Is organic worth it? These 5 things are….these others are not.

“I buy organic.” I heard the smart shopper say on the check out line.  She sure is smart….or is she?

It seems you can’t go anywhere without seeing “Certified Organic” on the labels of everything from apples to bedsheets. Manufacturers know that consumers are willing to pay more for products with the green label, so they are proud to display  it.  But what does organic really mean?

organicWhat is organic?

Organic food is grown without the use of synthetic chemical for pesticide or artificial growth additives or hormones.  Organic food can not be GMO food, or genetically modified.  Since 1990, the US has had very strict (and very expensive) rules and regulations that must be followed if you want to be able to display that green USDA Certified Organic emblem on your product.  If it is organic meat or chicken, the animals have to be antibiotic, and hormone free, but also have to eat organic feed or graze in fields that have been tested for 3 years for residual pesticides.

Organic foods are healthier in that you are not eating the dozens of residual chemical pesticides, many linked to cancers and diseases of the immune system, that remain on or in the fruit.  Even if you wash your apple, the pesticides have been “locked in” by all the wax that is applied to make the apple shiny and pretty and keep it from spoiling.

But you can’t always tell by a company’s name if their product is organic.  Consider Ceres Organic Harvest, Inc. out of St Paul Minnesota. They had their “organic certification” revoked for “failure to allow inspector access to records.” (hiding something?) They can’t use the little green stamp, but they don’t have to change their name–even though it has the word “organic” in it.

True, organic foods are more expensive.  Partly due to the hefty fees and the costly process that manufacturers have to undergo by the US government to gain that certification.  So does everything you buy have to be organic?  Not really.

Here are the top 5 things you should try to buy/use organic and why:

  1. Strawberries – Unlike a smooth pear, strawberries have bumps and seeds that increase its surface area and make it easy for the pesticides to hide.  They also grown close to the ground and often sit in pools of pesticides.  The Enviornmental Working Group, a consumer watchdog group, detected 13 different pesticides on the average strawberry.  And they don’t wash off–even if you soak them.  Also watch other berries, nectarines and peaches as they are fruits whose skin is usually eaten.

    organic strawberries

    Make sure these are organic if you can

  2. Cookware – Non-stick cookware (teflon) contains a chemical, PTFE, that when heated, gives off toxic fumes that can cause flu-like symptoms and birth defects.  (The US government is forcing the chemical to be omitted from  the manufacture of non-stick cookware by 2015.)  Choose cast iron or stainless steel.  Cast iron has actual health benefits to using as explained in my previous post.
  3. Milkmilk accounts for approximately 65% of the estrogen-like hormones we consume every day. (A good reason to limit or eliminate it from your daily intake) Because lactating cows naturally produce hormones to maintain milk production there is a certain amount of hormones contain in milk naturally.  But some dairies use an additional hormone called rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) which in turn, increases another growth hormone called IGF-1.  Studies show that increased IGF-1 in humans is associated with an increased risk of cancer–especially breast cancer. The same is true for other dairy like cheese and yogurt.  So buying organic milk is important.  You may also want to explore the healthy option of going dairy-free! Find out why here. And find  milk alternatives here.  If I can do it…you can do it!
  4. Celery – the #1 most contaminated food in the produce isle.  Celery stalks are very pours so they retain the chemicals they’re sprayed with–all 13 of them.  Also high on the list were spinach and potatoes.
  5. Canned tomato products and bottled water for the same reason: BPA.  BPA is a chemical found in plastics and can liners (look inside your can–is it white plastic? that contains BPA)  The chemical can leech out into your food and water, especially when gets hot (like water bottles sitting in a 110 degree warehouse).  Tomatoes are high in acid and speed up the leeching process.  BPA can cause estrogen-like effects and other issues like liver disease and cardiac disease as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  See the facts and figures here.  The “organic” alternative would be to use a stainless steel water bottle and choose tomato sauce in glass.

Organic not necessary

  1. Avocados, boccoli, asparagus, and onions  – have repeatedly tested low in pesticide residue.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wash it thoroughly.
  2. Spices – when you think about the amounts you are using in an entire recipe, it’s minuscule! And often these organic spices are very expensive.  If money is no object, go for it.  Otherwise skip it.

    organic spices

    good, but not necessary

  3. Clothing – unless your clothing is treated with flame retardant (and who, as a child, didn’t sleep in footie pajamas that smelled like battery acid?) it’s not worth buying the organic cotton shirt or sheets.  It’s very unlikely that the pesticides used in growing are still there after processing and then get absorbed into your skin.  Organic clothes, however,  are better for the environment.
  4. Frozen food in plastic – while it’s true that plastic can leech BPA, it is mostly when the food gets hot.  Frozen foods, as long as you don’t boil or microwave in the bag, is fine.
  5. Organic seafood – to date, there is no such thing as “organic seafood” (so any fish labeled “organic” is trying to trick you) as there is no way to ensure that the fish are eating an organic diet in the wild.  That said, as a rule, wild caught is healthier than farm raised because of the high level of disease, and over crowing habitat of farmed fish.  See  info on salmon here.

Making wise choices both for your body, and your wallet, is important to your health. Eat well!

Some information was taken from April 2011 “Health Magazine”

Categories: diet, health, health and wellness, healthy living

Tags: , , , ,

23 replies

  1. Hi Sister. Nice article. However…I’m going to have to disagree with you on the spices. After doing some research I found out that all spices must be sterilized. Non organic spices are either irradiated or sprayed with a toxic gas, both methods leave traces of poison behind and can degrade flavour. Organic guaruntees using the steam method which is safe and protects flavours. Also non organic can bulk up your spices with a bunch of filler such as flour, artificial colours etc and they aren’t required to list it in the ingredients. Not to mention organic spices are more likely to be sourced from fairtrade farmers. They are more expensive but worth it in my book.

  2. This is another issue that seems to be a big debate among “healthy foodists”: raw vs. cooked. Didn’t know where else to ask you this, so figured this would be a good opportunity to bring it up. I think it would be awesome if at some point down the road, you wrote a post addressing the pros and cons of raw and cooked food, and which is the best diet. There seems to be so much information out there, but so many opposing sides that’s it’s difficult to know what the heck to do with your diet (e.g. “Should I eat 100% raw, 80%, 60%…?”, “Is this better cooked and this better raw?”, so on and so forth). Any facts and advice concerning this topic would be much appreciated! =)

    • I may not be the best one for this as I support a “happy” diet for each individual. I don’t think “all raw” or “all juiced” or all anything is necessarily “good” for the individual, but that is for the individual to decide.

      There are different points of life when cooked is better than raw…when undergoing treatment for cancer, for example. Your body has to break down the raw foods in order to be metabolized, and cooked food is “gentler” on your system and allows your body to conserve energy while you recover.

      Whole foods are always best..that is not processed and as close to the natural form as possible, but whether that is whole raw foods or whole steamed foods is up to you. Boiled and fried are not good choices because you lose nutrients in that process of cooking.

      It would be almost impossible for someone to calculate the percentage of the amount of raw foods they eat every day…and who would want to spend energy doing that? 🙂

      Mindful eating is the key……is it processed…is it whole…what is your body going through right now?……

      Each individual must decide what’s best for them at that time. My diet has evolved over the past 7 years dramatically as my needs have evolved.

      I don’t belong to any agendas…I know there are “foodies” out there that want to change everyone’s eating habits to theirs, but I’m just not one of those.

      I know you want a concrete answer but its’ not as simple as that.
      Thanks again! Peace!

  3. Hi, I’d like to start out by saying that I love your blog! Very insightful and informative, and you have a great style of writing.

    As far as this article, there was one point I wanted to bring up. I watched the documentary “Food Matters” on Netflix and have been reading the book “The Gerson Therapy,” and in both, they mention that produce that isn’t certified organic also contains less nutrients. Supposedly, the farmers only leave nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the already depleted soil, and the crops that grow in such an environment are nutrient-deficient. Have you looked into this, at all? Is it a valid concern, or just another delusion?


    • Thanks very much for your nice comments. Usually when a comment starts out that way the person goes on to tell me how I am horribly misinformed about something. (I think your blog is great but…..)
      There was some information in the past that quoted a study saying there are more nutrients in organic. But then there are some more recent larger studies showing the opposite. I need to do some research into who actually funded those studies. I honestly think it haCharleston, SC 29412-2103s to do with which foods you’re testing.
      I can say with 100% certainty that there is a definite difference in the color, taste, and consistency of organic sweet potatoes vs non organic. The same hold true for beets. If beta carotene is exhibited as orange color the organic will win every time.
      You’ve given me an idea for a blog post and I think the next post will be a post about this subject.

      Thanks for reading and for your comment! Stay tuned!

  4. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who has been doing a
    little research on this. And he actually bought me lunch because I discovered it for him.
    .. lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!
    ! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this matter here on your site.

  5. Olive oil should never be heated beyond a low flame (saute)
    due to it’s very low smoke point. Free radicals
    and carcinogens.

    Your recommendation of it’s stovetop use for popcorn
    is unhealthful. You should already know these things
    if you’re putting yourseld out as an expert.

    • Hi John and thanks for your comment!
      I believe you might be mistaken about olive oil. It is very suitable for frying and sautéing. The higher grades (extra-virgin) have a high smoke point (for those of you who don’t know, smoke point is the point where an oil changes from a liquid to a gas and can affect the flavor of the food you are cooking) The smoke point varies depending on the purity of the oil you are using.
      Olive oil is stable and stands up well to high frying temps. Using it for popcorn, the oil should not not reach it’s smoke point (it has never happened to me).

      Also, you referred to me as “an expert”. Please read my “about” page. I do not ever claim to be an expert! Maybe someday 🙂

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate your comment!

  6. Great post! What about popcorn and mattresses? A list linked on the Huffington Post included those as “worth it.” What do you think?

    I love that you’re talking about BPA. I could go on and on about that.

    • Yes, I would definitely say the popcorn is “worth it” as microwave popcorn contains PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) , the same chemical that is leeched when using teflon (see #2 and Sara’s interesting comment)) Unless you want carcinogens instead of butter on your popcorn, better to air pop, or do what I do and use olive oil on top of the stove ( 1-2 tbp oil in a pot with a lid. Med high heat. Put 3 kernels in with the oil, when those kernels pop, pour the rest–3 – 5 tbs kernels, in and keep pot moving with lid on over heat until all kernels are popped)

      As far as the mattress goes, if you bought after 2005, you ok, but before then most were treated with harmful flame retardants. PBDE’s (polybrominated biphenyl) can be found, unfortunately in other things around the house like carpet padding–so give some thought to that if you’re replacing your carpeting.
      Thanks very much for your thoughtful comment!

  7. Hi There — I applaud the idea of creating a safer home, and because there’s so much misinformation out there about Teflon, I’m not surprised that you are concerned. I’m a representative of DuPont though, and hope you’ll let me share some information with you and your readers so that everyone can make truly informed decisions.

    Regulatory agencies, consumer groups and health associations all have taken a close look at Teflon. This article highlights what they found — the bottom line is that you can use Teflon without worry.

    I’d truly be glad to share additional information about it if you are interested, and appreciate your consideration of this comment. Cheers, Sara.

    • Thanks for your comments. I will let my readers decide if they are OK with being exposed to “very little” of a known carcinogen, perfluorooctanoic acid, when they cook.
      Cast iron is a far more sensible, economical, and healthy choice.

      My question is, DuPont, what is a known carcinogen doing in our cookware to begin with? I would love to know your answer and invite you to reply to this comment.

  8. I always wondered about this especially as budget is limited…thanks for the enlightening list 🙂

  9. Very informative. When I drink bottled water I really can tasted the plastic, so that’s a bad sign right there. Another thing is that it’s more plastic to find a place to put when we are done drinking (sometimes only a couple of sips of) it. Reusable containers are always a great alternative, especially if your tap water is drinkable.

  10. Soooo helpful..i am taking this info to the grocery store with me this week!!

  11. Another helpful and sensible post — thanks!

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