The Whys and Hows of Buying Organic
On today's Food as Medicine episode, we are talking all about the importance of organic. Why we should buy organic, how to buy organic without breaking the bank and an easy, inexpensive homemade fruit and veggie wash you can make to clean non-organic foods in 10 seconds flat.
Why does food have to be labeled “organic”?
Originally, all foods were “organic”. They were grown and prepared without pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and hormones and we did not use things like irradiation to prevent spoilage. Foods were unrefined, whole, or at most minimally processed. Since World War II and the advent of chemical farming, food has become much more processed and the soils and foods of much of the world have been depleted of minerals and nutrients.
Our food these days, whether of vegetable or animal origin, is not only deficient in nutrients but also full of pollutants, making buying organic that much more important. The modern denaturing of foods through massive refining and chemical treatment deeply affects their life force, making it difficult to foster equilibrium and health.
Pesticides, which have been shown to cause cancer, liver, kidney and blood diseases, must be dealt with by the immune system. As we consume pesticides, they get lodged in our tissues and increase. The immune system becomes weakened, allowing other carcinogens and pathogens to affect our health. Organic certification is the public’s assurance that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without persistent toxic chemical inputs.
Why follow the “dirty dozen” and the “clean 14” guidelines?
In order to buy organic and put your money where it matters most, it’s important to figure out which foods you should absolutely buy organic and which foods are okay to buy non-organic.
What is the Dirty Dozen?
The Dirty Dozen should ALWAYS be bought organic. If not, you risk exposing yourself to 50-70 different chemicals. The following is the current list of the Dirty Dozen as well as the Clean 14. These lists are always changing so it is important to keep up with the most up to date information.
The Dirty Dozen
*Bananas should also be added to this list because the way they are ripened. Basically they are spraying bananas by shrink-wrapping the whole tree and then pumping it full of ripening gas, there's no way that the skin can survive those chemicals.
The Clean 14
How is organic produce labeled?
In a perfect world, all food would say USDA organic so you know it's been through a particular stringent certification process. Unfortunately, that is not the case but we do have some labeling that can help when purchasing our produce. All produce usually has a PLU (price look up code) sticker. Produce that is organic will have a sticker that starts with a 9. If it starts with a 4 it's conventional. There is one more number, number 8. The jury's still out on 8. They say if the PLU code starts with an 8 it's genetically modified. There are no laws about GMO labeling so this one is not seen very often. In addition to buying the Clean 14 and avoiding the Dirty Dozen, you should always buy your dairy products and meats organic. US Wellness Meats is our favorite place to get high-quality, inexpensive pasture-raised meats and dairy products. Another reason why we love them, they ship throughout the United States!
What can I do to improve the foods I buy that are not organic?
If you're not going to buy organic, you have to really get rid of as many pesticides as possible. The best way to do this is with a homemade fruit and veggie wash. It’s super inexpensive and super easy to do. Follow the recipe below.
Rinse it and let it sit for about 5 – 10 minutes. This will allow the chemicals to break down as much as possible. Rinse with water and you are good to go! In addition to getting off the pesticides, you will remove bad bacteria, germs, and different types of pathogens that can be lurking on your produce.
Lastly, I will leave you with the Top 10 reasons to shop for and eat organic foods:
1. Keep chemicals off your plate: Pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms, and can also be harmful to humans. Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Organic agriculture is one way to prevent any more of these chemicals from getting into the air, earth and water that sustain us – not to mention our plates.
2. Protect future generations: Children receive four times more exposure than adults to cancer causing pesticides in foods.
3. Prevent soil erosion: Three billion tons of topsoil are eroded from crop lands in the U.S. each year, much of it due to conventional farming practices, which often ignore the health of the soil.
4. Protect water quality: The EPA estimates that pesticides pollute the primary source of drinking water for more than half the country's population.
5. Organic farmers work in harmony with nature: Organic agricultural respects the balance demanded of a healthy ecosystem: wildlife is encouraged by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fence rows, wetlands, and other natural areas.
6. Save energy: More energy is now used to produce synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate and harvest all the crops in the U.S.
7. Help small farmers: Although more and more large scale farms are making the conversion to organic practices, most organic farms are small, independently owned and operated family farms. USDA reported that in 1997, half of U.S. farm production came from only 2% of farms. Organic agriculture can be a lifeline for small farms because it offers an alternative market where sellers can command fair prices for crops.
8. Support a true economy: Organic foods might seem expensive; however your tax dollars pay for hazardous waste clean-up and environmental damage caused by conventional farming.
9. Promote biodiversity: Planting large plots of land with the same crop year after year tripled farm production between 1950 and 1970, but the lack of natural diversity of plant life has negatively affected soil quality.
10. Flavor and Nourishment: Organic farming starts with the nourishment of the soil, producing nourished and nourishing plants. Well-balanced soil produces strong, healthy plants that taste great. Conduct your own taste test!