Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Conventional Vs. Organic Produce

One of the debates going on now is whether or not organic produce is more nutritious than conventional produce.

As per the USDA, "Produce can be called organic if it's certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for 3 years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include more synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.""Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used." Organic farms and processors support animal health and welfare, do not use genetically modified ingredients, separate organic food from non-organic, and preserve natural resources.

There are some minimal differences in the nutritional profile between organic and conventional produce with organic being higher. This difference, however, is not substantial enough to fully say that all organic is better than conventional. There is some alarm being raised with the pesticide use on conventional produce. Pesticides are regulated by the EPA and are mainly used to protect the produce from bugs and extend their shelf life. There has been some links in research from exposure to pesticides to cancers and brain/central nervous system defects.

Before you start throwing away everything in your fridge, know that there is a threshold for the amount of pesticides you can consume safely. Also, different fruits and vegetables have varying levels of pesticide residues. I love the Safe Fruits and Veggies pesticide calculator because you can see how much of the item you would need to eat in order to see any negative effects from the pesticides. For example, a woman would need to consume more than 2332 servings of kale in one day to have any sort of effect of the pesticides even if the kale had the highest levels of residues. For women and potato consumption, the amount is more than 7379 servings in one day to see any harmful effects.

Check out the link below for a complete list of the dirty dozen (produce with the highest level of pesticide residue that are best to buy organic) and clean fifteen (produce with the lowest level of pesticide residue).
-->Dirty Dozen (best to buy organic) --> LINK
--> Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen Cards --> LINK

One of the biggest complaints about buying organic is that it is more expensive than the conventional. While this may be true, think about how much of the produce you consume that is on the dirty dozen list and if you could spend a little bit more money in this area than in other areas (like on snacks or treats). I don't want those of you reading this to think that if you can't afford organic, that means you should avoid fruits and vegetables. That is certainly not the case! Fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of so many diseases. Also, it is way better to eat a conventionally grown apple than it is to eat potato chips or donuts.

One way to keep your produce safe is to make sure it is washed thoroughly. For conventional or organic produce, the FDA recommends washing fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating or cooking, using a brush to scrub produce with hard surfaces, and cutting away any damaged or bruised areas. If you buy lettuce or greens in a bundle, the recommendation is to toss the outer layer. By following these steps, you can decrease, if not eliminate, the pesticide residue on your produce.

Below are some other great links I discovered for pesticides and safety levels along with organic practices and standards!

Risk Level Calculator --> LINK
Research on Pesticide Residues --> LINK
Organic Standards USDA --> LINK
Introduction to Organic Practices --> LINK

Eating fruits and vegetables (conventional or organic) is way better than eating the processed junk foods. Finally, organic chips and pretzels are still just chips and pretzels. So, don't be blinded by the use of the word organic for covering up junk!

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