Tag Archives: organic food

Organics vs. Conventional Foods

Organic vs ConventionalBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

We make health decisions every day when we decide what we are going to eat, whether we are going to exercise, or how much sleep we need.  Think about this.  Everything you eat is either an investment in or a detriment to your health.  When it comes to food is organically grown food healthier, more nutritious or simply better for you?  A recent Stanford University study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that there is no nutritional difference between conventionally grown and organically grown foods.  Some consumer advocacy groups, fellow researchers, and environmental organizations cried foul, suggesting that the study had ties to conventional agriculture giant Cargill.  Lisa Lapin, a Stanford spokesperson, denied this stating that the money went to a department not directly involved in the research. 

Kirsten Brandt of Newcastle University published her study findings in 2011 with the opposite conclusion that organically grown food was indeed nutritionally distinct.  Brandt’s analysis showed that organic produce boasted up to 40% higher levels of some nutrients, such as vitamin C, zinc, iron, and polyphenols.  Given that these analyses came to different conclusions, we can assume that more studies will be done before we know the health impact of the nutritional differences of organics versus conventional.  We do, however, have enough information that extends beyond nutrients to make personal decisions about food we eat.

The Stanford study did address pesticide residue and antibiotic resistant bacteria, which were lower or nonexistent in organics compared to conventional foods.  Researchers noted that pesticide residues were found in 7% of organics and 38% of conventional foods.  The study did not take into account the quantity of each pesticide, if there were multiple pesticides found or whether they were more or less harmful types of pesticides.  They were quick to point out that all pesticide levels generally fell within federal guidelines.  Some would argue that any amount of pesticide is too high, especially when it comes to young children and infants. 

Pesticides are toxins and the majority of our pesticide exposure comes directly from dietary sources.  Measurable amounts of pesticides can be found in children’s urine.  Increasingly, studies suggest that even small amounts of pesticides can be detrimental to developing bodies and leave some scientists and researchers wondering if pesticides are the “next lead.”  The medical community has concerns about the health impact of pesticides on children’s underdeveloped immune systems, the disruption of endocrine functions and the toxicity to their nervous systems and organs, including the brain and liver.  Studies have shown pesticides to be noticeably reduced or eliminated after only 5 days of restriction from pesticide laced foods. 

While we may disagree over the nutrient content of foods, here is what we do know about organic farming.  Organic farming methods encourage soil and water conservation and reduce contamination of air, water, soil, food, and human bodies by avoiding antibiotics, hormones, synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  Genetically engineered (GMO) foods are prohibited from organic certification.  Organic farming methods rely on crop rotation, crop cycling and composting to nourish soil fertility.  Organically raised animals are given organic  feed and are not given antibiotics, growth hormones or fed animal byproducts.  Animals are given access to the outdoors which helps keep them healthy and allows them freedom to move.  Organic produce is grown with natural fertilizers such as compost or manure, weeds are controlled naturally by tilling, mulching or hand weeding and insects are controlled using natural methods such as traps or beneficial insects. 

For many of us, the decision of choosing organics over conventional products boils down to cost and convenience.  What amount of hormones, prophylactic antibiotics and chemical pesticides do you find acceptable in your foods or what you feed your children?   We know we need to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day for optimal health.  We can take action to minimize our exposure by making the shift to eliminate the conventional varieties of certain foods known to contain the largest amounts of pesticide residues.  Known as the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean 15,” you may want to consider the following guidelines and take this list to the store with you.  One thing we know for certain, pesticides have adverse effects on human health.  If you want to improve or protect your health, reduce your amount of dietary pesticide exposure.

The Dirty Dozen (Plus)    The Clean 15 
Buy organic varieties if at all possible: Okay to buy conventional varieties:
1.      Apples 1.     Asparagus
2.      Celery 2.     Avocados
3.      Cherry Tomatoes 3.     Cabbage
4.      Cucumbers 4.     Cantaloupe/Watermelon
5.      Grapes 5.     Sweet Corn
6.      Hot Peppers 6.     Eggplant
7.      Nectarines (Imported) 7.     Grapefruit
8.      Peaches 8.     Kiwi
9.      Potatoes 9.     Mangoes
10.  Spinach 10.  Mushrooms
11.  Strawberries 11.  Onions
12.  Sweet Bell Peppers 12.  Papayas
13.  Kale/Collards 13.  Pineapples
14.  Summer Squash 14.  Sweet Peas
15.  SweetPotatoes

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Host Defense logoBy Susan Brown

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