Monday, March 21, 2011

Organic Food

I haven't written too much about organic food, and I really wanted to discuss it today instead of posting a recipe because I believe it's such an important topic. It's also an incredibly complex and controversial topic, and while I am very passionate about it, I am not an expert. Fruits and vegetables are the absolute best source of antioxidants and phytochemicals on the planet, but unfortunately our current food and agricultural system allows toxic herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers to be used when growing produce. This not only severely devastates the soil, water supply, and wildlife, but it also exposes us to unnatural and toxic chemicals that our bodies were not designed to handle. These chemicals are known to cause many health problems, and it should also be mentioned that the poor quality of the soil that these fruits and vegetables grow in actually causes a reduction in nutrients within the food. Research has shown something grown without the use of these toxic chemicals is actually more nutritious that its conventional counterpart.

The best way to avoid these chemicals is to consume produce that is grown without the use of toxic herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. Consuming locally grown food from farmers who do not use these is ideal, because supporting the local farmer not only benefits the local economy and local agriculture, it also reduces the transportation needed to transfer the food. This ensures the freshest, healthiest food is getting to your table, while reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals that truly have a negative effect on the body.

I live in an area where the peak growing season is the summer through early fall, so during that time, I shop at farmers markets, grow some of my own vegetables, and pick local berries and other fruits from local farms. But other times during the year, I try to buy organic as much as possible. Since a large part of the food I buy is fresh produce, I believe it's important to buy organic.

Now a big problem with organic food is the price.  It's pretty sad that the healthiest food in this country is also the most expensive. And something that I've found pretty helpful is a list of "The Dirty Dozen" and "The Clean Fifteen." These are two lists put out by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which includes foods grown with the highest concentration of toxic pesticides and foods that have the lowest concentration of toxic pesticides. I have them listed here for your reference, but you can also download a handy card with these lists on it from the EWG website, along with tons of amazing resources. I truly recommend the site for reliable and reputable resources.

The Dirty Dozen                                            The Clean 15
Celery                                                                           Onions
Peaches                                                                         Avocado
Strawberries                                                                 Sweet Corn
Apples                                                                           Pineapple
Blueberries                                                                    Mangoes
Nectarines                                                                     Sweet Peas
Bell Peppers                                                                  Asparagus
Spinach                                                                         Kiwi
Cherries                                                                        Cabbage
Kale/Collard greens                                                     Eggplant
Potatoes                                                                        Cantaloupe
Grapes (Imported)                                                         Watermelon
                                                                                      Sweet Potato
                                                                                      Honeydew Melon

These are two helpful lists that can be a step to choosing "cleaner" produce. Whenever I need to use any foods on the "Dirty" list, I try to buy organic when it's affordable. I have also found that it's more affordable to buy organic when the food is in season. For example, organic bell peppers are much more affordable in the summer than in the winter and organic blueberries cost almost the same as conventional blueberries during blueberry season. Furthermore, I find that organic greens, like kale, collards, and spinach (which I eat a lot of) actually cost almost the same as the non-organic greens all year around. For all other produce not listed in either of these lists, I buy whatever I can afford and just make sure I wash everything thoroughly. It is possible to limit your pesticide exposure and still eat many fruits and vegetables while also keeping your grocery bill manageable.

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