Thursday, March 6, 2014

Is Eating Organic Healthier?

March is National Nutrition Month. 

I try to be a healthy eater.  I try to eat mainly organic products and I shy away from GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).  But, is my precaution necessary?
Lately, there’s been controversy surrounding whether organic food is really healthier for you and your family.

According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, “U.S. consumer demand for organically produced goods has grown continuously since USDA established national standards for organic production and processing in 2002.”

But, a September 2012 study in Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that “organic food and conventional food had no significant differences in nutritional value, allergic reactions or incidents of Campylobacter infection, a common cause of bacterial foodborne illness.”

What about pesticides?  That same study found, “Organic foods had lower amounts of detectable pesticide residues. Conventional produce had a 38% risk of contamination, compared to only 7% for organic produce…And, conventional chicken and pork was 33% more likely to contain bacteria resistant to three or more antibiotics than organic poultry or pork.”

Is organic food worth the extra money?  It depends.  Many scientists believe that by thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables, you can lower your exposure to pesticides.  Common sense would also tell you that peeling produce before eating it would further lower levels.  Be aware though that nutritionists caution that peeling some fruits and vegetables lower your intake of essential vitamins and minerals too.  (So, don’t peel your sweet potato because they are delicious - and nutritious!)

Many scientists are also advocating that meat-eaters switch to organic meats because of the possibility of “super bugs.”  As the number of antibiotic-resistant illnesses rise, some medical professionals point to the increasing consumption of factory-farmed meats who are often given copious amounts of antibiotics in order to decrease communicable diseases in the animals living in very close quarters.  (Not to mention the ethical dilemma when you think of how these animals spend their lives.)  Are our meat-eating habits making our bodies immune to conventional medical interventions?  I’ll leave that for you to decide for yourself.

What is a cost-conscious family to do?  Educate yourself on which foods contain the highest levels of pesticides and consider spending your hard-earned money to buy those items grown organically.

The following list is based on information and studies by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Consumer Reports, and the Environmental Working Group.  
The Dirty Dozen include:

  • Celery - shown to contain up to 67 pesticides
  • Peaches - can contain up to 67 different chemicals
  • Strawberries - research showed 53 pesticides
  • Apples - 47 pesticides have been present
  • Domestic Blueberries - 13 pesticides in a single sample
  • Sweet Bell Peppers - traces of 63 different chemicals
  • Spinach/Kale/Collard Greens - spinach can be loaded with 45 pesticides with kale showing 57
  • Imported Grapes - grapes have quick pesticide absorption rates due to their think skins
  • Potatoes - laced with up to 36 chemicals
  • Domestic Cherries - cherries grown in the US have 3 times the pesticide as cherries grown abroad
  • Nectarines - can contain several chemicals because of fast chemical absorption rates
  • Lettuce - can contain up to 51 different pesticides

Conversely, the following list of produce contains the lowest levels of pesticide residue.  (These usually contain thicker skins which protect the fruit inside from pesticide exposure or have inedible peels.)
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn  (Although, more and more corn is now genetically modified.)
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet Peas
  • Eggplant
It’s important to understand what you are putting into your body because food fuels your mind and your muscles.  The dietary choice is yours!

Fitness for Health can help you build a healthier body by creating a customized, exercise regimen that addresses your unique concerns.  Whether you want to decrease your weight, tone, build muscle, increase flexibility or improve your athleticism, we can help you reach your goals!  Visit to learn how we can help you.

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