Missing the Point on Organic Produce

Healthy Foods Aren’t Just About Nutrition (it may be about fewer toxins)

Back in early 2012, health pundit Dr. Mehmet Oz opined in Time that organic food is a luxury, an “artisanal ingredient.” It’s not. The importance of eating organic foods – especially for our children – is not about some snooty need for truffle oil or expensive European cheeses. In my opinion, organic foods are simply healthy foods! Read more to find out why.

Organic food is great, it’s just not very democratic. As a food lover, I enjoy truffle oil, European cheeses and heirloom tomatoes as much as the next person. But as a doctor, I know that patients don’t always have the time, energy or budget to shop for artisanal ingredients and whip them into a meal. (Dr. Oz)

Controversy

Throughout 2012, other health “pundits” have cited a study performed by researchers at Stanford as evidence that “organic is no better for you than conventionally-grown food.” The study has been condemned by advocates of organic farming as flawed. The study has been lauded by others as a “told-you-so” confirmation that organic food is a scam. The conclusion of the study: that organically-grown food is not more nutritious than conventionally-grown food (meaning, with pesticides). The implication is that organic produce is not any healthier for you and your children than produce grown with pesticides. The big commercial food producers would like that to be the point that you take from the Stanford study. Why all the media hype, with headlines like “Organic Not Better for You!”? I wonder who the advertising sponsors are for those big media corporations …

All the Stanford study concluded was that organic produce did not contain higher levels of nutrients than pesticide-grown produce. And even that conclusion contradicts a previous report by the not-for-profit group, The Organic Center; they had published a report in 2008 stating that “New Evidence Confirms Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods,”(down-loadable pdf file).

The Benefit of Organic Produce: Healthy Foods

organic foods are healthy foods

Image: organic produce, healthy foods

Me? Despite having both PhD and MD degrees, and having been in medical research for over 30 years myself, I really don’t care whether the study was flawed or not. Why? Because all those articles missed the point. It’s not about the nutrients. Because I don’t buy organic produce (when I can afford it, and even then, I buy selectively) because I think it has more nutrition. I buy it because IT HAS FEWER POISONS! I buy it because there are lower levels of toxins in organic produce, even though pesticides can still be detected in organic produce. Why? Because we have saturated our entire planet with those poisons. Pesticides are everywhere. Even so, at least we can try to buy food for our families that did not have poisons intentionally sprayed on them. Simply put: organic produce is just healthy food.

So, What’s Wrong With Pesticides?

Pesticides are in our non-organic foods, and in the air, and can cause serious health problems in our children. This fact was nicely reviewed by Dr. Crinnion on his blog in 2012. Pesticides – organophosphates – significantly reduce cognitive development and IQ, and are linked to behavioral disorders like ADHD. Unfortunately, these pesticides can be detected in all of us. All of us. But we should do everything in our power to prevent feeding them to our pregnant women and our children. We know that an organic diet significantly reduces a child’s exposure to organophosphates. Heck, let’s include all of us in that goal: let’s try to minimize everyone’s exposure to these toxins. And if organic produce does have higher levels of nutrients, as suggested by The Organic Center, that would simply be a nice added benefit. But that’s not the main reason that organic food is healthier for you.

So, What Can You Do About It?

Let’s face it, organic produce is more expensive. When the farmer does not spray pesticides on the crops, their yield is generally lower. For the same amount of work, they have less produce to sell. But if you have a limited budget (and who doesn’t?), then the key is to selectively buy organic. There is a group of fruits and vegetables that soak up pesticides more than others. Strawberries are notoriously good at retaining pesticides that are used on them. Conclusion? If you are going to buy strawberries, get the organic ones!

Here is the list of the 15 Most-contaminated fruits & vegetables. Those are the ones that you should try to buy organic.

What else? You can simply wash off your produce. Use gentle soap and water.

Finally, if the health of your kids is important to you (of course it is), take a look at the articles below titled “Better Living Through LESS Chemistry” in Sources, below. Those articles are compiled into an eBook by that name, sold here for $5:

Detox: Better Living Through Less Chemistry, boogordoctor eBook

You may also appreciate one of my other eBooks, 8 Ways to Clean Your Air: A Practical Guide, also $5.

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Hi, I’m Russell Faust, author of this medical education blog.

Russell Faust, PhD, MD boogordoctor / organic foods, healthy foods

Dr. Faust and friend

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Sources:

Image Credit:

Grapes, by Andrew McFarlane, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/farlane/127551550/

Organic cornucopia of fruits & vegetables, by Jina Lee, from wikimedia, used under Creative Commons License: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cornucopia_of_fruit_and_vegetables_wedding_banquet_(cropped).jpg

Better Living Through LESS Chemistry Series:

The problem: http://www.boogordoctor.com/2010/08/pediatric-sinusitis-asthma-better-living-through-less-chemistry/

Our Food & Water: http://www.boogordoctor.com/2010/08/pediatric-sinusitis-asthma-better-living-through-less-chemistry-food-water/

Reducing Exposure: Our Food – http://www.boogordoctor.com/2010/08/pediatric-sinusitis-asthma-better-living-through-less-chemistry-our-food/

Detox: Replacing Toxic Cleaners – http://www.boogordoctor.com/2010/08/pediatric-sinusitis-asthma-better-living-through-less-chemistry-toxic-cleaners/

 

Framing the organic debate, from NIH: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2897221/

Dr. Crinnion’s Review: http://drcrinnion.com/pesticides-from-non-organic-foods-and-air-can-cause-serious-health-problems-in-your-kids/

2 great articles in Mother Jones by Tom Philpott:

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/12/mark-bittman-nails-it-pesticides

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/12/tvs-dr-oz-misdiagnoses-organic-food

Articles bout pesticide exposure in children:

http://www.infiniteunknown.net/2012/12/16/pesticide-exposure-in-children-intervention-study-placed-children-on-an-organic-diet-produced-without-pesticide-and-observed-drastic-and-immediate-decrease-in-urinary-excretion-of-pesticide-metabol/

https://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-organic-a-scam-fetal-and-child-development-and-antibiotic-resistance/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16451864

http://www.integrativepediatricsonline.com/blog/2013/01/24/pesticides-and-organic-food-the-aap-gets-it-both-right-and-wrong-in-separate-articles-a-month-apart/

http://www.citizens.org/pesticides-in-kids-linked-to-adhd/

ADHD in Children Linked to Pesticide Exposure: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2010/05/17/peds.2009-3058.abstract

How to Avoid Pesticides / wash produce: http://www.doctoryourself.com/pesticides.html

Comments

  1. Thanks for this article. Just like you, whether the nutrition value is higher or not I would rather eat food that had not been sprayed with anything. Your website is full of valuable info. Job well done.

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