Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ode to Organics

There has been a lot of debate about organically grown foods. What does it mean, does it matter? Well I wanted to tackle that! While I could probably come up with an entire essay on it, I'll try to hit some key points here, and maybe dive deeper another time.

So now that you're hopefully pushing your fruit and vegetable intake (c'mon, you know you should!), you may be interested in this!

To begin with: Organic vs. Conventional = HUGE business and money battles! Sadly, the more research I do digging in to nutritional politics, the more I find that money is a driving force behind it, not necessarily health.

The definition for Organics gets pretty specific when it comes to processed foods, and I can touch on that in the future. But for now, let's just look at produce. Fruit and vegetables basically are either organically grown, or they are conventionally grown.

So let's look at those two questions: what does it mean, and does it matter? Well, if you look at what it means, I would say that it will give you your answer for the latter query!

There are some key points laid out in the Organic Standard rules that growers must meet in order to be "certified organic”:

*No synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers
*No genetically modified (GM) seeds
*No fertilizer derived from sewer sludge (yeah, think what that means if you're NOT getting organically grown foods! Eep!)
*No irradiated seeds or foods
*They must document all of this to prove to the USDA inspectors that they are following the rules

So, um, yeah, I'd go with it's important! I'd rather not have GMO or sewer sludge in my food, thank ya veddy much!

If you shop at local farmers markets, small farms may not have it advertised that they use organic methods, as it costs money to have USDA inspectors come out and certify your place. So just ask them.

If you shop at a grocery store, foods will be labeled.

Opponents of organic labeling continue to put pressure on the government. Registered Dietitian Marion Nestle writes in her book What to Eat:

“Opponents of organics - and there are many, work hard to make you doubt the reliability of organic certification, to weaken the Organic Standards (so you really will have something to doubt), and to make you wonder whether organics are any better than conventionally grown foods."
She goes on to say:
"But as for attempts to weaken the rules, think 'relentless.' Political appointees at the USDA are always looking for loopholes that might favor conventional growers. Just before issuing the Organic Standards, for example, the USDA said it would be fine for farmers to use genetically modified seeds, irradiation, and sewage sludge, and still call their crops organic. After a barrage of 275,000 outraged letters, the agency backed off this peculiar idea.”

Fortunately, for now, the term “organic” is still meaningful thanks to those Organic Standard rules!

I consider it an investment in my future health to pay the extra for organics whenever possible. But, if money is tight, I would say at least treat yourself to the organically grown versions of the “dirty dozen,” the top 12 pesticide-rich produce items; and worry less about those that have become known as the “Clean 15”

The Worst Culprits:
1. Peaches
2. Apples
3. Sweet Bell Peppers
4. Celery
5. Nectarines
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Kale
9. Lettuce
10. Grapes (imported)
11. Carrots
12. Pears

The Safer Options:
1. Onion
2. Avocado
3. Sweet Corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mango
6. Asparagus
7. Sweet Peas
8. Kiwifruit
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Papaya
12. Watermelon
13. Broccoli
14. Tomato
15. Sweet Potato
(for the full listing, you can click

So give yourself the best! You're worth your health!

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