Organic Food Defined
I’ve been a long supporter of organic foods, both for its health and environmental benefits. Unfortunately, some people are still confused as to what the term organic actually means. Also, with the recent news story about organic food being no better than conventional food, we have even more confusion created around this term than ever before.
The term organic is defined as a food, item, or other commodity that is free from the use of chemical additives, preservatives, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), artificial sweeteners and other man-made ingredients. A certified organic product must contain a seal clarifying that it is recognized as being 100% free from these unnatural ingredients. One of the most common certification seals is from the USDA:
The majority of items that can be organic are foods (both whole foods and processed foods) and bath and beauty products. Other organic items can be blankets, clothes, and household cleaning products. An organic item is often more expensive than their conventional counterparts (even though organic is more normal than conventional, as organic products have been around a lot longer) since the government often subsidizes unnatural ingredients, like GMO corn, wheat, and soy, as well as a plethora of pesticides.
Even after organic is defined, many people still ask why they should purchase organic. There are a number of reasons, of which I will briefly explain below. Note that these reasons are by no means exhaustive, yet I have still tried to provide a number of links to continue your research on being organic.
- Pesticides are linked to cancer, weight gain, and behavioral problems. Human data on pesticides is limited, yet a number of studies show a direct link to pesticide residue and cancer and tumor formation. Many cancer patients have higher levels of pesticides in their blood stream. Pesticide exposure from foods and the environment also tend to lower the action of the thyroid gland, resulting in sluggishness and a decreased metabolism, as well as weight gain. Behavioral problems in children are also linked to pesticide exposure.
- GMO’s are also linked to cancer and thyroid issues, as well as genetic abnormalities and fertility issues. Genetically modified organisms are created in a laboratory. That right there shows you that this is NOT real food. Secondly,
- Artificial ingredients are directly linked to obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Ingredients like sodium nitrite and artificial sweeteners have been directly linked to cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
- Insecticides kill off beneficial insects needed for pollination. Organic farming may actually help boost biodiversity.
- Parabens in bath and home products can seep into your blood and food, and are linked to diabetes and cancer. I’ve written on this topic here and here. Very interesting research, and it’s a shame that these ingredients are even legal.
- Purchasing organic helps to support more organic farming and growing practices.
- Organic helps to reduce your load to all of the above health hazards, plus many more.
Is Organic Food Healthier?
If you have been following the health news circuit recently, you will know that many news outlets have jumped on the organic-bashing bandwagon, claiming that organic foods are no healthier than conventionally grown foods. This has unfortunately created a lot of confusion in the public, which has turned off many people to the possibility of including more organic foods and products in their lifestyle.
This “study” was actually a meta-analysis, which took into account hundreds of studies comparing organic foods and conventional foods. Some studies actually found significant nutritional differences between organically grown foods and conventionally grown foods, with organic foods containing higher vitamin E, C, and other various antioxidants. The majority found no significance, or very little between nutrition. As always in meta-analyses, the majority one out.
The meta-analysis, however, did not take into the fact that our bodies do not need or like pesticides swimming in our blood streams. Just because a food may not be more nutritious, doesn’t make it healthy. If you are eating a conventional potato, you may be exposing yourself to more carcinogens and pesticides or other ingredients that cause weight gain, diabetes, learning problems, and many more issues that we just may not know about.
Organic food has been in our diet for millions of years. Is it any wonder that cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, “ADD/ADHD” and other dis-eases are increasing at an enormous rate? There are of course other factors, but we cannot ignore our food at the same time. We MUST be informed about what we put in our bodies, and what we serve to those we love and care about.
The key is choosing organic whole foods, and staying away from processed foods (even if they are organic). Processed foods, even organic processed cereals, breads, crackers, cookies, beverages, etc., are far removed from their natural source. They are often stripped of many nutrients, making it essential that manufacturers add synthetic nutrients. Nutrients from their whole source, whether from whole veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, even grains (although I’m a bit iffy in that area) are what your body craves.
The Dirty Dozen
There are some produce items that you can purchase non-organically. I do this all the time. The best way to determine which items hold on to the most pesticides is to look at the item. If it has a hard peel that isn’t consumed, you can most likely purchase them from the non-organic section. Since you aren’t eating the peel, and the peel is thick and hard, you can be sure that the pesticides or other chemicals haven’t seeped into the fruit themselves.
Also, be sure to check the PLU code for each vegetable. It should have 4 numbers, starting with the number four (4) if it is not organic. For example, #4329. An organic produce item has a 5 digit PLU code with a 9 in front of the numbers. So, an organic item may have a PLU code of #94321, for example. If a PLU code contains a 6 or some other number, you should know that that item has been genetically modified.
There are twelve+ foods you should purchase organic, as these contain higher pesticide residue. This list that has been compiled by the Environmental Working Group. They are:
- Apples, celery, bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, potatoes, as well as green beans and kale/greens.
This is The Healthy Advocate.