Organic Foods – Are they really better for us?

The organic food market continues to grow worldwide as consumers strive to make food choices that are better for their health and the environment.

Organic certification varies from country to country, but typically, organic foods are to be produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic modification. Animal products labeled as organic are to come from animals raised without the use of antibiotics and growth hormones and fed with feed that is free of genetically modified substances, chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

Although pesticide residues are sometimes found on a percentage of certain organic crops, the numbers of pesticides used and the residue levels are far lower on organic crops compared with non-organic crops. Residues on organic produce are due to the fact that DDT and other pesticides banned decades ago do not easily break down and are therefore still present in soil, rain and ground water. In fact, when persistent pesticides such as DDT are excluded, the percentage of organic samples with pesticide residues falls significantly.

A study conducted by Boulder Colorado's Organic Centre looked at 97 published studies conducted since 1980 which compared the nutritional quality of organic and non-organic foods. The researchers stated that the difference between organic and non-organic foods was not only consistent, but sizable enough to conclude that on average, organically-grown foods are more nutritious. In fact, organically grown crops were 25% more nutrient-dense compared with crops that were conventionally-grown. They also contained higher levels of 8 of the 11 nutrients which were measured, including higher levels of important antioxidants. There was also evidence that the nutrients in organically grown foods are often in a form that makes it easier for the body to absorb and utilize them.

While organic foods are becoming more affordable, most do cost more. Here are the most important foods to buy organic:

Eating organic is especially important for both men and women wishing to conceive, pregnant or lactating women, infants and children. Note that children are more sensitive to pesticide residues due to their higher metabolism and many underdeveloped organ systems. Even a single serving of some produce items can deliver unsafe levels of toxic pesticide residues to young children.

Organic or not, it is important to wash ALL produce with a biodegradable cleaner to decrease pesticide residues. While peeling produce is often noted as a way to eliminate chemical residues (as they are often concentrated on, in or just beneath the skin), it will also remove many important nutrients, including powerful antioxidants that are often also concentrated in and/or just beneath the skin.

Buying local, organic foods supports your community - and it is better for the environment. A trip to a local, organic farmers market makes for a fantastic outing! You will find a wonderful assortment of fresh produce, grass fed meats, free range poultry and eggs, delicious home-made condiments, baking and more!


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