Organic foods and organic farming have become a topic of interest, especially in the last few years. For a long time organic products could only be found in health food stores. Now their presence alongside your favorite products in the grocery stores is resulting in a host of questions as well as some confusion. It’s important to understand what organically grown foods are and why they are beneficial to our health.
Organic foods are those that are grown with organic farming methods. These methods are focused on conserving soil and water as well as reducing pollution. Organic farmers don’t use the conventional methods of fertilizing and controlling weeds and pests. This is a much more natural method of farming.
In conventional farming, very often dairy cows are injected with hormones to keep them producing milk after a calf is born. Chickens are sometimes injected with growth hormones. Hormones injected into livestock often make their way back to the humans consuming the livestock or its products (eggs, milk, cheese, etc.). This excess hormone intake may be related to hormonal imbalances that can contribute to a host of problems including PMS, PMDD and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Antibiotics are used excessively in conventionally raised livestock. This is to prevent the spread of illness or infection in the livestock. The important thing to recognize is that these antibiotics also make their way back to the humans consuming them. This can result in the development of bacteria and illnesses that are resistant to antibiotics.
Pesticides are used in conventional farming methods to kill weeds as well as insects and pests that threaten the plants. These pesticides can be poisonous to humans causing a host of health problems including respiratory issues and possibly contributing to the occurrence of cancer.
Genetically modified foods are those that have been genetically altered in some way to enhance the growth of the plant or its hardiness to outside factors.
Organically grown livestock are raised without the antibiotics and hormones used in conventionally grown livestock. Organically grown produce is farmed without the use of fertilizers and pesticides and are not genetically modified. Organic foods have been proven to contain higher percentages of nutrients and represents a more natural and healthy source of food.
The Dirty Dozen Plus
Some produce and other foods are exposed to higher levels of pesticides when conventionally grown. These are especially important to purchase organic.
The “dirty dozen” represents the twelve produce items that contain the highest levels of pesticides. These are fruits and veggies that you should always buy organic.
The Dirty Dozen includes: Apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes.
The “plus” produce of the “dirty dozen plus” are hot peppers and domestically grown blueberries. These two are especially concerning because they may contain organophosphate insecticides which are highly toxic.
The produce in the category of “dirty dozen plus” should always be purchased organic to avoid the high levels of pesticides that can be found in them.
Packaged Foods to Always Purchase Organic
Popcorn: Have you ever thought about where the corn from your microwave bag of popcorn comes from? Unfortunately around 88% of corn grown in the US is genetically engineered and farmed conventionally meaning that it can contain a host of dangerous chemicals. Organic popping corn is much healthier alternative to microwave popcorn.
Bread: Many people associate organic foods with fruits and veggies. Believe it or not, it’s just as good of an idea to purchase organic bread! The elements used to make bread’ wheat, rye, and barley are often sprayed with an insecticide called malathion. Malathion is also used to kill head lice and fleas. It’s not something you want to eat in your toast!
Canola Oil: Canola oil is one of the first ingredients in many salad dressings. And, 90% of canola in the United States is genetically modified. It is often sprayed with heavier pesticides as it has been genetically modified to be hardier to these chemicals.
Cereal: Breakfast cereals contain a host of ingredients likely to be genetically modified; wheat, corn, corn syrup, sugar and canola oil. Even natural cereals are not necessarily organic. Be cautious in purchasing any cereal that is not deemed organic.
Ketchup: Ketchup remains one of the most popularly used condiments. Made from tomatoes that have a high likelihood of being exposed to pesticides, non-organic ketchup likely contains pesticides itself. Purchasing organic ketchup not only prevents your exposure to these chemicals, but is more nutritional than conventional ketchup.
Buying organic foods is a great way to ensure the health and wellness of your family. You can reduce exposure to toxic chemicals, hormones and antibiotics as well as consume a more nutritious product when purchasing organic. If you’re not quite ready to make the full leap to eating all organic, at least take into consideration the foods that contain the highest levels of pesticides and genetic modification. Use the information above to make educated decisions about what you feed yourself and your family.