I made the decision to increase organic / decrease non-organic food intake in 2014 based on the obvious issue of the chemical pesticides found in our fruits and vegetables and the chemical preservatives found in processed food. While this is still my number one reason for continuing the move toward a more organic lifestyle, there is more than just the hazard of ingesting chemicals to be considered. Time.com points out that in the latest studies focusing on nutrition, 12 studies have found evidence that organic is more nutritious than conventional by having more vitamin C, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. The July 2014 British Journal of Nutrition reports that organic crops contain, on average, 17% more antioxidants than crops grown conventionally.
When I first began my research for this article, I had a preconceived idea with regard to what I would find: organic = good for you; non-organic = bad for you. While in a nutshell that is true, there is so much more to the story that I am embarrassed to say I never considered. Organic food isn’t just better for us, it is better for our environment, the land that will be inhabited by our children, their children, and their children’s children. How did I miss that part?
I’ll make myself feel better by saying that I only considered the impact on my body and the bodies of my loved ones (and not my environment) because of the cost factor. Everyone knows that organic foods cost more, and I am sorry to say I was only willing to consider that added cost if it was to the benefit of the health and well-being of my family. I never even thought about the well-being of my planet.
Societyforscience.com reports that pesticide runoff actually reached frogs living in national parks, forests and other locations located high in the Sierra Nevada mountains, more than 62 miles from the California farms that the pesticides originated from. This pesticide exposure was found to cause problems with the immune systems of the frogs and alter how they developed.
In addition to the frogs, honeybees were found to be in trouble. Exposure to imidacloprid and clothianidin found in the bees triggered a biological change that led to their deaths. And not just land inhabitants are being affected – nitrogen and phosphorus buildup in waterways has led to algal blooms, growths of algae that kill fish and other aquatic life.
According to Time.com, organic farming not only protects our environment from chemical run-off, but it uses less energy too. In addition, organic yields are actually greater than the yields of conventional methods during periods of drought. Organic soil is built up with organic material, which can hold more water.
If one isn’t concerned about the increased nutrients found in organic foods, or the damage to the environment and its wildlife through conventional pesticide use, there is still the concern of what the chemicals in pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables and processed foods do to the health of ourselves and our loved ones. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised parents to reduce their children’s exposure to pesticides. The shocking results of a 2014 study found that when pregnant women lived near fields treated with pesticides, their children were more likely to develop autism. Women living less than 1 mile from a site where diazinon or chlorpyrifos were used had a 60% higher risk of having a child with an autism spectrum disorder.
So what should you do if you can’t afford to buy everything organic? Make selective choices – there are some fresh foods that are less of a danger than others (see photo below for a list). And stay away from the “center aisle” (prepared foods) of the grocery store, unless you are buying organic.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be a die-hard, 100% organic eating individual, but I try to do consistently better. There are some things that I know for sure:
- It is never too late to change – that’s like saying it’s too late to quit smoking. To borrow a phrase from my friend Oprah, when you know better, you do better.
- If my husband and I can drop $75+ on one unhealthy meal at a restaurant, we can certainly spend a little more on our weekly grocery bill to buy food that does not contain poison.
- I may not be 100% organic, but if I am even 75%, then my body is getting a lot less harmful intake than it was pre-2014, and that’s something to feel good about.