I certainly know that organic is better for our bodies and the planet, but I sometimes find myself waffling in front of a colorful display of conventionally grown strawberries on sale and a bin of picked-over organic ones. How do I weigh the healthiest choices for my family, as well as the planet?
Avoiding pesticide residues is a great place to start. But what about growth hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified foods? Are organic foods more nutritious?
Here is some interesting information regarding organic foods:
1. According to Newcastle University agriculture professor Carlo Leifert. PhD, grass-based organic cattle diets reduce the risk of E.coli contamination, whereas grain-based conventional diets increase the risk.
2. Apple orchards are commonly sprayed with organophosphate pesticides which are nerve agents that studies link to decreased intelligence and increased attention problems in children (Pediatrics, 2006, vol.118, no. 6).
3. White potatoes have the highest average pesticide load after washing and peeling than any other fruit or vegetable. Organic potatoes have richer sources of Vitamin C than conventional grown (Nutrition Journal, 2007, vol.32, no. 2).
4. Organic brand ketchup packs 57% more lycopene (a potent antioxidant) than conventional brands (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, vol.52, no. 26).
5. Corn and soy are the biggest sources of pesticide contamination in our countryside. Soy is also the most genetically modified food in the U.S (see “what’s wrong with GMOs”). Many people say they don’t eat soy. Well, think again. Most of the soy consumption in the U.S. is not in what would be identified as a soy product. Most of the soy is crushed into soybean oil which is partially hydrogenated (in trans fat) that sneaks into foods like chips, cookies, crackers and even infant rice cereal.
About two thirds of the cotton crop actually goes into the food supply as “cottonseed oil”. It is often listed as “vegetable oil”. Cotton is our most chemically intensive crop. It is also one of the most genetically modified crops along with corn and soy.
Be careful of imported produce. Foods such as grapes, strawberries, tomatoes, and sweet bell peppers on average have nearly three times higher pesticide residues than domestic varieties. They also have less antioxidant content than organic fruits and vegetables.
What is the “dirty dozen”? It’s the foods with the highest pesticide residues and here they are: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce and potatoes (Environmental Working Group, www.foodnews.org). Choose organics in what you eat the most. As Holly Givens from the Organic Trade Association would say,” Consumer demand for organics sends a powerful message. And it’s probably the quickest way to an agricultural revolution that will benefit our families and our planet”.