Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Organic Food - To Buy or Not To Buy?

Organic food...to buy or not to buy?
This can be a very confusing questions and everyone seems to have an opinion. So what's a consumer to do?
Today I am going to share my Sara B opinion, but I will let you decide what's best for you and your family.

Why did I even start caring? Was it for the environment, health....? I think it may have been my girlfriend and fellow dietitian, Leigh, who first tweaked my interest. She conducted research on if organic blood oranges had higher nutrient levels than conventional grown blood oranges....can you guess the results? Organic blood oranges came out on top.
This is only the beginning of the benefits to organic...

What does “organic” mean?
Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.

How do you know if something is organic?
USDA had identified 3 label categories:
100% organic - made with 100% organic ingredients
Organic - made with 95% organic ingredients
Made with organic ingredients - made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs
Why do I care what goes in my body and now....Baby S's :)
Our bodies were not designed to be constantly bombarded with chemicals and biologically altered products on a long-term basis. Do we really know what the cause and effect is for generations to come? One topic in the news recently is the potential link between human consumption of antibiotics and hormones in meat and the early onset of puberty and obesity in young girls. How can you avoid this...choose to purchase hormone free/antibiotic free meat...particularly natural and grass fed!

Here's a thought:
You know how you always read certain nutrients in fruits and veggies help prevent cancer, why do you think they do? Those nutrients are talking to our bodies...aiding, protecting and healing our bodies for the better. So what are the pesticides and fertilizers pasted on their flesh doing for our bodies? Are they talking to are bodies? Are they altering our bodies, triggering a cancer, mutating a cell, causing a disease? These are clearly my thoughts, but certainly make you wonder.
The good news...the organic industry is growing and you don't have to revamp your whole grocery list!
When buying organic I personally focus on the "dirty dozen" produce and hormone/antibiotic free meats .

This guide should help you at the grocery store:
The Dirty Dozen
-although there are 13, the name is just not as catchy with 13
(these foods are found with the highest amounts of pesticides so buy these organic)
1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Bell Peppers
8. Spinach
9. Cherries
10. Kale/Collard
11. Greens
12. Potatoes
13. Grapes (Imported)

The Clean Fifteen
(these foods are found with the least amount of pesticides, so don't worry about buying these organic...you;ll notice most are produce with outer coverings)
1. Onions
2. Avocado
3. Sweet Corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mangos
6. Sweet Peas
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Cantaloupe
12. Watermelon
13. Grapefruit
14. Sweet Potato
15. Honey
for a handy dandy wallet guide go HERE

For those who say organic is too expensive...I say
PAY NOW (in money) OR PAY LATER (in health and environment)
The more we all pitch in and show a consumer demand, the greater availability will be and prices will lower. Start with one food item and commit....make it apples or peaches. Then add in another.

If your not convinced, here are some other compelling reasons to reconsider.
Top 10 Reasons to Support Organic in the 21st Century
Source: Alan Greene, MD (Organic Trade Association), Bob Scowcroft (Organic Farming Research Foundation), Sylvia Tawse (Fresh Ideas Group)

1. Reduce The Toxic Load: Keep Chemicals Out of the Air, Water, Soil and our Bodies
Buying organic food promotes a less toxic environment for all living things. With only 0.5 percent of crop and pasture land in organic, according to USDA that leaves 99.5 percent of farm acres in the U.S. at risk of exposure to noxious agricultural chemicals.

Our bodies are the environment so supporting organic agriculture doesn’t just benefit your family, it helps all families live less toxically.

2. Reduce if Not Eliminate Off Farm Pollution
Industrial agriculture doesn’t singularly pollute farmland and farm workers; it also wreaks havoc on the environment downstream. Pesticide drift affects non-farm communities with odorless and invisible poisons. Synthetic fertilizer drifting downstream is the main culprit for dead zones in delicate ocean environments, such as the Gulf of Mexico, where its dead zone is now larger than 22,000 square kilometers, an area larger than New Jersey, according to Science magazine, August, 2002.

3. Protect Future Generations
Before a mother first nurses her newborn, the toxic risk from pesticides has already begun. Studies show that infants are exposed to hundreds of harmful chemicals in utero. In fact, our nation is now reaping the results of four generations of exposure to agricultural and industrial chemicals, whose safety was deemed on adult tolerance levels, not on children’s. According to the National Academy of Science, “neurologic and behavioral effects may result from low-level exposure to pesticides.” Numerous studies show that pesticides can adversely affect the nervous system, increase the risk of cancer, and decrease fertility.

4. Build Healthy Soil
Mono-cropping and chemical fertilizer dependency has taken a toll with a loss of top soil estimated at a cost of $40 billion per year in the U.S., according to David Pimental of Cornell University. Add to this an equally disturbing loss of micro nutrients and minerals in fruits and vegetables. Feeding the soil with organic matter instead of ammonia and other synthetic fertilizers has proven to increase nutrients in produce, with higher levels of vitamins and minerals found in organic food, according to the 2005 study, “Elevating Antioxidant levels in food through organic farming and food processing,” Organic Center State of Science Review (1.05)

5. Taste Better and Truer Flavor
Scientists now know what we eaters have known all along: organic food often tastes better. It makes sense that strawberries taste yummier when raised in harmony with nature, but researchers at Washington State University just proved this as fact in lab taste trials where the organic berries were consistently judged as sweeter. Plus, new research verifies that some organic produce is often lower in nitrates and higher in antioxidants than conventional food. Let the organic feasting begin!

6. Assist Family Farmers of all Sizes
According to Organic Farming Research Foundation, as of 2006 there are approximately 10,000 certified organic producers in the U.S. compared to 2500 to 3,000 tracked in 1994. Measured against the two million farms estimated in the U.S. today, organic is still tiny. Family farms that are certified organic farms have a double economic benefit: they are profitable and they farm in harmony with their surrounding environment. Whether the farm is a 4-acre orchard or a 4,000-acre wheat farm, organic is a beneficial practice that is genuinely family-friendly.

7. Avoid Hasty and Poor Science in Your Food
Cloned food. GMOs and rBGH. Oh my! Interesting how swiftly these food technologies were rushed to market, when organic fought for 13 years to become federal law. Eleven years ago, genetically modified food was not part of our food supply; today an astounding 30 percent of our cropland is planted in GMOs. Organic is the only de facto seal of reassurance against these and other modern, lab-produced additions to our food supply, and the only food term with built in inspections and federal regulatory teeth.

8. Eating with a Sense of Place
Whether it is local fruit, imported coffee or artisan cheese, organic can demonstrate a reverence for the land and its people. No matter the zip code, organic has proven to use less energy (on average, about 30 percent less), is beneficial to soil, water and local habitat, and is safer for the people who harvest our food. Eat more seasonably by supporting your local farmers market while also supporting a global organic economy year round. It will make your taste buds happy.

9. Promote Biodiversity
Visit an organic farm and you’ll notice something: a buzz of animal, bird and insect activity. These organic oases are thriving, diverse habitats. Native plants, birds and hawks return usually after the first season of organic practices; beneficial insects allow for a greater balance, and indigenous animals find these farms a safe haven. As best said by Aldo Leopold, “A good farm must be one where the native flora and fauna have lost acreage without losing their existence.” An organic farm is the equivalent of reforestation. Industrial farms are the equivalent of clear cutting of native habitat with a focus on high farm yields.

10. Celebrate the Culture of Agriculture
Food is a ‘language’ spoken in every culture. Making this language organic allows for an important cultural revolution whereby diversity and biodiversity are embraced and chemical toxins and environmental harm are radically reduced, if not eliminated. The simple act of saving one heirloom seed from extinction, for example, is an act of biological and cultural conservation. Organic is not necessarily the most efficient farming system in the short run. It is slower, harder, more complex and more labor-intensive. But for the sake of culture everywhere, from permaculture to human culture, organic should be celebrated at every table.

ok....I'll step down now off my soap box.

Until next time...
look good, feel good, do good


  1. So many proof why we should choose organic foods over their counterparts. But it's a common sense that foods organically/naturally produced contain more nutrients and vitamins than non-organic ones. That's why I believe in the phrase that "It pays to check the label."
    How about planning on organic food delivered to every doors? What ya think? Just asking.

  2. Great post very informative, thanks for sharing.