Organic Foods – Does Buying Them Matter?
By Abby Forman, Registered Dietitian with Bon Secours In Motion Physical Therapy & Sports Performance
Throughout grocery stores nationwide, people often stop in the aisles of the produce section and question whether it’s worth it to buy organic foods when they typically cost more.
The answer often varies by fruit, vegetable and who will be eating them.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, foods certified “organic” are those produced through approved methods which protect natural resources, conserve biodiversity (not grown near GMO or non-organic conventional produce) and use only approved substances (such as non-synthetic fertilizers and pesticides). For animal products, the animals must have had access to the outdoors, must not have been treated with antibiotics, growth hormones, or been given feed made from animal products. They also must be fed organic feed for at least one year.
Researchers at Stanford University have found that organic produce – which is not 100 percent free of pesticides – has a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional fruits and vegetables. And, while the levels of pesticides found in conventional produce are within the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable limits, concern still exists about the safety of ingesting these for pregnant women, children, and adults with chronic health conditions.
Yet, studies have found that, generally, organic and conventional foods are equally nutritious.
If you’re thinking about buying organic fruits and vegetables, an easy guide to start with is what’s known as the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of fruits and vegetables found to have high levels of pesticide residue, according to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. To reap the most benefits, focus on buying organic versions of the food you eat most often.
The top 12 conventional foods with the most pesticide residue (in 2016 testing) rank as follows:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
To reduce pesticide residues and bacteria on any type of produce, follow these simple tips:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm soapy water before preparing fresh produce.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas.
- Wash produce with a scrub brush and running water before you peel it.
- Throw away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as cabbage.
- Trim the skin and fat off of meat, poultry or fish to remove bacteria.
Sources: USDA, Stanford University news
For more information about nutrition and choosing healthy foods, visit us Bon Secours Physical Therapy.