Eating Organic – Does it Really Matter ?

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Organic Produce Is Important in a Plant-Based Diet

woman-farmers-marketRegardless of what your diet is, opting for organic food is a very smart choice. Not only are you getting the best-tasting produce, you are also protecting the safety of your body and of your environment. To optimize the benefits of the fruits and vegetables that you consume, choose the products that are naturally-grown, toxic-free and GMO-free.

Eating organic produce is the best, if not, the only way to avoid the bevy of chemical treatments that are present in chemical produce. In the United States, more than 600 active chemicals are registered for agricultural use. The majority of these have been approved even before they were extensively tested. According to the National Academy of Sciences, 90 percent of the chemical applications were not tested for long-term health effects and the FDA has only tested one percent of food for their pesticide residue. What is alarming is that the more toxic and dangerous pesticides have not even been tested since this method requires special methods. With the average application, around 16 pounds of chemical treatments goes to every person annually. When pesticides enter the body, the immune system needs to process these. With the high amount of pesticides in the system, the buildup affects the body’s immunity, weakening its capacity to filter carcinogen and pathogen components of the chemicals. In turn, the body develops cancer and diseases related to the liver, kidney, and blood.

The Clean 15 & the Dirty Dozen

usda-organicWhen you choose organic foods, you are choosing to feed your body with produce that has been grown according to their natural cycle and employed with natural methods. Organic farming utilizes the land nutrients through rotational cropping, replenishment from animals and cultivation of good garden pests, instead of employing artificial fertilizing and hazardous pest control methods. In a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group in relation to pesticide residue, they were able to classify the top 15 foods with least pesticide residue termed as the Clean 15 and the 12 food high in pesticide residue termed as the Dirty Dozen. The Clean 15 includes onions, sweet corn, pineapple, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, kiwi, domestic cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, and mushrooms. Meanwhile, the Dirty Dozen includes apples, celery, sweet bell pepper, peaches, strawberries, imported nectarine, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, domestic blueberries, and potatoes.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

GMO foods are plants and animals that have been genetically engineered in a way that is beyond natural or traditional cross-breeding. Through the introduction of new genetic traits, plants become resistant to pests, diseases, and pesticides. In turn, GM plants can improve their quality of growth. All sounds well and good on the outside, but in practice, these GM crops are introduced with bacteria, fungi, and other organisms into their DNA to create such resistance. For example, genetically modified corn is introduced with high potency bacteria which allow the plant to create its own form of insecticide as part of its new genetic makeup. While the new toxin is effective in killing corn insects by damaging the insects’ digestive tract, its toxic effect is not specifically exclusive to insects alone. It also affects the consumer’s intestine which can lead to leaky gut. In general, the introduction of new toxins, bacteria, and allergens into naturally safe foods have increased the foods’ toxins into harmfully high levels and have also diminished the nutritional value of the food. For this reasons, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has warned the public that genetically-engineered foods can plausibly cause “adverse health effects in humans”.

ngp-verified-logoAccording to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, fresh, organic products have a higher percentage in terms of macro and micronutrient content. In their published research, organic fruits and vegetables contain 50 to 60 percent more antioxidants that can help ward off cancer. These food products also have higher amounts of vitamin C (27 percent), iron (21.1 percent), magnesium (29.3 percent) and phosphorus (13.6 percent), compared to their commercially-produced counterparts. And if you think that commercially grown produce are healthier and taste better because they look bigger and more aesthetically pleasing, think again. Since organic foods are grown through natural, well-balanced and sustainable practices, they are cultivated to be healthier and contain more nutrients and have better taste.

Hormones & Antibiotics in Our Food

Commercially-produced food, including meat products, are loaded with drugs and hormones to generate higher production which translates to higher profit. Animals are not only subjected to medications, they are also grown in confined environments. Red meat, for example, is loaded with saturated fats, while commercially raised chickens are injected with excessive levels of steroids, growth hormones, and antibiotics. Commercial chickens also contain high levels of saturated fat, which is three times more than their free-range counterparts. When you eat their meats, you are also being fed with the hormones and antibiotics which have entered their bodies.

When you choose to eat organic food, you are choosing to save the Earth. Before your food comes to your table, it has gone through a long journey. The higher the food mileage, the larger the environmental footprint is. Through modern transportation and new trends in consumption, food products have reached not only across states but across the world. Corporate grocery stores fly in food from different parts of the globe to make sure that they carry produce even if it is out of season.  Opting for locally produced organic food diminishes the environmental footprint.


Understanding the Produce Codes on Produce Stickers

In 2013, Whole Foods Market initiated a move to ensure that all of their products are labeled whether they contain GMOs or not. But unless you just shop at Whole Foods, it can still be tricky to find out if what you are buying is organic or not. One effective way to find out is by checking the PLU or the price look-up number. As a rule, the International Federation for Produce Coding has standardized PLU codes in all groceries in the United States. PLU codes typically have 4 or 5 digits. Organically grown produce have 5-digit codes and start with the number 9, while genetically modified produce has 5-digit codes and start with the number 8. Produce grown in conventional methods have 4-digit codes and start with either 3 or 4.

Other markets and groceries also have additional labels initiated by the Non-GMO Project. The group, composed of farmers, consumers, manufacturers, and retailers, have created a third-party Non-GMO Product Verification Program, to make it easier for consumers to identify if a produce is GM or not.

Do you buy organic food for your family?  Let us know in the comment box below.

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Thriving on Plants is a resource for a whole food, plant-based way of eating and living. Here we celebrate all things plant and honor the power of informed awareness and a diet focused primarily of unprocessed vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains to support good health and happiness. Discover what a little more plant can do for your life!


This website is for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing presented here should be construed as a substitute for medical advice. Before beginning any type of new diet (natural or conventional), it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed physician, nutritionist and/or healthcare professional.
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