A common question Organic I receive, and a very good one at that, especially now that Organic we are entering warmer months where produce abounds.
Let’s start here: Organic
There’s a difference between a food that is nutritious and a portion of food that is free of pesticides. So let’s begin by taking a look at the nutritional value of organic foods versus conventional.
Are organic foods more nutritious?
Organic Hundreds of studies were conducted and they didn’t find a significant difference between organic and non-organic produce regarding most of the traditional nutrients (vitamins and minerals).
What they did find was that organic foods had higher levels of antioxidant compounds and fewer mutations (damage) in the cells of the plants, which are thought to be behind many of the benefits of fruits and vegetables.
In vitro studies show fewer gene mutations when organic strawberries were dripped in petrie dishes of bacteria compared to the dishes with conventional strawberries.
Preventing DNA damage in bacteria is one thing, but what about the effect it has on humans? One clinical study on humans showed a decrease in the growth of cancer cells with organic strawberries versus conventional, however, this was when the extracted strawberry juice was dripped directly on the cancer cell within the lab environment. Clinical studies on humans simply haven’t been performed to date so there’s not a definitive answer to this question.
Are organic foods safer?
Although the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods, it does show that the consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
One study showed measurable evidence demonstrating that an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposure to certain pesticides that are commonly used in agricultural production.
So does protection against pesticides mean protection against disease?
Simply put, we don’t know. The studies haven’t been done. However, I believe that the consumption of organic food provides a logical precautionary approach. The closer we move toward the way food was produced decades ago, the safer it will be for not only our health but the environment as well.
What about the cost?
Yes, I definitely understand – can be expensive! Personally, I do not purchase all-produce. I use the Environmental Working Group’s “Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen” list as a reference. This list is updated annually and outlines the fifteen top foods that can be purchased conventionally-grown without substantial risk of pesticide exposure and the twelve foods to always purchase. You can get a free download here.
Additionally, purchasing frozen fruits and vegetables are essentially just as healthy as fresh and can be cheaper when you’re purchasing produce. For instance, bell peppers are listed on the “Dirty Dozen” list and therefore is best.
If I know I’ll be using my bell peppers to slice and sauté for fajitas, I purchase frozen bell pepper slices. They are much cheaper, I only use what I need, and no chopping required!! That gets two thumbs up in my book!
At the end of the day, don’t fret yourself into fearing anything that’s not . Do your best to move towards eating from the “Dirty Dozen” list. If you accidentally purchased a conventionally grown apple, you won’t die.
It’s the accumulation of pesticide exposure over time and we want to be striving to add more whole foods to our diet daily for overall better health and enjoyment of these deliciously wonderful foods we have available to us.
It’s important to remember that its better to eat some vegetables than none at all, so striving to eat a wide variety of whole, plant-based ingredients to fuel us through the day is our aim. So…go on and enjoy the delicious produce that’s now in bloom!