I’m often asked if buying organic produce is truly necessary and worth the cost. My answer is that I believe organic food is superior from both an environmental and nutritional point of view.
It’s no secret that the bulk of the produce in your supermarket is grown in chemically enriched soils and sprayed with pesticides. Although organic food isn’t completely pesticide free, it is required to meet certain standards, so it’s a step in the right direction.
A 2007 study funded by the European Union makes it clear that organic produce has a nutritional advantage as well. Researchers discovered that organic vegetables and fruit contain more zinc and other health-enhancing minerals and up to 40 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown produce. They also found that milk from cows raised on organic diets had 90 percent more antioxidants than regular milk.
But what about the high cost of organic foods?
It’s true that organic food is rather pricey, so I suggest checking out food co-ops and farmer’s markets. (Visit localharvest.org to locate these venues in your area.) For the best deals, shop around closing time, when sellers are eager to unload their wares before packing up for the day.
You can also prioritize which foods you buy organic by using the Environmental Working Group’s newest 2011 research:
• The “Dirty Dozen” most pesticide-ridden produce are apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries, lettuce, kale/collard greens, and imported nectarines and grapes. Buy these organic, when possible.
• The “Clean 15” with the least chemical residue are onions, corn, pineapples, avocados, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, domestic cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms.
The bottom line is don’t let the high cost of organic food stop you from loading up on produce. No matter how they’re grown, vegetables (and modest amounts of fruit) are a health boon. Plus, don’t waste your money on fancy fruit and vegetable sprays. The best way to remove pesticides and microbes from fruits and vegetables is to simply scrub them under running water.
Now it’s your turn: Do buy organic produce?
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