There’s so much conflicting research, media hype, and your own budget to contend with. It’s hard to know whether the extra cost of organic produce is valuable from both the health and financial perspectives.
A new research study, published last month in the British Journal of Nutrition, confirms that organic produce is higher in antioxidants and lower in pesticide residues.
The study is the largest analysis of its kind to be published so far. It was a review of 343 peer reviewed studies that looked at the composition of crops and food.
It found that organic crops have higher levels of certain antioxidants and that eating organic foods could increase your antioxidant intake by up to 40 per cent daily which is equal to two servings of fruits or vegetables a day.
Antioxidants, in their natural state in fruits and vegetables, are known to minimize the damage of free radicals and help to prevent a variety of chronic diseases ranging from cancer and heart disease to Alzheimer’s and aging.
The study also showed that organic produce is lower in heavy metals such as cadmium a known carcinogen. Researchers found that cadmium levels in organic crops are 48 per cent lower than in conventional produce. Given cadmium’s connection with cancer, I’d frankly like to have less of that in my food. Wouldn’t you?
The last key finding, is that conventionally grown crops (the typical ones in most grocery stores) were four times more likely to contain pesticide residue than organically grown ones.
Pesticides were designed to kill things. I believe there is enough proof to suggest we should be cautious about having them in our foods. Health impacts are wide ranging and especially significant among pregnant women and children. Additional risks include headaches and nausea to more long-term, serious impacts like cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption.
There are some who are not seeing these findings as statistically significant. From my perspective, I want to avoid as much as possible any toxins that might be in my food, and eat the cleanest freshest food available to me.
Based on these new findings, here are a few recommendations for including organics without breaking the bank:
- Buy organic and local as much as you can. Shop at farmer’s markets, roadside produce stands, or get involved in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm and have a box of local organic produce delivered to you each week.
- If you can’t buy everything local and organic, use the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen to choose organic for the products that are most heavily sprayed and choose conventional for the products on the Clean Fifteen list.
- Talk to the farmers and local producers. Ask how they grow their produce. What type of sprays and pesticides do they use? Are their animals fed GMO grains? Even if they aren’t certified organic they may have low toxic farming practices.
- Grow your own food. We started our own garden this year and I can’t tell you how rewarding and nourishing it is on so many levels. Even if you have a tiny space like a balcony or a few pots it’s incredible how much you can grow.
- Preserve and store – When produce is in season buy larger quantities of it when it is at a lower price, and then can, jar, freeze, dehydrate whatever you can for the winter months when a red pepper from Argentina is $8.99 a pound.