FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Eating Organic: What's it worth?

Hi, everyone! I hope you are all doing well.

Today I wanted to discuss what I consider an important topic: to eat or not to eat organic.
What’s the big deal with eating organic foods? Why is it that organic food is much more expensive? Is there really a difference? And is it really worth it?

To summarize, the answer is YES; plain and simple. Organic isn’t hyped or a fad. Once upon a time, all of our food was grown organically (there was less of an issue with feeding less people, technological/agricultural “advances”, etc.) and what people where buying at the stores then is not the stuff we are normally buying now–those days are long gone.

Now, crops are sprayed with an abundance of pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, and other nasty chemicals in order to maintain crops to feed all of us and for farmers to loose less crops and/or make a living. Animals are injected with hormones and given antibiotics. And where do you think all these “goodies” end up? I think you guessed right!  

Everything that is sprayed and/or injected to the food we buy and eat has an effect on our health and, not to mention, Mother Nature–but I won’t get into that. So how do these chemicals affect my health? Well, firstly, many pesticides are endocrine disruptors. They contain chemicals that mimic our own natural estrogen, which causes a complete imbalance in our hormone production and can lead to numerous amounts of reproductive issues such as infertility, cancer, and malformations. Evidence is also growing to show their effect on thyroid, metabolism and weight gain issues too. They also damage the sympathetic nervous system; which in combination with the impact they have on us hormonally, can lead to weight gain. Those chemicals are starting to seem less harmless, no?

When we are constantly eating foods that contain these chemicals, they accumulate and lead to a toxic buildup in our bodies. Yes, fortunately our bodies are resilient and can usually manage the few not-so-good things we put in them but this toxic build up–and it takes less than you think–may lead to many health problems(including those previously mentioned). Antibiotics fed to animals are unfortunately leading to antibiotic resistance in humans. This means that our bodies need stronger antibiotics to fight any bad bacteria and/or infection which in turn cause harm to our intestinal flora and/or the good bacteria that lived in our gut that helps us absorb nutrients from food among many other things.

Additionally, reviews of multiple studies have showed that organically grown plant foods actually contain higher nutrient contents than non-organically grown plant foods. What does that even mean? Well, basically those strawberries are going to have more vitamin C in them if they are organic. You are going to get more calcium from that kale if it is organic. Period.

Ok, so organic foods don’t have nasty things sprayed on them, but why are they so damn expensive? It’s really quite simple. Conventional farmers get much larger subsidies from the government. In 2008, according to the House Appropriations Committee “mandatory spending on farm subsidies was $7.5 billion while programs for organic and local foods only received $15 million”. It seems there is a big interest in producing more and more food to feed everyone, at whatever the cost. More corn is grown to feed livestock and animals, and used as filler in most packaged foods out there or turned into high fructose corn syrup (this stuff is everywhere and for all the wrong reasons). Of course, lobbyists representing these “food” growers make sure that these subsidies keep coming. Meanwhile, organic farmers get just 20% of the subsidies conventional farmers get.  Imagine getting an 80%-paycheck cut. No way!
So while it may be more expensive, at least you know what you are eating. If you buy an organic head of kale or some organic potatoes, that is exactly what you will be getting and/or eating–without unwanted extra chemicals! Not kale with pesticides, or conventional potatoes with chlorpropham, an herbicide that is used to stop the growth of weeds and inhibit potato sprouting. According to the Extension Toxicology Network, chronic exposure to chlorpropham of laboratory animals caused “retarded growth, increased liver, kidney and spleen weights, congestion of the spleen, and death.” No, thank you! Yuck.

I know that it’s not possible for all of us to buy organic all of the time–it can get expensive. That’s why I wanted to let all you know (or remind those of you who may have forgotten) about the “dirty dozen” list: A list of foods that are highly contaminated with chemicals) and are always best bought organic to avoid their conventional counterpart usually filled with chemicals. And also, I wanted to let you know about the “clean fifteen” which are foods that are barely contaminated and are ok to buy non-organic/conventional.
One last thing: talk to your local farmers at your local farmers market. Some farmers do grow foods with organic standards but can’t afford the certification by the USDA–organic certification is a long, expensive process. Some of these farmers might even consider the USDA standards/regulations not sufficient to provide for true sustainability and will not pursue the certification program. You won’t know what they grow if you don’t ask.
With all of this information, I really just want to leave you with one question: Would you rather pay the farmer now or pay the doctor later?

Dirty dozen (Foods to avoid if not organic)

Strawberries
Apples
Nectarines
Peaches
Celery
Grapes
Cherries
Spinach
Tomatoes
Sweet bell peppers
Cherry tomatoes
Cucumbers
Others with high contamination: Hot peppers, kale, collard greens, potatoes, blueberries (Get the full list to over 40 foods you should avoid if not organic here)
Clean Fifteen:
Avocados
Sweet corn (thought it is worth mentioning that non organic sweet corn is likely to come from genetically engineered seeds, so I would definitely recommend still buying organic in this case)
Pineapples
Cabbage
Sweet peas
Onions
Asparagus
Mangos
Papayas (also may come from genetically engineered seeds – go organic with this one)
 Kiwi
 Eggplant
 Honeydew melon
 Grapefruit
 Cantaloupe
 Cauliflower

 

Every couple of weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.