These insecticides seem to be even more toxic to children than to adults, based on other studies.
Can I buy conventional produce and just wash it well? Pesticide residues stay on produce when it is washed, and even peeled, in some cases. So you can’t guarantee that the produce you are buying will be free from pesticides when you eat conventional produce.
What if I want to avoid pesticides but my budget is limited? Every year the EWG ranks produce based on both the amount of pesticide residue found and the toxicity of the types of residues. Their list of the “Dirty Dozen Plus” is what they recommend to always buy organic if you want to avoid the majority of pesticides. They also list a “Clean 15” which are foods that have the least pesticides and are generally safe to buy conventionally if you have a limited budget. You can find the full list for both of these at www.EWG.org.
What “Dirty Dozen Plus” items should I buy? Quite a few of the items on the Dirty Dozen Plus list are widely grown both organically and conventionally in the local area. When you eat a large amount of the conventionally grown produce, be aware that you are adding to your pesticide burden. On the other hand, when you get these items from Aiken Organics or another local organic vendor, you can be assured that you are minimizing your intake of pesticides, especially if you eat a large amount of these foods.
Buy local organic at a minimum: peaches, nectarines, strawberries, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, kale and collard greens. The other foods that are on the list which are also important to purchase organically are apples and grapes.
If you need help determining which foods and dietary plan is best for you given your current health, I would be pleased to consult with you. If you need more help with moving to a more nutritious diet, call or email me for a free, 20 minute nutrition consultation to help with your specific situation.