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Does Organic Matter?

When I post recipes I will sometimes put a little side note next to the fruit, veggie and meat ingredients that says “organic ingredients preferred.” I don’t say “eat organic or else you’re the worst” or “if you don’t organic you should probably just not eat” because it’s not like that and I’ll give you a little more insight into my thought process.

 The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows:

“Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards”[1].

Simply put, certified organic foods don’t contain all the crap and harmful chemicals that conventionally grown foods can. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s tests have found widespread pesticide contamination on most fruits and vegetables. At least one pesticide was found on nearly three-quarters of the samples analyzed by the US Department of Agriculture in 2014 [2]. 

A lot of people think that you can just wash the pesticides off of produce.  Rinsing with water can for sure remove the surface residues but it’s tough to completely wash away the pesticides because they can stick to skins and surfaces. Some pesticides get absorbed by the plant’s root system and we ingest them that way as well. What’s interesting is that the USDA measures pesticide residues after produce has been rinsed in cold running water and peels and rinds are removed meaning that the pesticide residues used to calculate the risk level are those that remain after you have cleaned it [3].

So why should you even care about pesticides going into your body?

Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill living organisms.  Various studies have shown that pesticides can cause brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone disruption and skin, eye and lung irritation to name a few. There is a lot we don’t even know yet about the long term effects and the burden that pesticides place on our systems. So I think we can agree that we should avoid them as much as humanly possible, yes? Nobody wants to ingest MORE pesticides.

The thing is though, organic or farm fresh vegetables can often times cost more, driving us to choose the non-organic produce to get more bang for our buck.  Why I say “organic is preferred” is because it is.   I myself buy organic meat and produce whenever possible for health and environmental reasons, but the benefits of a diet full of nutritious fruits and vegetables greatly outweighs the burden of harmful pesticides.

I mean that if the only way you can afford fresh fruits and vegetables is to buy non-organic produce I would still advise you to do that because they are absolutely essential to our health and wellbeing. Don’t be like, “Ohhh I’ll just get the Cheetos instead because that organic apple is 50 cents more and I can’t eat pesticides because Christina said so.” No way man!

To help make your grocery shopping experience easier you can use the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen as a guide for which foods contain higher amounts of pesticides, and which foods are better to buy non-organic.

I hope this makes the whole buying organic thing a little clearer for you. If you have more questions, opinions, or insights I’d love to hear them. Leave me a comment or send me an email!

And as a little gift, click the button below to download a few of my favorite, easy recipes to get ya cookin'!

xx Christina Tidwell, MN, RN, CHC

Health TipsChristina Tidwell