We get asked ALL THE TIME why organic foods are important, and we totally understand why. Buying everything you can organic will typically inflate your grocery bill by at least 20%, and sometimes that can be hard on the budget. We both understand budget constraints first hand, but we still emphatically recommend that you purchase as much of your shopping list as you can find as organic, and here's why:
1. Pesticides: Organic foods do not contain chemical pesticides. There are over 400 varieties of chemicals typically used to kill bugs on plants on conventional farms. Let's be clear--these chemicals are designed to kill things and there is simply no way that having them in your body is going to do anything good for you. They don't all wash off when you get them home, and kids are especially sensitive to them. Pesticides have been linked to asthma, cancer, precocious puberty and breast cancer. Yuck. On your produce, you have direct pesticide exposure and any non-organic meat or farmed seafood comes from animals that eat massive amounts of produce that have been doused in the stuff. Those toxins don't get easily flushed out of an animals system, so they build up and are even more potent in meat, seafood and dairy than they are on your apples or spinach. YUCK.
2. Antibiotics: Animals that are raised organically are not given any antibiotics or genetically modified vaccines. Conventionally raised animals are given some or all of these things to keep them healthy in some pretty awful living conditions where they would naturally get sick. Remember when we talked above about pesticides storing up in animal tissues? Same thing goes for antibiotics here. If you've heard about antibiotic resistance in humans, this is where it's coming from--you get low level doses of antibiotics in virtually all of your non-organic meat and dairy and farmed seafood, so your body adapts to them and then can't respond to regular antibiotics when you really need them.
3. Hormones: You also have to be very careful of the hormones that are given to animals raised conventionally. Why do you ask? Well, first, they tend to overload them with growth factor and other hormones to make them grown bigger and stronger (makes sense, right?!..more meat, more money). The animal's body cannot properly process all these extra and unnecessary hormones and so they get stored in the tissues, which we end up consuming. The big problem is that these hormones look and act similar to the natural hormones our body produces; this can create an improper balance of hormones and throw off communication to help the body get back into balance naturally. Studies have linked hormone riddled meat and dairy consumption with several types of cancer as well as increased occurrence of infertility and hormonal imbalance conditions in women of all ages. NOT GOOD.
4. GMO's: I'm sure you've heard at least a little lately about GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms) in the news. In fact, the state of Vermont just passed the nation's first GMO labeling law. GMO's are plants that have been altered at the genetic level by the insertion of a modified gene or a gene from another organism. These genes are intended to do something different than plants have done in the past. Like kill bugs. And the properties that kill the bugs are in EVERY SINGLE CELL of GMO foods. You can't wash it off or make it safer as you prepare the food. Also, as scientists insert the modified genes, there is not a way to tell what else those genes are doing to the plant. Did you know that one of the most used methods of creating a modified plant is to dip a bullet into some DNA soup and then shoot it through the leaves of a plant and see what happens? I'm SO not kidding here. The speed of the bullet splices new genes into the plant's DNA, and then they let it grow and see what happens. This is not precise science so really, you have no idea what you're getting into with GMO foods. An additional consideration is that your body doesn't recognize GMO's as real food, so they get treated like pathogens or "bad bugs like viruses and bacteria" which stimulates an immune system/inflammatory response. There are many studies that show increased levels of inflammation in the body can lead to chronic inflammatory conditions like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and other auto-immune conditions. So...it's best to read your labels and ALWAYS AVOID GMO's! Don't purchase anything with ingredients you cannot pronounce and that are not whole food ingredients.
5. Nutrition: Organic foods contain higher levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than most conventionally raised food. On average, about 25% more. So that 20% premium you pay at the cash register is going directly to the nutritional value you're eating. There was a study that came out recently about how organic food isn't necessarily more nutritious than conventional foods, but the holistic nutrition community agrees that the study was flawed. You can read more about that here. And, even if organic food weren't packed with more nutritional punch, the first three items here should be reason enough to make the investment.
There are about a million other reasons to do this, but these are the most important for us here. We understand that it's not always possible, either financially or because of what's available, to eat 100% organic. If that's the case, we recommend that you do your best to buy organic whatever foods you eat most. If you juice with greens every day, make sure they're organic. If you eat chicken for lunch every day, ditto.
A couple of additional tools to help you make informed decisions at the grocery store are the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Lists that The Environmental Working Group Publishes and just updated this year. The 'Dirty Dozen' is the list of the most contaminated produce that you should try to get organic whenever possible. The 'Clean Fifteen' are those that have been deemed the least contaminated. Go to EWG's website and download the list so you can make more informed choices at the grocery store!
If you have any questions or if we can help you in any other way to incorporate whole foods into your life, please let us know. We'd be happy to hear from you!
~Jennifer & Billie
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Billie Shellist, FDN-P
I practice functional nutrition, an approach that allows me to look at your entire health history and help you find the "root causes" of your chronic health complaints.
This cuts out the trial and error process and helps you get real symptom relief and resolution!
Food is medicine and knowledge is power -I hope you enjoy my anti-inflammatory recipes which are gluten, dairy, and soy free as well as very low grain and sugar.
If you'd like to heal from the root cause(s) of your chronic symptoms, try starting with a complimentary 15-minute consultation. Click here to request your free session.