How Important is it to buy Organic?

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All food used to be organic– grown without herbicides, hormones, chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides. Although, when large-scale farming began in the 1940’s this all changed.  Large scale farming worked against the earth’s natural cycles; therefore farmers had to rely on chemicals to produce large quantities of crops. Over the years the bombardment of chemicals into our food supply has not only made our soil and crops extremely nutrient deficient, but has also polluted our bodies and weakened our immune systems.

How important is it to eat organic foods? According to the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, organic fruits and vegetables contain 50-60% higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants than non-organic. Organic foods have more nutrients, taste better, meet stringent standards and are free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic meat and dairy products are free of antibiotics, hormones and pesticides. Livestock is given organic feed, clean housing facilities, has access to the outdoors and rotated grazing areas. Additionally, organic farming works in synch with our earth and is considered a long-term sustainable method of farming.

Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) ranks produce, according to its levels of pesticide residues, based on the results of thousands of tests. The produce we consume that has the most pesticides residues is labeled the Dirty Dozen, while the Clean Fifteen refers to the produce we consume with the lowest levels of pesticide residues. According to the 2013 list, the Dirty Dozen are apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, hot peppers, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. The EWG added summer squash, kale and collard greens to this list also this year. The Clean Fifteen are onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocados, asparagus, frozen sweet peas, mangos, eggplant, cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, papayas, sweet potatoes, grapefruit and mushrooms. Simply stated, try to buy the organic version of the produce listed on the Dirty Dozen list. If you are going to buy any non-organic produce, stick to the Clean Fifteen list. Always remember to rinse all your fruits and vegetables; it does not eliminate pesticides but it does reduce them.

It is also extremely important to understand labels when buying organic products. Single-ingredient products, like fruits and vegetables, may be labeled organic if they meet the USDA standards. Multi-ingredient products labeled “100% Organic” are truly all organic, but products that just say “Organic” can contain 5% or lower non-organic ingredients. The two best labels to look for on meat packaging are “USDA Organic/Certified Organic” and “American Grassfed Certified”. The term American Grassfed Certified means that livestock are only fed grass or hay. Cattle tend to be healthier and leaner when they eat this way, since it is a part of their natural livelihood. Grassfed beef has more healthy Omega-3 fatty acids as well. Other labels such as “natural”, “free range,” “antibiotic free” and “no hormones added” can imply things that are not always the case.

To your Health!

Autumn (check me out at pacificnorthwesthealth.com)

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