“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?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Milk – milk 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!
- 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.
- 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
- Avocados, boccoli, asparagus, and onions – have repeatedly tested low in pesticide residue. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wash it thoroughly.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”