Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Conventional Wisdom on Organic Food

Thanksgiving is almost upon us! Since food is a major focus of the week, I thought I'd share some thoughts on eating organically. There are many reasons to consume organically grown food. From what I've read, the main reasons can fit into these categories:

1. Better for your health
2. Better for the environment
3. Better flavor
4. Supportive of small family-owned businesses

Those are reason enough for me! If you'd like the details on those tenets, I commend to you the articles listed at the end of this post.

How do you make sure you are picking the right produce? The PLU# can be quite helpful:

  • Conventionally grown produce has a four digit PLU, generally beginning with a 4.
  • ORGANICALLY grown produce has a five digit PLU, beginning with a 9.
  • Genetically modified produce (GMOs) has a five digit PLU, beginning with an 8.
  • First Choice = 9_ _ _ _
  • Second Choice = 4_ _ _
  • Don't eat 8_ _ _ _!!!
Is it necessary to buy organic 100% of the time? Well... it would be IDEAL. But---Sometimes it's just impossible to get certain items organic, and one must either forego the item or simply buy conventional. Sometimes one might also like to save a few $$$ on food items less likely to have a high pesticide residue. In these cases, it's nice to know which things in the produce department one can get by with buying conventional.

Fortunately, the Environmental Working Group has put together a list of fruits and vegetables they tested for pesticide residues and ranked 47 different foods according to the pesticide levels found. The "Dirty Dozen" --the ones to always buy organic-- are the following:
  1. (worst) peaches
  2. apples
  3. sweet bell peppers
  4. celery
  5. nectarines
  6. strawberries
  7. cherries
  8. kale
  9. lettuce
  10. grapes --imported
  11. carrots
  12. pears
The "Clean Fifteen," as they call them, are the following:
  1. (best) onions
  2. avocados
  3. sweet corn
  4. pineapple
  5. mango
  6. asparagus
  7. sweet peas
  8. kiwi
  9. cabbage
  10. eggplant
  11. papaya
  12. watermelon
  13. broccoli
  14. tomato
  15. sweet potato
You can see the full list here, or download a free shopper's guide for your wallet or iphone. You can even donate to the EWG and receive a magnet reminder for your refrigerator.
HOWEVER... keep in mind the following:
  • most corn is genetically modified to produce some of its own "natural" pesticide or herbicides, and you NEVER want to consume GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) if you can help it. We don't even know the long-term implications of such a practice. (Check the PLU). Corn is really not a highly recommended vegetable/grain anyway. And even the "clean" organic version is easily cross-contaminated by GMO varieties. I'd limit your corn intake to some occasional organic popcorn.
  • Imported pineapple is one to look out for, as it can be heavily sprayed, and/or gassed to ripen.
  • Papaya from Hawaii is usually genetically modified. (Check the PLU)
  • Tomatoes can be GMOs (Check the PLU) and are often gassed to ripen them.
I didn't even mention buying organically raised, grass-fed meats, raw (unpasteurized, unhomogenized) grass-fed dairy, and eggs from free-range chickens. That is a GIVEN if you eat animal foods. Since I'm on a raw vegan diet, and have begun to see the advantages of eating this way, I have focused on fruits and vegetables. Whole grains, mushrooms, nuts & seeds, etc. would follow the same rules. Always buy organic whenever possible to minimize your intake of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc., and ALWAYS buy whole foods; NEVER processed devitalized foods. The closer to the way God gave us these foods in nature, the better.

SO... Why Buy Organic??? Here are some resources for you:
Top Six Reasons to Eat Only Organic Fruits and Vegetables
Organic Foods Provide More than Health Benefits
Buying Organic is Well Worth the Cost even When Times are Tough

I'll include one more in the next post...

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