The topic this month is Greening Your Diet. We started last week with some simple tips to make your diet healthier for you and for the environment. Continuing the theme, we’ll delve into organic food this week.
What Do We Mean By “Organic”?
Organic foods are produced without the use of conventional pesticides or artificial fertilizers; without radiation or food additives. Livestock are reared without the routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones. In most countries, organic produce must not be genetically modified.
Here’s a great chart from The Mayo Clinic that outlines the differences between conventional and organic farming:
There’s mixed research on whether or not organic food is higher in nutrients. For now, we’ll focus on how organic food is less harmful than conventional food.
Why We Care About The Differences
Limiting our exposure to pesticides and antibiotics can keep us healthier. Pesticides are linked to a wide variety of health issues, including nervous system toxicity, cancer, and hormonal system issues. In fact a recent study by the Nebraska Medical Center links pesticide exposure to thyroid disease in women. Consuming unnecessary antibiotics introduces something else for our immune systems to fight against. Knowing that antibiotics kill all bacteria, including the good bacteria in our gut that strengthens our immune systems, I wonder if eating meat treated with antibiotics weakens our immune systems.
But Organic Food Is Expensive!
Yup, it is. Organic food costs more at the grocery store for a few reasons, including: organic farmers do not benefit from the same government subsidies as conventional farmers, and the harvest yield is smaller. As the market for organic food grows, though, we’re finding less expensive organic brands such as Nature’s Promise by Stop & Shop.
To help save money, prioritize your organic purchases. Some conventionally raised foods are more of a health danger than others, making those the best choices for purchasing organic. According to the Environmental Working Group: You can lower your pesticide consumption by nearly four-fifths by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and instead eating the least contaminated produce. When you eat the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables, you’ll be exposed to an average of 10 pesticides a day. When you choose fresh produce from the 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables, you’ll consume fewer than 2 pesticides per day.
Most contaminated produce:
- nectarines (imported)
- grapes (imported)
- sweet bell peppers
- blueberries (domestic)
- kale & collard greens
Click here for the full list of fruits and vegetables.
Caveat: if you’re choosing between non-organic celery and cookies, of course choose the celery.
When it comes to meat & dairy, think about how much your family is eating. Your first step to avoiding growth hormones and antibiotics may be to reduce the amount of meat you eat. This will have an immediate positive effect on your health. Also consider how we’re cautioned to not demand unnecessary antibiotics from our doctors. Think about the antibiotics you may be getting in your commercial meat products as well.
Any questions on organics? Drop me a line and I’ll be happy to answer them.