If you have been to the grocery store lately, you have probably noticed the ever-expanding organic produce section. Maybe you’ve thought about buying organic for you and your family, or maybe you already do. But how important is it, really? Is this some passing fad? And can’t you just wash your produce really well? Well, maybe.
Pesticides are the chemicals used during the growing process to kill organisms that might otherwise invade and kill the crops. There are two primary distinctions when it comes to pesticides: chemical and biological. For my purposes today, chemical pesticides are what I will be discussing.
Chemical pesticides are used primarily for the purpose of yielding larger crops, or reducing crop loss to environmental pests. It is effective from a farming standpoint, but the trouble with this strategy is that the chemicals can seep through produce, especially those which are thin-skinned, and remain both inside and outside the plant. Even peeling the plants cannot completely remove pesticide risk. (Nevermind that you are ditching the often-nutrient-dense peel.) When you ingest non-organic produce, you also ingest these chemical pesticides.
According to www.globalhealingcenter.com, pesticides are toxic to humans and other animals in some of the following ways:
-Fetuses may suffer from exposure and exhibit behavioral problems and growth issues.
-Children may have lower cognitive scores, fewer nerve cells, and impaired growth.
-Pesticides may lower your resistance to other environmental toxins.
-There could be a 70% greater increase or more of developing Parkinson’s Disease later in life.
-Pesticide ingestion can result in fatigue.
-Pesticides can result in reproductive damage. (There is a large correlation in pesticide use in this country and the decline of fertility in humans.)
-Pesticides can result in or exacerbate existing breathing problems.
The problem with pesticide symptoms, is that they are cumulative. So you may eat a non-organic apple and feel no differently than if you had consumed an organic one, but 365 apples a day down the line, you now have chemical poisoning. Since the pesticides affect children more readily than adults, your kids may be experiencing toxic effects before you are.
From my own personal experience, I can tell you this: the longer you have been away from pesticide-laden foods, the more you will be able to spot them by taste. Four years ago, I couldn’t tell an organic strawberry from a non-organic one. Three months ago, I bought non-organic strawberries for a dessert and could not manage to choke them down. All I could taste was the chemicals. My four-year-old son took a bite of a non-organic apple awhile back, (the store was out of organic ones) and he actually asked, “Mommy, what is wrong with my apple? It tastes funny!”.
But on to the next, equally-important question: how can you possibly afford to buy organic produce? That’s a toughie! Here are some of my strategies: We have virtually eliminated eating out. We do it just a few times a year, and it has really saved on our budget. I prep food in bulk, and freeze if I need to. That way I can buy sales, and my husband and I have leftovers for lunches. We buy our meat in bulk to save, and my husband hunts and fishes. As of this year, I am planting a garden to attempt to grow my own organic produce. Also, if you live in an area that participates in bountiful baskets program (www.bountifulbaskets.org) I would encourage you to take advantage of that. It has saved our family at least $30 a week on buying organic.
One of the best ways to buy organic on a budget involves being selective. You may have already heard of the “Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean Fifteen”. They are lists of the types of produce that are most likely to carry heavy pesticide loads. The list is comprised by taking different types of produce and testing their levels of pesticide contamination. These lists can be yielded by a simple Google search, and are released and modified each year. The list for 2013 is as follows:
Dirty Dozen (Always buy these items in organic): Apples, Strawberries, Grapes, Celery, Peaches, Spinach (This is true for most leafy greens.), Sweet Bell Peppers, Nectarines, Cucumbers, Potatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, and Hot Peppers.
Clean Fifteen (If you are on a budget, skip buying these items in organic): Sweet Corn, Onions, Pineapple, Avocado, Cabbage, Sweet Peas, Papaya, Mangos, Asparagus, Eggplant, Kiwi, Grapefruit, Cantaloupe, Sweet Potato, Mushrooms.
So as you’re on your journey to better health, and increasing your produce consumption, you may want to consider seeking out organic sources for you and your family. Your health (and your taste buds) will thank you in the long run!
Yours in health,
Photo courtesy of USAToday.com.