I have had a number of clients ask me recently about the importance of prioritizing organic foods. Since Organic is the fastest growing category in the food industry to date, it is clearly a topic that has made its way into mainstream conversation. U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to an estimated $22 billion in 2010, and are anticipated to increase an average of 18 percent each year from 2010 to 2015. This is a good indication that more of the population is recognizing the negative effects of pesticides, herbicides, ripening agents, animal antibiotics and other harsh chemicals on our bodies over time.
Many aren’t aware that there are literally thousands of chemicals approved by the FDA to be used on conventionally grown foods. These additives are often neuro-toxins- paralyzing the pest to eventually kill it.
Here are a few staggering facts provided by the Organic Consumers Association and the FDA.
~ FDA currently lists about 6,000 additives and chemicals that are deliberately added to our food supply. Including chemicals used in food production, that number rises to 12,000-15,000.
~ 2 billion pounds of pesticides a year are sprayed on vegetable crops.
~ The average American consumes his/her body weight in additives/ chemicals per year.
~ In conventionally raised meat and dairy, hormones and antibiotics are administered to animals to stimulate unnatural rates of growth and protect against the infection rampant in industrial feedlots. This is causing startling hormone changes in humans and “superbugs” resistant to antibiotic treatments.
In addition, I found it interesting that the Corn Refiners Association is currently trying to legally change the name of “high fructose corn syrup” to “corn sugar’” or “corn nectar” on food labels. This speaks volumes to the intention of hiding harmful ingredients on food labels to keep consumers ignorant in their purchases. I mean, corn nectar? That doesn’t sound so terrible, right? There are lots of examples of company practices like this one. Learn how to read labels on your food and be informed about the ingredients.
Following is some helpful language that has been developed to inform consumers about exactly what is going on in the products they are purchasing: “100% organic” must contain only organic ingredients. Foods labeled simply “organic” must have at least 95% organic ingredients. And foods labeled as “made with organic ingredients” must have at least 70% organic ingredients by weight or fluid volume, excluding water and salt. One helpful way to be an informed shopper is to ask the grower of your produce. This is why I love farmers markets so much. Often times I will find that the farmers have not sprayed their crops with chemicals, but are unable to call their goods organic because the process to get certified is so incredibly time-consuming and expensive. Many are even currently working on the steps for certification, so it helps to spark up a conversation, know what you’re purchasing and support your small local farms.
Next, I’ll share some specifics, the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen. Below are the top twelve foods to consider splurging a few extra bucks on and purchasing organic. Due to the way these foods are grown, the specific pests that seek them out and/or the texture of their skin, they are significantly higher in harmful chemicals at the time of consumption than others. Please note, the list is in order of highest residue remaining, and tests are run after the foods are thoroughly washed and/or peeled depending on how they are most-often consumed.
~~ Dirty Dozen~~
Peaches/Nectarines: The highest rating of chemical residue is found in peaches and nectarines due to their soft, fuzzy porous skin.
Apples: One batch of test performed on apples by the FDA detected 36 chemicals, close to 50% being neuro-toxins.
Strawberries: Strawberries are the most heavily treated crop in the U.S. covered with an average of 300 pounds of chemicals per acre. The average treatment rate for all crops is 25 pounds per acre. It’s surprising that strawberries are not at the top of the list.
Cherries: Cherries grown in the U.S. have three times more pesticide residue than imported cherries.
Pears: 4% of domestic and 10% of imported pears exceeded FDA approved levels of chemical contamination.
Spinach: One study conducted by the FDA found spinach to be one of the most commonly tainted crops. Some of the pesticides used on spinach are the most powerful toxins available.
Potatoes: Potato growers have reduced their use of pesticides a bit in recent years, but spraying heavily for pests like the potato tuber moth is still common.
- Onion · Avocado
- Sweet Corn · Tomato
- Broccoli · Asparagus
- Sweet Peas · Sweet Potato
- Cabbage · Eggplant
- Papaya · Watermelon
- Mango · Pineapple
These foods are lowest in harmful chemicals and/or are often peeled at time of consumption, so residue is left behind on the parts we don’t ingest. Of course, if it fits into your budget, it is always beneficial to purchase organic as much as possible. More and more it’s becoming imperative to vote with your dollar. Supply and demand. If we are purchasing more organic products then manufacturers will be more likely to convert their growing practices and produce organic. This is a good thing for our bodies and the environment.
And lastly, the response I get most often from clients regarding Organic products is that it is too expensive. Here’s some food for thought:
~ Organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies like conventional farmers do.
Therefore, the price of organic food reflects the true cost of growing.
~ The price of conventional food does not reflect the cost of environmental cleanups that we pay for through our tax dollars.
~ Organic farming is more labor and management intensive.
Also, in terms of our health:
~ #1 cause of bankruptcy is health/ medical related
~ In 1960, Americans spent 19% of income on food and 5% on healthcare. Today, we spend 9% on food and 17% on healthcare.
~ Americans spend less on food, as a percentage of income, than any other country, in the history of earth.
(Most countries in Europe 17-18%, developing countries 50%)
Hmm.. Perhaps if we spent our hard-earned money on more healthful ways of living, we could reduce the need for such high healthcare costs.