In this article, I’ll discuss the overall Benefits of Organic Foods.
Over the last decade, the organic food industry has continued to grow as people become increasingly health-conscious and concerned about the environment and animal welfare.
With all of the hype, you might be wondering if organic food is actually healthier for you, more environmentally sustainable, and more ethical than conventional food.
What is the truth about organic foods, and why buy organic foods in the first place!?
What Is Organic Food?
Firstly, before getting to the truth about organic foods and their potential benefits, let’s define organic food in terms of the USDA organic certification. Certified organic foods ban the use of:
- Chemical pesticides
- Synthetic fertilizers
- Sewage sludge
- Ionizing radiation
- GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
To earn the USDA label, a farm must be inspected and approved by a government-approved certifier.
And then organic farming also has its own standards and inspections, in GMO seeds, and organic pest controls (versus chemicals and pesticides).
Organic farmers use natural fertilizers such as manure, compost, and companion planting; natural weed control including crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching and tilling; and natural pest control with birds, insects, traps, and naturally derived pesticides.
These growing practices are respectful of the environment and heal the earth rather than depleting it. They also respect the ecological process, the farmers themselves, the food that is grown, and the people who consume it.
So, organic food also has less toxic karma!
Not all farms are created equal, of course, and even organic farming isn’t perfect, but buying organic food is definitely a few steps in the right direction.
That being said, the only way to truly know how your food is grown is to grow it yourself or talk to your farmer. While we can’t all grow our own food, consider investing in a CSA box and making the weekly farmer’s market a part of your weekly schedule!
The Truth About Organic Foods: Are They Safer?!
Organic food sales have continued to grow over the last decade (except for after the ’08 financial recession), so you have to wonder why right?
One of the primary reasons to buy organic food is to steer clear of harsh and toxic chemicals and pesticides.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified three pesticides frequently used in agriculture as carcinogenic to humans: glyphosate, malathion, and diazinon.
“Conventional” (non-organic) farmers use synthetic and chemical fertilizers to artificially increase the size of plants. They use chemical herbicides to kill weeds, and toxic pesticides to kill organisms that are on plants and in the soil.
The problem is that these pesticides kill not only weeds but everything else, like the good bacteria in your gut and perhaps even the bees!?
GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) allow crops to be “Round-Up”-ready, which enables these plants to be more tolerable of the toxin Glyphosate so that farmers can spray larger amounts of this toxin on the food we eat.
You cannot wash toxins off of produce because they have been absorbed through the soil, leaves, and skin, throughout the plant’s lifecycle. When you eat these foods, the toxins are stored in the body’s fat (including the brain, by the way) for years.
Over time, they can wreak havoc on our body’s systems and make us more susceptible to disease, infection, and aging! YIKES!
Pesticide and Chemical Use on Foods
Pesticides have been linked to disrupting our endocrine system and nervous system, causing cancer, and affecting cognitive function.
The chemicals kill all bugs in the fields, good and bad. In the same manner, they kill all of the beneficial bacteria that balance your gut. This damages your microbiome and leads to food allergies, digestive issues, and more.
In a unique public testing project carried out by a laboratory at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), glyphosate was discovered in 93 percent of urine samples during the early phase of the testing in 2015.
While all of this information can be scary, I truly believe that knowledge is power! Armed with the right information, you can make safer, more educated choices about the foods that go into your body.
While we can’t control everything around us, we can choose the foods we buy and the growers we support. The benefits of organic foods can be just from avoiding such harsh toxins.
When to Buy Organic Produce
If 100% organic food is not available to you, or not within your budget, eat as much of it as you can, knowing that eating your vegetables conventionally is still better than not eating them at all.
The Environmental Working Groups if a great reference for which organic foods to eat.
(The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that researches what’s in our tap water, our cosmetics, and the amounts of pesticides in and on our food.)
They keep an updated list of plant foods known as The Clean 15. These foods do not have to be eaten organic. Please refer to this list!
These foods are the least heavily sprayed crops or are those that have protective mechanisms, like a thick skin, for example. Whereas, berries and leaves are more exposed and prone to absorbing pesticides.
Conversely, do not eat foods with the highest concentration of pesticides, which are listed in The Dirty Dozen that I also cover below.
While more expensive, organic berries are the safer choice. Strawberries are the #1 food on the Dirty Dozen!
I always recommend that my patients stay away from the Dirty Dozen at all costs. (Washing and peeling can’t remove internal chemicals) so always buy organic foods on this list.
Think of it this way. Pesticides kill bugs, so it’s not hard to they are killing the microbes that live in our gut too.
The Dirty Dozen List: When to Buy Organic Foods
#1: Strawberries – One strawberry sample contained 22 pesticide residues and nearly 300 pounds of pesticides are applied to each acre of strawberries.
#2 Spinach – Conventional spinach tested with relatively high concentrations of permethrin, a neurotoxic insecticide.
#3 Nectarines – They are ranked as the dirtiest tree fruit.
#4 Apples – 90% of conventional apples had detectable pesticide residues including diphenylamine, a pesticide banned in Europe.
#5 Grapes – Their thin skin leaves them susceptible to pesticides.
#6 Peaches – More than 99 percent of conventional peaches had pesticide residues.
#7 Cherries – 30 percent of cherry samples contained iprodione, a pesticide not allowed in Europe, which may cause cancer.
#8 Pears – More than half of conventionally grown pears tested had residues of five or more pesticides.
#9 Tomatoes – Nearly four pesticides were detected on the average conventionally grown tomato.
#10 Celery – Without protective skin, it’s almost impossible to wash off chemicals.
#11 Potatoes – Conventional potatoes had more pesticide residues by weight than any other crop.
#12 Sweet + Hot Peppers – According to the EWG, “Sweet bell peppers can contain fewer pesticide residues than other Dirty Dozen foods, but the pesticides tend to be more toxic to human health.”
Benefits from Organic Food: Is It Healthier!?
We know one of the major benefits of organic food is avoiding certain pesticides, but are organic foods actually healthier?
While some researchers say that there is no difference in the actual nutritional value, there is also emerging research that suggests otherwise.
For example, research suggests that the microbes in the soil have a symbiotic relationship with the plants, just as the microbes in our digestive tract do with us.
This means that those microbes offer phytochemistry and immunity. Such benefits are then transferred to us in the form of phytonutrients when we eat them.
If the plants are sprayed with chemicals, those microbes die and the plants do not receive such values.
Research also suggests that the microbial activity changes throughout the seasons, and it is important to eat organic and in-season to receive such benefits from organic food.
When it comes down to it, avoiding pesticides is reason enough to buy organic, but as we learn more about the connection between microbes and auto-immune diseases, allergies, and phytonutrients, the list of benefits from organic foods continues to grow.
What about the Benefits of Organic Meat?!
Most of this article has covered the benefits of organic produce, but there are many benefits to eating organic meats too.
Most conventionally raised livestock is fed a combination of GMO soy and GMO corn and is treated with rBGH. rBGH is a genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone that fattens cows and increases their milk production.
These animals are also given antibiotics, or other medication, preventatively, to offset infections caused by the forced increase in milk production. 80% of the antibiotics sold in the US are used for livestock and poultry.
Read that again!
These hormones and antibiotics make their way into the meat, milk, and eggs that we eat. Because these can disrupt our digestive system and immunity, it’s best to avoid whenever possible.
To come around full circle, when cows are fed corn, soy, or wheat, it causes inflammation in their guts because their digestive systems are designed to process only grasses. With the rising price of corn, some commercial cattle farms have begun to feed cows stale candy and other forms of cheap sugar to fatten them.
If we only ate stale candy and GMO corn, we’d be sick all the time too (hence the need for antibiotics)… oh wait!
Conversely, organic meats contain fewer bacteria and mycotoxins, which are common in commercial feedlots.
That said, organic labels do not mean that the animal was treated well, fed a natural diet, etc.
Overall, organic farming is better, but you still need to read your labels. Are the hens given room to roam? Are the cows fed an unnatural diet of grains?
Grass Fed Versus Grain Fed
Grass-fed cows were found to have significantly higher levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and other nutrients such as anti-oxidants, vitamin E, etc.
If it bears repeating, the best way to know if an animal is treated humanely and fed a natural diet is to talk to your local farmer at best, and read your labels well!
Is Organic Food More Expensive?
Many people still stray away from organic foods because of the price label or lack of local organic produce.
My best advice is to buy organic produce whenever possible, especially if the fruits or vegetables are on the Dirty 12 list. Even when you can’t buy organic, consuming several servings of veggies and fruits a day is still essential and better than not consuming them at all.
Often times organic packaged food is what really drives up expenses. Skip on the packaged food altogether and opt for whole foods, and organic when possible, to save money.
Detox Options – How to Detoxify with Us!
If you are experiencing fatigue, brain fog, headaches, skin issues (acne, rashes, eczema), difficulty with weight loss, insomnia, infertility, body pain, bad breath, and more, these are signs of toxic build-up and that you may need a detox.
Eating organic is the best way to avoid toxic chemicals and pesticides, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid all of these chemicals. They end up in our groundwater, cleaning products, face products, and even the air around us.
Because these toxicities can build up over time, we recommend doing a full 21-day detox at least twice a year.
Think of it as a reset!
If changing a diet is hard for you, join our awesome 21-day online detox program, where we go 100% organic, among many other therapeutic therapies to detox our bodies!
You pay a one-time membership to participate in the cleanse bi-annually with our supportive community!