Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Importance of Eating Organic! (Not to be taken lightly)

The Importance of Eating Organic! (Not to be taken lightly)

It’s a no brainer that increasing our consumption of whole foods, fruits and vegetable will better our health, but only to a degree. It is important that we take into account the quality of our food, not just the concept. Some of the 'healthiest foods', i.e., the foods highest in essential nutrients and are familiar, affordable and great tasting, are the same foods that are artificially, chemically, synthetically and genetically produced. As a result of this, the human body is not only being robbed of the nutrients it needs to sustain itself, but it is also being exposed to dangerous chemicals that can cause serious harm. And that's the dilemma. But it doesn't have to be a dilemma any longer because we have found the solution to the problem. Organic food provides essential nutrients to help us maintain a certain level of vitality.

Organic by definition means food from plants and animals that are produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, artificial pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, growth hormones, feed additives or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic foods must be legally certified organic by a certified body. For standard and simplicity reasons it is the legal definition of organic food that is used to determine whether foods are organic or non-organic. Natural does not constitute organic. Natural is a term that many grocers and consumers use to describe that foods have been minimally processed or contain no preservatives. Natural is also a great marketing tool to deceive shoppers into thinking the food is better for you. There is no regulation on throwing out terms such as natural to describe a product. To be certified organic is to have a label that meets all USDA criteria and specifies its integrity as being a pure product. 

Once found only in health food stores, organic food is now a regular feature at most supermarkets. This has created a bit of a dilemma in the produce isle. On one hand you have a conventionally grown apple. On the other, you have one that is organic. Both apples look similar. Shiny in color, firm to the touch and both provide vitamins and fiber. The conventional apple is cheaper and the organic apple is higher in cost. Without real knowledge of the benefits of the organic apple, the cost will easily drive your choice around which apple to choose.

Myth: Organic food is too expensive:

Fact: In general, organic food costs more than conventional food because of the laborious and time-intensive systems used by the typically smaller organic farms. You may find that the  benefits of organic agriculture off-set this additional cost. At the same time, there are ways to purchase organic while sticking to your budget. Consider the following when questioning the price of organic:
·         Organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies like conventional farmers do. Therefore, the price of organic food reflects the true cost of growing.
·         The price of conventional food does not reflect the cost of environmental cleanups that we pay for through    our tax dollars.
·         Organic farming is more labor and management intensive.

Here are some key differences between conventional farming and organic farming:
Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth.
Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.
Spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease.
Use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.
Use herbicides to manage weeds.
Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.
Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth.
Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

The negative impacts of not eating organic:

There is so significant difference in the nutrient content and quality of conventional food vs., organic; however the difference in how they are handled and produced can have an impact on your health. Eating conventional produce and meats exposes you to all types of chemicals, synthetic hormones and antibiotics, not to mention that it has a longer shelf life from being irradiated and preserved. Organic meets a much fresher standard and usually has a much better taste. Eating conventional foods can be extremely harmful and detrimental to your health because of the chemical pesticides being used. Consumers may believe that once you rinse off your produce with water it will not contain any more pesticides. In fact, that is not true. Pesticides remain on, and more importantly, in the conventional produce you are eating even after you rinse it off with water.  This is causing long-term health effects to many Americans. In 1995 and again in 2002, the USDA found that of the 12 most commonly eaten produce items and wheat samples, 73%-90% were contaminated by pesticides, even after washing and peeling. The amount of pesticides in food is also being exposed to children. Children eat on an average of 5 different pesticides a day through their food. Out of the twenty-five most common pesticides used for produce, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have revealed serious health hazards to American consumers.

25 most common pesticides and their effects:
·         Five are toxic to the nervous system.
·         Eighteen of the pesticides are harmful to the skin, eyes, and lungs. 
·         Half of the pesticides are comprised on cancer-causing chemicals
·          Seventeen pesticides can cause genetic damage.
·         Six pesticides disrupt normal functions of hormones.
·         Ten are damaging to the reproductive organs.

The image above depicts a conventional farmer spraying their crops. In the image, the    pesticides that are being sprayed are not only covering the plants, but it is also going up in the air. The chemicals look like hazy cloud that begins to cover the landscape in the background.  During the early 2000’s Americans were becoming more aware of the depleting of their natural resources. 

Pesticides are not the sole cause of diseases for Americans. However, consuming high amounts and a variety of pesticides on a daily based could trigger health problems like those listed above.
Along with causing health effects to Americans, conventional farming is also creating negative impacts on the environment. One effect of pesticides on the environment is contamination to our fresh water supply. According to OM Organics, the United States uses over 800 million pounds of pesticides each year. These pesticides are contaminating our fresh water wells in our country. “Ironically, the conventional agriculture industry uses approximately 70% of our freshwater to grow its crops, and yet it is responsible for the most contamination to its own essential resource” (OM Organics, 2009). Pesticides are also the primary cause of “dead zones” in the ocean. A few dead zone locations caused by pesticides are; the Gulf of Mexico, the Black Sea, and the Baltic Sea. Not only are pesticides contaminating our freshwater supply it is also disrupting ecosystems. Fish are being killed because of the pesticides running off from the fields into the water systems
Organic farming does not use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides to maintain its crops. With organic farming, there are not harmful chemicals and nitrogen leaching. Instead, organic farming uses manure, composts, and rotate crops in order to build healthy soil and naturally control weeds, insects, and disease. The primary goal of organic farming is to build and preserve healthy soil. Fresh water and oceans are not affected by organic farming because they do not cause runoffs. Organic farming also reduces the impact of global warming because it does not use all the fossil fuels that are normally used in conventional farming.
The dirtiest and more contaminated produce (BUY ORGANIC):
12 Most Contaminated
§                                 Peaches                               
§                                 Apples
§                                 Sweet Bell Peppers
§                                 Celery
§                                 Nectarines
§                                 Strawberries
§                                 Cherries
§                                 Pears
§                                 Grapes (Imported)
§                                 Spinach
§                                 Lettuce
§                                 Potatoes
Produce you can get away with buying conventional:
12 Least Contaminated
§                                 Onions
§                                 Avocado
§                                 Sweet Corn (Frozen)     
§                                 Pineapples
§                                 Mango
§                                 Asparagus
§                                 Sweet Peas (Frozen)
§                                 Kiwi Fruit
§                                 Bananas
§                                 Cabbage
§                                 Broccoli
§                                 Papaya

To eat well, says Michael Pollan, the author of “In Defense of Food,” means avoiding “edible food-like substances” and sticking to real ingredients, increasingly from the plant kingdom. (Americans each consume an average of nearly two pounds a day of animal products.) There’s plenty of evidence that both a person’s health — as well as the environment’s — will improve with a simple shift in eating habits away from animal products and highly processed foods to plant products and what might be called “real food.”  From these changes, Americans would reduce the amount of land, water and chemicals used to produce the food we eat, as well as the incidence of lifestyle diseases linked to unhealthy diets and greenhouse gases from industrial meat production. Michelle Obama began digging up a patch of the South Lawn of the White House to plant an organic vegetable garden to provide food for the first family and, more important, to educate children about healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become national concerns. But Mrs. Obama also emphasized that there were many changes Americans can make if they don’t have the time or space for an organic garden. “You can begin in your own cupboard,” she said, “by eliminating processed food, trying to cook a meal a little more often, trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.”
There is much value that can be derived from taking a proactive and most importantly conscious approach around our diet and the kind’s foods we are putting in our mouth. Each person has a choice on how they want to play a part in improving their health and well being as well as the planets. Eating organic is bigger than we thought in that it has a powerful effect on the future of man kind.
 For information on how you can become more informed on the benefits of switching to organics CLICK HERE.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What if you use Environne (the fruit & vegetable wash that you can find at Trader Joe's or WHF) by soaking your produce in it and scrubbing/washing them before cooking/consuming them.

Does that help?