Apr 08

Whats the big deal about organic food

In recent years, organic produce, such as fruits and vegetables have risen in demand. This is due to the increasing awareness of the harmful effects of pesticide and insecticide residue on non organic produce available in the market.

This is an important aspect to consider when buying your grocery, especially since these chemicals and insecticide residue can become a permanent part of the human body, causing long lasting damage and diseases such as cancer. Its important to keep this in mind especially for pregnant women and children since their vulnerability to diseases is higher. Organic foods are also sometimes more nutritious than other produce.

Other benefits include the fact that the farm workers and residents are not exposed to harmful chemicals and this keeps them from the harmful effects of elongated exposure to chemicals. It also prevents the soil from retaining any chemicals and healthier crops for the future.

‘Organic’  has been defined by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), as animal products that are labeled organically produced are not given any kind of antibiotics or growth hormones, are only fed with organic feed and are not administered any type of medication aside from vaccinations or to treat an illness. Fruits and vegetables labeled organic are grown without the use of insecticides, pesticides or synthetic ingredients of any kind. All products used are chemical free and the fertilizer is natural.

The FDA has recommended that all produce, whether organic or inorganic, should be washed under running water and dried with a clean cloth or paper towel to minimize bacteria. It also helps to scrub the produce with a brush. This also applies to produce that has a tough, thick skin, such as cantaloupe, cucumber or watermelon. This is because bacteria on the outside can still transfer inside via your knife.

Most produce sold in the US is governed for the amount of pesticide residue it can contain. There are limits that the government deems safe and farmers must maintain those standards. However, a lot of us are cautious and prefer the organic options available. Also organic food costs more and a may not seem worthwhile for a lot of people to spend the excess amount on them.

There are, however, some fruits and vegetables that are most likely to have chemical residue on them, and are recommended to be bought organic. There are three main categories of foods with the highest pesticide residue- tree fruits,  berries and leafy greens. The list of top contenders most likely to have pesticide residue, also called the “Dirty Dozen”  includes

Apples: This is one fruit that is highly likely to have pesticides owing to fungus and insect threats. There are more than 40 kinds of pesticides found on apples. These pesticides are even found in apple juice, apple sauce and other apple products. Removing the peel helps lose the residues but it is at the risk of losing a lot of nutrition in the peel.

Strawberries: This is another product that is recommended to be consumed organic. 60 different pesticides have been found on strawberries. Since this is not a product that can be peeled, it is just best to trust the experts and have them organic.

Peaches and Nectarines: Both these fruits are likely to have large amounts of residue. They should, most definitely,  be consumed organic.

Spinach and Lettuce: Both these leafy greens should be washed and scrubbed well before consuming, however, they still retain some residue and are best consumed organic to avoid the residue.

Grapes: 30 different pesticides have been found on grapes and this is another one that tops the list of produce that should be consumed organic. Since this is also not something that can be peeled, it should be soaked in water for a while before consuming even if it is organic. This translates to wines also, so it makes it worthwhile to look for wines made with organic ingredients.

Sweet bell peppers: 50 different pesticides have been found on bell peppers. This is another vegetable that is consumed with the peel and should be bought organic.

Potatoes: Even despite the thick peel and the fact that most of the times the peel is removed, potatoes are recommended to be bought organic. 35 different pesticides have been found in potatoes. So, in case you still want to buy the ‘non-organic’ variety, be sure to peel before use.

Blueberries, cranberries, cherries are also on this list for their ability to retain chemical residue.

Fatty meats: Meats that have fat are likely to retain chemicals. Lean meat may be a safer bet since chemicals are not usually found in muscle, but any meat with fat, be it chicken, pork or beef, should be bought organic. This is because chemicals are able to survive for long in fat. Therefore, this is another thing for which you need to head to the organic section.

Milk; Considering the importance milk has for children and pregnant women, this is something that should be completely chemical free. Milk has been found to contain 12 different pesticides. In fact, pesticides and other man-made chemicals have been found in human breast milk, so it is no surprise that they have been found in dairy products, too. This finds milk and dairy products their place on the organic only list.

There are some products, however, that do not need to be bought organic. This is a list of produce least likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues. The top 15 items in this list, also called the “Clean 15” are:

1. Onions 2. Sweet Corn 3. Pineapple 4. Avocado 5.  Asparagus 6. Sweet peas 7. Mango 8. Eggplant 9. Cantaloupe  10. Kiwi 11. Cabbage 12. Watermelon 13. Sweet  Potatoes 14. Grapefruit 15. Mushrooms

So, in conclusion, I would recommend buying organic produce for the most part just to be safe, but if you are cost conscious, some produce with thicker skins and those in the list above should be OK when not organic. Whatever the case may be, be sure to wash the produce thoroughly with water before consuming. If possible, soak in water for 15-20 minutes after washing just to make sure all the residue, bacteria and dirt have been washed away.

1 ping

  1. Weekly Update | Saumya's Kitchen

    […] topics on my blog this week were an analysis on why organic foods are important where I talk about the dirty dozen and the clean 15, elaborate on the harm that […]

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