Would you be surprised to find out that your organic fruits and veggies are often grown using pesticides?
🤔So that begs the question – if both organic and conventional produce have pesticides, does it really matter what I buy?
🤷♀️ Yes, but also no…sometimes.
While both forms of farming utilize pesticides, organic farmers will utilize other forms of pest protection (like insect traps or predator insects) prior to resorting to pesticides. Prevention is the focus and pesticides/herbicides are used as a last resort, when preventative strategies aren’t working. Most pesticides used in organic farming are “natural” meaning that they are extracted from a natural source, like plants or other living organisms. This means that, in general, pesticides used in organic farming are less toxic than their conventional (synthetic) counterparts.
☠️The less toxins we expose ourselves to the better! When you take in toxins, your body shifts into damage control mode and expends precious energy and nutrients trying to clear those toxins out.
🛒💰That being said, buying solely organic produce isn’t always possible (or affordable!). There are ways to find balance:
1️⃣Utilize the EWG Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen Lists
These lists determine which produce is likely to be highest in pesticides (Dirty Dozen) and should be bought organic and which fruits and veggies are lower in pesticides (Clean Fifteen), making the choice between organic and conventional less important.
If you go through mountains of spinach and heaps of cucumbers in a week, spend your organic budget on these foods. For foods you eat less frequently, conventional may be ok.
3️⃣Practice Food Safety
Wash those fruits and veg under running water, clean the edible peels of potatoes, carrots, apples etc. with a brush and scrub inedible peels to reduce pesticide residue that can enter food when cut. Discard outer leaves of foods like cabbage.
4️⃣Variety Is Key
Different crops require different pesticides, so eating a varied diet not only provides a wider array of nutrients, but minimizes the risk of overloading on a particular toxin.
5️⃣Get To Know Your Farmer
If you are lucky enough to have Farmers’ Markets near you, introduce yourself to the producers. Ask questions about their product and farming practices.
‼️Most importantly! Don’t stress over it! If you can afford organic – GREAT! If not, remember that what is most important is eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, regardless of their source.
The Environmental Working Group says:
❝The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Eating conventionally grown produce is far better than skipping fruits and vegetables.❞
Do you buy only organic, solely conventional or a balance between the two?
It’s been a minute since I’ve had time to sit down and get some thoughts down on this digital paper! I enjoy writing, but it can take me a LOOOOONG time to figure out how to organize all the thoughts in my head into something that other people might want to read! Summer – especially the delicious, but oh so short, summers we get here in the PNW – was NOT the time to be labouring over a keyboard. Instead, I spent a tonne of time with visiting family, played outside, tended my garden (more on that fiasco later) and even managed a short getaway to camp and enjoy some outdoor concerts! But all good things must come to an end. Don’t get me wrong, I love Autumn! The fall colors, the crisp air…the lack of screaming children in the grocery store when I run my errands….blissful. Autumn is also a time to reset and get back to your regularly scheduled programming, if you will. For me, this means I’m getting back to the gym regularly, refocusing on building my business, meal planning and ensuring that the fridge is stocked with nutrient dense, whole foods. (After all the company we’ve had, it also means I should be doing a full house clean – but there are plenty of rainy days in my future for THAT!)
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN SOURCING FOOD (AKA GROCERY SHOPPING)
1. Is it a WHOLE food?
When I talk about stocking up on WHOLE food, I mean just that. Foods in their whole, unadulterated form – packaged just as Mother Nature intended. The food item should BE the ingredient, not be made up of ingredients. She is a smart cookie, that Mother Nature, creating foods that are balanced with the nutrients required for their use in the body! Take fruit, for example, yes it contains sugar in the form of fructose, but it also contains fiber (which can slow the sugar’s absorption) and minerals to aid in its metabolism or use in the body . The same can’t be said for that can of soda!
2. Think Variety
Variety is the spice of life! We want to be eating a broad range of foods. In a Standard American Diet, approximately 60% of calories come from just 3 foods – soy, corn and wheat. Seems unbelievable, but check out this article from the Center for Advanced Medicine for an explanation of how this has occurred. Our bodies need a much more diverse range of nutrients. Try to “eat the rainbow” in the produce section and get as many colours on your plate as possible. More colours equals more nutrients! Think outside the box – organ meat is some of the MOST nutrient dense food out there. It can be daunting to try ingredients that you’ve never used before, but changing it up can make mealtimes a bit more exciting and ensure that you don’t get stuck in a nutrient rut. Challenge yourself to try something new! I won’t judge you if you start with eggplant over beef liver!
3. Think Seasonally
Our ancestors didn’t have access to asparagus for twelve months of the year. Foods were only available for short periods of time. Eating seasonally is a great way to get diversity into your diet and ensure a broad range of nutrients which changes frequently and benefits your health and well being. Eating with the seasons can also prevent overconsumption of foods, which can lead to food sensitivities. Another great reason to eat seasonally is that, generally, the food has not been stored as long and will be more nutrient rich! There are great lists you can find online (like the one I provided below) to help you determine what is “in season”.
4. Think Locally
Sure, if you live in the middle of Canada in December, there isn’t going to be a plethora of fresh, local veg at your market. Local snow cones, however, would NOT be an issue. As much as you can, whenever you can – eat local. Farmers Markets, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes, your own garden (I managed to get a good crop of radishes this year, the rest ended up in the bellies of our neighbourhood wildlife) – food is fresher and more nutrient dense because it was literally JUST harvested and doesn’t travel long distances (therefore there is less risk of contamination and it’s also better environmentally) . Plus it’s also going to be in season (see point #3)! Eating locally also helps support those local farmers who work so hard to provide delicious and nutritious food for us!
Eat local when you can!
5. Think Quality
I get it, organic produce is expensive and, not for nothing, looks pretty much exactly like its cheaper, conventional cousin. So what’s the difference? Although different countries have different regulations around the term “organic”, in the U.S., certified organic means there are annual audits to ensure the following standards are met:
– No synthetic fertilizers or pesticides
– No antibiotics or hormones
– No GMOs
Organic animal products are fed organic feed, but the term alone does not specify if an animal is grass-fed, grain-fed or pasture raised.
There are many benefits to sourcing and eating organic, including limiting your exposure to toxins from pesticides and fertilizers. Beyond just adding to the toxic load your body must deal with, these compounds can be potential carcinogens and/or endocrine disruptors. Interestingly, pesticides, while they may “protect” the produce from insect damage, have also been shown to decrease the amount of phytonutrients or antioxidants the plant produces. Phytonutrients are a plants own natural “bug repellent” and, when doused with chemical pesticides, the plants no longer get chewed on and have less need to create these compounds. This makes the food less nutrient dense for us consumers!
But THE COST!!! My advice? Do what you can with what you have. I’d rather see someone chowing down on conventionally grown carrots than diving into a box of toaster strudels! Follow the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Lists and choose your organic produce from those that may have the highest pesticide residue. A final tip is to get to know your farmers! Many smaller farms follow all the organic standards, but simply do not have the money to get “certified”. Ask questions. Any farmer worth his salt will be glad to chat with you about their product.
I hope this helps you get stocked up and ready to reset and take on the impending season change with ease and health! It’s always bittersweet to bid farewell to summer, but I’m starting to dream about roasted root veggies, slow braises, soups and stews, pumpkin pie……