Organic food usually (but, not always) costs more than conventional groceries. Is it really worth it to spend the extra money for organic? Of course, my answer is a very predictable and emphatic, “YES!” Allow me to explain three very important reasons why I feel this way.
1. By Eating Organic Food You Reduce Your Exposure to Toxic Chemicals
Today’s crops are heavily sprayed with a chemical cocktail of synthesized pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Some of these chemicals are highly toxic to humans and have a very long half-life. For example, DDT was banned from use in the USA in 1972 yet, this very dangerous pesticide is still showing up today in the placenta of birthing mothers. Girls exposed to DDT before puberty are 5 times more likely to develop breast cancer in middle age, according to the President’s Cancer Panel. This is just one of the 85,000 chemicals we humans have created in the last 150 years that now pollute our environment.
The practice of spraying crops with artificial chemicals upsets the balance of the natural ecosystem. Crops treated this way become increasingly dependent on these artificial substances which weakens the plant’s natural growth and defense mechanisms. Crops grown organically use only natural methods and products for fertilization, pest control, fungus control, and weed suppression which are harmless to humans without the use of any chemically synthesized pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or fertilizers.
2. There is More Nutrition in Organic Produce
Because of several generations of unstainable farming practices, the topsoil on most factory farms has been depleted of minerals. Most of the food that is mass distributed for commercial consumption is grown on life support primarily of just three minerals: nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus (NPK.) These three nutrients are the most important ones because these are what make the plants jump up fast so farmers can turn around the quickest profit. But, where is the iron, the calcium, the magnesium, zinc, copper, and any one of the other 92 minerals we humans need for good health? If they are missing from the soil, they will be missing in the plants. If they are missing from the plants they will be missing in you!
Not only is the soil mostly depleted on factory farms but, plants fed high concentrations of nitrogen grow too fast before they are harvested. They are not given the time needed to uptake whatever few minerals may still be present in the soil. According to a UCLA study conducted on iron in spinach it was concluded that you would have to eat 43 bowls of spinach in 1997 to equal just 1 bowl in 1953! Not only was the spinach deficient in iron, but other minerals as well. As a consequence, when you do not have minerals sufficient, the body cannot use the vitamins. The best organic farming practices focus on more sustainable growing methods such as composting, crop rotation, rock dust, permaculture, and other methods that all help to restore and preserve the minerals in the soil. These types of practices produce more mineral rich crops.
Phytonutrients such as chlorophyll, beta-carotene, and lycopene are natural defense substances that plants produce to help protect themselves in nature from germs, fungi, bugs, and disease Organic fruits and vegetables have far more phytonutrients than nonorganic plants. This is because nonorganic plants become dependent upon the artificial, chemically-synthesized pesticides and fungicides farmers spray on them to help them grow. Consequently, the plants stop producing many of the antibodies needed to naturally deal with these challenges. Phytonutrients are also very sensitive to heat and are destroyed by the cooking process. Therefore fresh, ripe, raw, organic, and whole fruits, vegetables, and sprouts are the best source of these powerful defenders for your immune system.
3. Buying Organic Food Helps You to Avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s)
The practice of creating GMO’s in food involves injecting the DNA of one species into the DNA of another species in an effort to develop certain characteristics. For example, the DNA of fungus, mold, bacteria, viruses, fish, humans, and jellyfish have been injected into corn, potatoes, and strawberries in an effort to increase crop yields. Unfortunately, this genetic manipulation creates unintended consequences in our food such as twisted proteins and twisted carbohydrates and other toxins. GMO’s have been linked to serious health challenges such as a weakened immune system, autoimmune diseases, food allergies, gastrointestinal problems, childhood learning disorders, leaky gut syndrome, autism, and cancer.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) recently released its position paper on Genetically Modified foods stating that “GM foods pose a serious health risk” and calling for a moratorium on GM foods. Citing several animal studies, the AAEM concludes “there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects” and that “GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health.”
Twenty six countries outside of the USA have already banned GMO’s at least partially, thanks to much more balanced media reporting on this topic in those regions of the world. Monsanto and other large corporations who stand to make enormous profits have invested heavily in false advertising and political lobbyists to influence government policy and the public’s perception on GMO’s.
The most common GMO foods in this country are conventional corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, and yellow squash or any processed products containing any one of these foods. Your best defense to avoid GMO’s in the USA is to eat only organic food. According to the USDA, the use of GMO’s is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table. You should also look for products that have the “Non-GMO Project Verified” label.
The purity of the “Organic” label on commercially distributed food has been somewhat diluted in the last few years. Still, it is better to eat organic than eating conventional food that we know is laced with toxic chemicals. Sometimes, it comes down to making the best choice of the options available to you. The best practice is to grow your own food so you know exactly how your food has been grown.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a list of the top twelve crops with the highest pesticide load called the “The Dirty Dozen.” These foods should only be eaten when they are grown organically:
The Dirty Dozen
• Strawberries and blueberries
• Sweet bell peppers
• Cherry tomatoes
• Snap peas
Plus, I would also suggest avoiding the following seven foods unless they are USDA certified organic in an effort to avoid GMO’s:
• Sugar beets
• Hawaiian papaya
• Yellow squash
The following list of foods are the least likely to hold pesticide residues:
• Sweet peas (frozen)
• Cantaloupe (domestic)
• Sweet potatoes
By Brian Hetrich CNC, ND
Brian came to Hippocrates Health Institute from Maryland, where he hosted raw food retreats and ran a successful private practice. He is a Certified Nutritional Counselor (CNC) and earned his Doctorate of Naturopathy from the International Institute of Original Medicine (IIOM.) IIOM is accredited by the American Naturopathic Medical Accreditation Board (ANMAB), and the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP.) Brian is also a raw food chef and teaches classes on gourmet raw cuisine. He is co-author of the book, “Natural Vibrant Health – Raw Foods” which is a collection of his favorite raw food recipes. Brian’s book is available in the Hippocrates store.