In the past decade you have most likely noticed a new section crop up in the Fresh Produce aisle of your grocery store or perhaps observed new advertisements of 'Organic Produce' at your local Farmers' Market. There are even convenient online Organic Grocers' cropping up across the country, for your Organic Shopping delight, such as Real Food Market of St. John's (www.shoprealfood.ca), making it convenient and more affordable to get fresh synthetic pesticide-free Deliciousness at the click of a button! In today's chemical-laden world, it seems for many the logical decision to make the shift from purchasing Conventional Fruits & Veg to Organic. Or maybe you don't see what all the fuss is about. If you are like me, you can see the importance of choosing Organic but due to your geographical location (and the subsequent availability of said Organic goods) and/or your financial situation it may not be feasible to go 'Full Boar' with Organics. Regardless of your current mind-set on Conventional vs. Organic, feel free to read on and find out how you can get the most 'Healthful' Bang for your Buck!
Organic Produce has become increasingly popular in the Western world and here are some of the reasons behind this movement. By choosing Organic you are limiting your (and your Family's) exposure to Pesticide residues commonly found in Traditionally grown produce. Organic produce was found to have 30% less pesticide residue than Traditionally grown produce, and these residues are predominantly from naturally occurring pesticides. By incorporating more Organics into your diet (or making the switch to all Organics) we are lessen the toxic load on our fair planet, bettering the quality of the soil and water supply for us all (and for generations to come). By speaking out with your pocket book and choosing to purchase organic goods, you are voicing to our Government the greater need for subsidies and supports for the Organic Farmers of Canada and increasing the likelihood that more Farms will turn to more Earth- and People-friendly practices.
In the past year or so there has been some controversy over whether the Health benefits of eating Organic which have been touted by Health Gurus are accurate. After reading several articles suggesting doubt in nutritional benefits of Organic foods I have come to a conclusion on the topic. The articles that I found (listed below in the Sources section) discussed recent studies which found there was no nutritional advantage to eating Organic over Conventionally grown produce and meat products, but had only this to say about the advantages of reducing or eliminating ones exposure to synthetic pesticides:
"Conventional growers use pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases. When farmers spray pesticides, this can leave residue on produce. Some people buy organic food to limit their exposure to these residues. According to the USDA, organic produce carries significantly fewer pesticide residues than does conventional produce. **However, residues on most products — both organic and nonorganic — don't exceed government safety thresholds." - excerpt from "Organic Foods: Are they safer? More nutritious? (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/organic-food/NU00255)
Regardless of the nutritional benefits to eating Organic (I find at the very least that they taste better and if purchased locally stay fresh longer), but the effects on human health of many of these conventional pesticides have NEVER been tested so I find it hard to swallow the idea that the Government has 'Safety Thresholds' as to the amounts of these pesticides which can contaminate our food. The reduced levels of pesticide residue present on Organic Produce is reason enough in my opinion to opt for Organic whenever feasible. On a side note: some of these conventional pesticides horrifyingly can be found in chemical warfare agents used today..ACK! (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pesticide)
The Dirty Dozen
For those of you who like me are on a budget (really who isn't these days), making the transition to all Organic Produce and other Organic products may be a little outside your allotted weekly food expenses. Have no fear! There are alternatives to going full-blown Organic. The Environmental Working Group (http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/) has developed a list (which does change periodically) of the 12 Fruits and Vegetables most heavily laden with synthetic pesticide residues. The Top 3 on their list are Apples, Celery and Sweet Bell Peppers (which are common to most N. American diets). But there is light at the end of the tunnel, they have also included a 'Clean 15' List of Conventionally-grown Fruits and Veg which have the lowest pesticide residues. So for anyone looking to spare their pocket book, try choosing items from the Clean 15 list and if you are going to purchase items from the Dirty 12, then maybe opt for the Organic version (if available).
If you are like me and you live in the Northern Hemisphere then you may find yourself at times without the option of certain Organic Produce selections (depending on season, geographical location, etc). I have a healthy solution for this also! Often times merely rinsing Traditionally-grown Produce doesn't remove all the residues but by choosing one of the cleaning techniques listed below (taken from Juice Fasting & Detoxification by Steve Meyerowitz) you can rest assured that the produce you eat will be free of health-harming chemicals.
1. Lemon Bath - Fill your sink with cold water, add 4 Tbsp of salt and the juice of 1 Lemon. Soak fruit and veg for 10 mins then rinse with cold water. *1/4 C of White Vinegar can be substituted for Lemon.
2. Boiling Bath - Suitable for all but the most fragile veggies. Dip the veggie into boiling water for 5-10 secs. Remove with tongs. Also a great way to remove waxes from fruits and veg.
3. HCL Bath - Purchase Hydrochloric Acid from your local pharmacy and pour 1 oz. into 3 quarts of water. This is the equivalent of a 1% solution. Soak F & V for 5-10 mins and then rinse.
4. Clorox Bath - Use 1 tsp of Clorox Bleach per gallon of water. Let your produce sit in solution for 5-10 mins, then drain and soak again in fresh water for another 5 mins. If there is still a Clorox odour after rinsing, rinse again and let produce air dry.
Obviously I prefer the first 2 methods listed above as they are the most natural processes, but choose the option that works best for you. My advice would be to use one of these methods on all your freshly purchased produce when you return from the store rather than taking time to do this for each individual piece as you need it.
Whether you buy Conventional or Organic Produce, remember to incorporate a variety of different types into your diet and enjoy them often! Happy Eating Everyone! :)
Real Food Market www.shoprealfood.ca
'Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious?' http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/organic-food/NU00255
'History of Pesticides' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pesticide
Environmental Working Group's 'Dirty 12/Clean 15 List' http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/
Juice Fasting & Detoxification by Steve Meyerowitz