If you are like me, you have asked yourself, "What is the hype about organic produce, is it really better for me, and is it worth the money?". I have done a lot of reading about this and wanted to share with you what I have found.
Organic produce is grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, or hormones. Organic farming works with the land. Crops are rotated to allow soil to retain nutrients, animals graze in different areas each season to let grass replenish, and farmers feed the soil with compost, rather than artificial fertilizer. This type of farming is a long-term, sustainable method for producing crops.
Conventional, or non-organic produce, relies on large-scale farming, which involves the use of chemicals, to yield a plentiful crop. This type of farming works against the natural cycles of the earth by depleting vital minerals and nutrients found in soil. When eating conventionally grown items we are subjected to the chemical residue that is left on the produce. A conventionally grown apple contains 20-30 artificial chemicals on its skin, even after washing. These chemicals have been shown to cause cancer, liver, kidney, and blood disease.
Fresh, organic produce contains more vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and micronutrients than conventional produce. Organic fruits and veggies have 50%-60% higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants than non-organic fruits and veggies.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to improving public health and the environment. They have developed a “Dirty Dozen” list of conventional fruits and veggies that have been found to contain the largest amount of pesticide residue. They have also formulated a “Clean 15” list of conventional fruits and veggies that have been found to have the lowest amount of chemical residue.
You can use this list as a guide when you are grocery shopping. It will help you focus in on what items are most important to buy organic. Hopefully this will help maximize your dollar!
Most grocery stores have a specific "organic" section but if something is not clear you can refer to a fruit or veggie's PLU code. The International Federation for Produce Coding standardizes PLU codes for ALL grocery stores. This is the purpose of that little white sticker found on produce!
Conventional fruit and veggies usually have a 4-digit number and begin with a 3 or a 4. A conventional banana would have a PLU of 4011.
Organic fruits and vegetables have a 5-digit number and begin with a 9. An organic banana would have a PLU of 94011.
Genetically modified fruits and veggies have a 5-digit number and begin with an 8. A GM banana would have a PLU of 84011.
I encourage everyone to buy organic when possible, especially if the item is on the "Dirty Dozen" list. It is more expensive up front but you are doing something good for yourself and your family. By eating clean and wholesome you are preventing chronic conditions, improving vitality, and encouraging sustainable farming practices! Happy shopping!
-Statistics in this post are from "Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health and Happiness" by Joshua Rosenthal