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What You Need to Know About Buying and Eating Organic

There's no doubt that organic food is considerably more expensive than that which is conventionally-farmed. But is it worth it? What's in non-organic food that's potentially bad for you? How is organic better? Maybe you'd like to know what I learned from the good folks at Healthy Planet who kindly allowed me to adapt and reprint information from their Healthy Shopping Survival Guide.

What is Organic Food Anyway?
Organic food is that which is produced without using harmful, conventional pesticides; fertilizers containing synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before being labeled organic, a U.S. Department of Agriculture approved certifier must inspect the farm where the food is grown to ensure that all USDA organic standards are met.

Organic Labels
There are officially-recognized "degrees" of "organic-ness in your food. For more info, click the USDA seal below.

USDA Organic Logo "100% Organic" denotes products that are made of all organic ingredients and may display the USDA seal.
"95% or More Organic" certified products may also display the USDA seal.
"Made with Organic Ingredients" denotes products containing between 70 and 94% organic ingredients.

How to Avoid Pesticide Residues in Your Food
The best way to avoid pesticide exposure in your food is to purchase fewer animal products and to choose organic produce. Tests have shown that organic produce has only a fraction of the pesticide residue of "conventional" produce. However, when buying conventional produce, you can cut your exposure almost 90% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead! The list below was developed by the Environmental Working Group, based on the results of nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce by the USDA and the FDA.

Avoid the "Dirty Dozen"
Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose you to about 15 pesticides a day, on average. However, eating the 12 least contaminated will expose you to fewer than two pesticides a day:

When NOT Buying Organic...

ThumbsUpChoose the Best
lowest residue listed first

ThumbsDownAvoid the Worst
highest residue listed first
Onions
Blueberries
Papaya
Broccoli
Cabbage
Bananas
Kiwi
Sweet Peas (frozen)
Asparagus
Mango
Pineapples
Sweet Corn (frozen)
Peaches
Apples
Sweet Bell Peppers
Celery
Nectarines
Strawberries
Cherries
Pears
Grapes (imported)
Spinach
Lettuce
Potatoes

Cutting Exposure to Residues Isn't the Only Reason to Go Organic
Organic produce and other foods are not only "cleaner" than conventional, they're also proven to be higher in "nutrient density" (i.e. more nutritional bang per calorie). In addition, many people think organic foods taste better.

This following sample is from the comprehensive nutrient density rating system developed by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. in response to today's, "low-nutrient eating-style that has led to diseases of nutritional ignorance." The numbers tell us which foods pack the most nutrients per calorie by taking into account evaluations of all known vitamins and minerals, along with certain carotenoids, phytonutrients, glucosinates and antioxidants (the radical scavenging capacity of foods).

Sample Nutrient Densities (nutrients per calorie)

Kale
1000
  Tofu
86
  Bananas
30
Collards
1000
  Sweet Potatoes
83
  Chicken Breast 
27
Bok Choy 
824
  Apples
76
  Eggs
27
Spinach
739
  Peaches
73
  Low Fat Yogurt, plain  
26
Cabbage
481
  Kidney Beans
71
  Corn
25
Red Pepper
420
  Green Peas
70
  Almonds
25
Romaine Lettuce 
389
  Lentils
68
  Whole Wheat Bread
25
Broccoli
342
  Pineapple
64
  Feta Cheese
21
Cauliflower
295
  Avocado
64
  Whole Milk 
20
Green Peppers
258
  Oatmeal
53
  Ground Beef 
20
Artichoke
244
  Mangoes
51
  White Pasta 
18
Carrots
240
  Cucumbers
50
  White Bread 
18
Asparagus
234
  Soybeans
48
  Peanut Butter 
18
Strawberries
212
  Sunflower Seeds
45
  Apple Juice 
16
Tomatoes
164
  Brown Rice
41
  Swiss Cheese 
15
Plums
157
  Salmon
39
  Potato Chips 
11
Blueberries
130
  Shrimp
38
  American Cheese 
10
Iceberg Lettuce 
110
  Skim Milk
36
  Vanilla Ice Cream
9
Orange 
109
  White Potatoes
31
  French Fries 
7
Cantaloupe
100
  Grapes
31
  Olive Oil 
2
Flax Seeds 
44
  Walnuts
29
  Cola
1

Nutrient density food rankings patent pending. For more info & all ratings go to: http://drfuhrman.com/library/article17.aspx

Next Month: how to read produce labels and know what you're really buying, how to avoid dietary trans fat, and how to choose safer plastic containers for your food. In the meantime, I recommend visiting Healthy Planet's web site at www.healthy-planet.org for information about this terrific organization and all their programs.

Vsig

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