It’s Q & A Thursday Nutrition Junkies! Today’s question comes from Cara in Burlington, ON.
Cara asks: Do I need to buy all my food organic to be healthy and should I be spending the extra money on things like ketchup and sauces?
A: The reality is, no you don’t need to buy all or only organic foods to be healthy. However, that being said, there are studies that show that organic food is actually healthier for you, despite what some reports may claim. This is an on-going debate within the nutrition community, but when you start do the research, you will see a lot of evidence pointing towards why organic is better. For the research specifics and to clarify confusion this article is a great resource:
The soil in which our crops are grown in today is not as pure and clean as it once used to be. Mass commercial farming and the widespread use of pesticides has shifted much of our food supply from healthful to questionable.
When a food is labelled “organic,” it means that it was grown in an environment without the use of or strict limits of the use of fertilizer, pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides and fungicides), plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics, food additives, and genetically modified organisms (GMO).
These items can have a seriously negative impact on our health and diminish the nutritional value of the food itself. For more information on national standards and regulations around organic check out: http://www.cog.ca/index.php?page=national_standards_regulations
Organic foods are naturally higher in components like flavonoids and polyphenols, such as resveratrol which offer amazing health benefits including: potential cancer-prevention, heart health and ant-inflammatory effects.
Interestingly enough one study showed a connection between pregnant women’s pesticide exposure and their babies not being carried to full term, underweight babies, and a higher risk of birth defects. (http://www.organic-center.org/reportfiles/Nutrient_Content_SSR_Executive_Summary_2008.pdf)
But don’t panic! You don’t need to purchase absolutely everything organic to get the most out of your food and protect yourself and your loved ones. Some items more than others are worth the extra investment as they carry higher pesticide contamination. Here is a detailed list that can help guide you in the right direction to get you started.
Fruits and Vegetables
Many fruits and vegetables have thin or edible skins that can hold onto pesticide residue. One might think just because a fruit or vegetable has a thick skin it has greater protection from pesticide spray. But this is not always true. Here is a list ranked from highest to lower pesticide load that you definitely want to consider purchasing organic:
Peaches, Apples, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Grapes, Pears, Raspberries, Plums, Cantaloupe, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Blueberries
Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Lettuce, Spinach, Potatoes, Carrots, Green Beans, Hot Peppers, Cucumbers, Cauliflower, Mushrooms, Winter Squash, Tomatoes, Sweet Potatoes
Milk, Meat, Eggs & Animal Products
The majority of commercial meat and dairy products on the market are not only loaded with pesticides (from the food the animals eat) but also with antibiotics and hormones, which then we as the consumer also take in. Many of these animals are raised in unethical environments, stuffed up in small confined spaces with little room for movement, creating a breeding ground for germs and viruses.
Coffee & Peanuts
These are two of the deadliest items on the most highly sprayed list. If you do choose to consume these items, opt for organic to reduce your pesticide exposure.
Labels You Can Trust
When choosing organic look for these two symbols above. Both Canada and the USA provide regulation around organic product and these can be found at many of your local grocery stores.
Lastly, just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it’s good for you! A lot of companies and manufacturers are jumping on the green health train and choosing to go organic in order to promote their product. Just because it’s labeled “organic ketchup” or “organic mac n’ cheese” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Take the time to read up on food labels and ingredient lists to see what they are really putting into your food.
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