There is a growing belief that organic foods are healthier for us than non-organic foods. This growing belief is responsible for a significant growth in organic farming over the last decade.
Recently, The IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute completed a study to determine if the switch from conventional foods to organic foods would have a measurable effect on the body. They conducted this study on one family over a three-week period.
The first week the family ate as usual and the following two weeks, the family ate only organic foods. The family was required to keep a daily food journal and take daily urine samples. While the study is small, the amount of pesticides found in the bodies was significantly reduced while eating organic foods.
An article published in the journal Environmental Research by Researchers from RMIT University, support these findings. In the article, they shared that switching to organic foods for as short of time as just one week saw a reduction in pesticide exposure in 90 percent of adults.
One of the main reasons consumers give for choosing organic foods is the concern over the presence of pesticides. And even though the tested levels of pesticides found in the bodies while eating conventional food is “said to be” low and safe, there is gaining scientific evidence about an opposite, more negative effect of pesticides on health.
It seems as if these concerns may have some validity. What we do know is that many common pesticides contain organophosphorus, a chemical compound that has been connected to some developmental problems including autism and ADHD (Note: The research is in its infancy.)
This information surely supports the need to be concerned about the type and levels of pesticides in our foods.
Is Eating Organic Really Healthier?
Not to discount the important conversation around pesticides in our food, but are there actual health benefits to eating organic food over non-organic?
There are many ongoing studies trying to determine the answer to this very question and early reports are showing that there does seem to be some health benefits of eating organic.
A study conducted by The Organic Center showed organic foods supply higher levels of antioxidants, which have a more positive impact on our bodies than those from non-organic foods. It may be from the fact that the antioxidants are not having to compete with toxic elements from the pesticides used in raising the food.
As a society, we are focused on staying healthy, which means taking care of illness, preferably before it happens. There may be a problem with excessive antibiotics in our systems from eating non-organic animal food products since the animals are also given antibiotics.
The overload of antibiotics our bodies are receiving may lead to a weakened immune system. Of course, organic farmers do not give their animals antibiotics that are important to consider when purchasing meat and dairy products.
The products produced from organic, grass-fed animals have higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is a naturally occurring, heart-healthy fatty acid that research suggests can protect the heart, regulate the immune system and even aid in the prevention of some cancers.
What Does This Mean For You?
Should we go cold turkey and go organic? All things being equal, the answer would be yes for the obvious reasons that we know organic food does not contain unnatural and potentially toxic chemicals. The problem is that currently, prices are not equal and often going all organic can put a short term strain on our budget. The good news to this problem is that as more and more farmers decide to grow organic, the prices will naturally fall.
Now many people would argue that you can’t put a price tag on health. And while a purely organic diet may not be affordable to some, it is definitely an investment worth considering.
It might be wise to start going organic using the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen. It is a yearly list which shows the produce items to found with the highest levels of pesticides. This year’s list includes:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Nectarines (imported)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Snap peas (imported)
Just like any decision that impacts our life, we must look at the available information and our circumstances and make the best decisions for us and our families. Those decisions aren’t always black and white and may come with some compromise.
It is more than just whether we should eat organic or not, there are questions about processed foods, sugars and wheat as well. Do your research and come up with a nutritional plan that supports your beliefs, concerns, and your body.
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