This post will cover why to choose organic when it comes to fruits and vegetables. If you are new to the game of trying to make healthier choices, it’s a good place to start. Another post down the road will be dedicated to going organic when it comes to meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and well, everything else 😉
There are a lot of skeptics out there when it comes to the “organic” craze, but I think this skepticism comes in large part from a lack of awareness and education on the topic. I think a lot of people automatically think that organic just equates to more expensive and yes sometimes it does. I’ve also heard people say things like, “but I wash my fruits and veggies so it shouldn’t matter.” Stay tuned for the rebuttal on that one!
I want to help kick start the education part and address these common misconceptions. I say kick start, because there is so much more information out there. It’s up to you to continue your research and hopefully make the healthy switch!
About 5 years ago, I began a conscious effort to eat organic fruits and vegetables. I started off using the list you may have heard of called the Dirty Dozen™. This is a list created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) singling out the 12 produce items with the highest pesticide loads. They actually update it every year and they have a list called the Clean Fifteen™ as well with the produce least likely to hold pesticide residues. I started by using these lists, but now I would say that 99% of the time I’m buying all organic fruits and veggies. These lists are a great place to start if you can’t afford, aren’t quite convinced, or are just not ready to make the complete overhaul to all organic.
But why organic? Simply put, organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers for one reason. Why does that matter? Well, I’ve already mentioned…pesticides. What are pesticides exactly? Non-organic farmers spray pesticides on their crops to kill weeds and insects. These pesticides don’t just remain on the outer layer of a fruit or vegetable, but are absorbed into it, so there goes that idea about being safe because you wash your fruit. Well, how do we know this? We know this because it has been tested by the EWG. They test produce even after it has been washed and peeled. That’s actually how they measure their pesticide levels when creating the Dirty Dozen™ and Clean Fifteen™ lists. Yikes, that must mean those Dirty Dozen™ are really dirty and toxic if the pesticides are that high after being washed and peeled. The National Pesticide Information Center even confirms this information by stating that washing produce reduces pesticide levels but doesn’t completely remove them.
The jury is still out and there is a lot of conflicting information out there about the full effect of pesticides on the body.
The following excerpt is from EWG’s article Five Essential Facts about Pesticides on Fruits and Vegetables.
“Research confirms that pesticide exposure can harm us in serious ways. Conventional growers use synthetic pesticides that can damage our brain and nervous system, disrupt our hormones and contribute to cancer. In developing children, pesticide exposure contributes to neurological problems, which impair learning, memory and attention. Kids eat more food than adults relative to their size, and are less capable of processing chemicals that enter their small bodies. Both factors make them especially vulnerable to the hazardous effects of these chemicals.” –Megan Boyle, HCHW Editorial Director
I mean that’s scary stuff and you can go find even more research on it. Reading articles like this helped push me to starting with the Dirty Dozen™ and Clean Fifteen™. There are other benefits aside from avoiding chemicals and toxins that wreak havoc on the body. First, if you haven’t had organic fruits and veggies, I’m very excited for you to try them, because I swear and others attest, that they definitely taste better! It makes sense too… if the soil is healthy and nourished, free from chemicals; it is then going to create healthy, thriving, great tasting plants.
By choosing organic fruits and vegetables you are also avoiding GMOs which is again, a whole other blog post coming your way soon 😉 Because organically grown food cannot be genetically modified in any way, choosing organic is the only way to be sure that foods that have been genetically engineered stay out of your diet. Why is that important and why should you be concerned about GMOs? I’ll just leave you will the following reasons until I visit the topic in the future. Various studies in animals that were fed GMOs have resulted in tumors, damaged immune systems, smaller brains and livers, birth defects, reproductive problems and infertility. GMOs have also been linked with allergies, various digestive and bowel syndromes and even autism in humans.
Those are just a few of the many reasons why to choose organic. I didn’t even get into the green side and how organic farming supports, eco-sustenance, reduces pollution and protects our water and soil. Oh and if the price of organic fruits and vegetables is scary at first, try looking into shopping local (at a farmer’s market near you or from larger stores that advertise carrying local produce) to find the best deals. Shopping whatever is in season will help too. For example, trying to find organic strawberries in the winter for a reasonable price is going to be tough, but other fruits thrive in the winter months so shop these instead. These two things along with starting by eating organic when avoiding the Dirty Dozen™ will help make the switch more reasonable and less shocking to your wallet.
If you are interested in learning more, that’s a great place to start, just being interested! For me, it was like an addiction for awhile. The more information I gained, the more shocked (and grossed out) I was and the more I wanted to know and do something about it. If you are into documentaries, which I definitely am, I would suggest browsing the food ones on Netflix. Some of my favorites are Food Fight (2008), Vegucated (2011), Forks Over Knives (2011), Hungry For Change (2012), Fed Up (2014) and Food Inc. (2008). These aren’t necessarily dedicated to the organic topic, but they all touch on it at some point and the information in these documentaries will literally blow your mind and change you! Until next time…
Lots of love and good health,
Tasha, The Non-Toxic Newbie