Franklin Countys First News

The scoop on buying organic

By Kathleen Kerr, MS, Certified Health Coach

When referring to purchasing food, the term “buying organic” means the food is grown in safe and healthy soil, using natural fertilizers and are free of synthetic pesticides or additives. In order for a food to be labeled “certified organic,” the land that grew the food must have been pesticide free for at least three years. The lack of chemical pesticides and additives in the soil means that there is also fewer health-harming chemicals in the food we eat. A Consumer Report study found that organic foods consistently had lower amounts of toxic pesticide residues.

Organics are worth buying and eating simply to avoid harmful pesticides, which may cause cancer in humans. The threat posed by pesticides is real, and it’s probably a good idea to choose organics in place of the most pesticide contaminated fruits and vegetables.

Residues from pesticides and chemical fertilizers negatively impact the body because they are man-made and cannot be processed properly by the body. While there is much that is still unknown about the hazards of chemicals used in modern agriculture, common sense tells us that if a chemical is designed to kill living pests, it can’t be all that safe for living humans!

Buying organic products may not always be possible based on availability, cost, or other factors. If it isn’t possible to buy organic, always wash your fresh produce well that will help remove harmful pesticides from the surface of the food. Organic foods typically cost more than their conventional counterparts and prices are due, in part, to more expensive farming practices. Another way of looking at it is, why not pay your grocer and not your doctor?

Here’s a list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables: Nectarines, peaches, apples, strawberries, cherries, celery, cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, and potatoes.

On a positive note, here are some of the fresh produce typically low in pesticide residue, regardless if you buy them organic or not: Onions, pineapple, avocado, asparagus, frozen sweet peas, mangos, papayas, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms.

Whether you go totally organic or opt to mix conventional and organic foods, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

  • Select a variety of foods from a variety of sources. This will give you a better mix of nutrients and reduce your likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables in season when possible. To get the freshest produce, ask your grocer what is in season or buy food from your local farmers market.
  • Read food labels carefully. Just because a product says it's organic or contains organic ingredients doesn't necessarily mean it's a healthier alternative. Some organic products may still be high in sugar, salt, fat or calories.
  • Wash and scrub fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water. Washing helps remove dirt, bacteria and traces of chemicals from the surface of fruits and vegetables, but not all pesticide residues can be removed by washing.
  • Discarding outer leaves of leafy vegetables can reduce contaminants. Peeling fruits and vegetables can remove contaminants but may also reduce nutrients. Or try this Fruit and Veggie Wash: 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 2 Tablespoons vinegar, 1 cup of water. Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and spray your wash on all of your fruits and vegetables. Then, rinse it off. They are now ready to eat or use in cooking.
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2 Responses »

  1. I very nearly agree with everything written here. I might suggest, however, that consumers should strive to buy locally regardless of whether certified organic or not. Get to know your farmers and their practices and decide for yourself whether what they are doing is appropriate for you and your family. Tour the farm to understand their processes. Many farms are emerging that choose not to certify organic because the government is loosening restrictions and allowing certain synthetics to be used. These farms will often use terms such as “beyond organic” or “all natural” as part of their advertising. This basically boils down to the ethics of the farmer, which is why we should know our farmers.

  2. Nate I am in complete agreement with your statement. I truly believe it is essential to know your food source