Organic Foods

Friday night our celiac support group had a guest speaker.  She was a woman who works for the USDA and has 25+ years of nutrition research experience.  She also happens to have celiac disease.  I found her presentation on organic foods interesting and took some notes I thought I would share with you.  I’m sorry if it sounds disjointed as I mention points that were addressed in the well prepared slide presentation.

In the U.S., organic means the food was grown without any synthetic fertilizer or sewage and is free of pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, GMO’s, artificial food additives and irradiation.

Food labeled organic has to contain at least 95% organic ingredients.  Both organic and 100% organic foods fall under the “USDA Organic” label.

Note:  My notes were incomplete on the following two lists, so I used the Internet to fill in the few I was missing.

If you are only going to buy some organic foods, the most important foods to buy organic are:

  • peaches
  • apples
  • pears
  • potatoes
  • bell peppers
  • celery
  • nectarines
  • carrots
  • strawberries
  • cherries
  • grapes
  • kale
  • leafy greens (Did you know that greens are packaged in the field?)

Foods that you don’t need to worry about are:

  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • blueberries
  • kiwi
  • mango
  • onion
  • watermelon
  • peas
  • bananas
  • avocado
  • cabbage
  • garlic
  • sweet corn
  • pineapple
  • mango
  • eggplant
  • papaya

While some people talk about nutrient depletion of soil, a bigger problem is that our foods have been modified to grow faster.  Faster growth means less time in the soil and less time to absorb nutrients.

Fresh is better than frozen, frozen is better than canned.  The nutrient content of fresh food is always better than frozen.  It’s best if foods are allowed to ripen on the plant.

A recent study found that organic foods are not better nutritionally than non organic foods.  What the study did not address is the amount of pesticides and other things that can be harmful to our health.  Just because they have the same amount of nutrition does mean they are the same.

We had some discussion about possible risks associated with non organic food, especially pesticide use.  The speaker did recommend using a vegetable wash on non organic fruit and vegetables.  At the end, she briefly shared her experience of being able to lose weight when she did an organic food detoxification diet.

Recent studies have linked pesticide exposure to increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, including this study done by Harvard School of Public Health.

Grass fed beef is better than corn fed.  “Grass finished” means they fed the cows grass in the last few weeks before slaughter.  They have found that doing this keeps them from having to use antibiotics.  Many, however, choose to feed corn the entire time because it is cheaper.

The movie Food, Inc. came out in June.  If you click the link you can watch the trailer.  I look forward to watching it when the DVD is released in November.  As someone in the trailer points out, we’re voting every time we go to the store.  We’re voting for organic or non organic, local or not.

I will finish with where the speaker began.  Many of us (depending on your age) grew up on organic food, not because our mom’s went to an organic market, but because that was how all food was produced.  Our moms went to the store multiple times a week, sometimes daily.  We want to shop once a week.  Food is naturally perishable, so something has to be done to make it last longer. 

Times have changed, and food has changed.  Most of us would agree that it hasn’t changed for the better.  I’m sure that fingers can be pointed in numerous directions, but I got wondering how much it should be pointed at me.  What part have I played as a consumer in encouraging bad practices and changes to food?  More importantly, what can I do now to help bring about change for the good?  In these economic times, many of us are trying to cut the grocery budget, but we must remember that, like it or not, we’re voting with our money.

Where do you stand on the issue of organic food?




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Comments

  1. Kathryn says:

    Oh, organic! I know that some of the recent "studies" have shown there is no difference, but i don't believe it.

    I do believe that many of the illnesses we see these days are directly related to the way food is grown, produced, processed, packaged, & served. Many of the cheapest ingredients are chemicals (such as MSG) added to boost flavor & less of the actual "food" has to be added. There are folks who call MSG "cancer fodder."

    Eating non-processed, organic, home prepared foods as much of the time as possible is the true path to health.

    And, for those of us with gluten sensitivities, preparing food at home reduces contamination. Probably preaching to the choir here, & you probably cook at home more than i, but i do believe it is an important step to health.

  2. One of my friends studied abroad in Costa Rica when she was in college. They visited a banana farm there, and ever since she always buys organic bananas. The farm was conventional (not organic) and she says there was no sign of life outside of the bananas. No drone of bees or buzzing of mosquitoes. No bugs or birds flew around at all because of the pesticides. Anything that can completely eradicate signs of life is pretty scary. I can't afford to buy all organic, but after hearing that, I always spend the extra money on organic bananas.

  3. GF Gidget says:

    Thank you for a great post! I am a big believer in eating organic whenever possible. As long as you plan your weekly meals, organic food is completely affordable. You just have to shop smart and in season.

  4. The Gluten-free 'Dish' says:

    I strongly support buying organics. When my son, who is now 14,was a baby I began searching for organic food. The price was higher and the drive to the store was longer, but it was worth it to me. I make it a priority.

    I believe you can pay the price now by purchasing organics or unfortunately will pay the price in poor health down the road. Toxins are poisons that I don't want in my food.

    Thanks for the summary and I'm glad to know that the Food, Inc. movie will be on DVD, because we were unable to attend. I didn't think my 8 year old would eat anymore if he saw that movie!

  5. Most of the time I do buy organic and I feel it's a healthier market to support!

    Great post!

  6. gfe--gluten free easily says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this info, Linda. I'll pass on the link to my support group members, too–they'll appreciate it.

    Those studies … aargh. What value is a study that doesn't look at the pesticide factor? I swear they do all these studies on tiny numbers of subjects (fruit, people, whatever) and never disclose all the variables involved, then you hear one sound bite on the evening news. So people go "okay, then, that proves it … no need to eat organic."

    While I don't eat totally organic for a number of reasons (availability, cost, etc.), I do appreciate the value of organic.

    Shirley

  7. Hi Linda – http://www.ewg.org (the environmental working group) is a great place to get data on organics and the top foods most contaminated. Great post! :)

  8. Brenna Kater, the Oceanskater says:

    Linda, here is some info on the most recent "dirty dozen" list: http://oceanskater.blogspot.com/2009/03/dirty-dozen-list-has-changed-for.html

  9. cottagesweet says:

    I definitely believe in eating organic fresh foods. It's well worth the little extra monies spent on them and the savings from better health far outweighs the extra cost.

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