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Organic food — is it worth the money?

I think so and from what I’ve read, most of the time there is a difference in the nutritional value, not to mention the avoidance of pesticides and the impact on the environment. To me, it’s as much about what I’m NOT eating as what I am eating. This is important if you have celiac disease or other autoimmune or chronic conditions — and most of us have something a little off-kilter going on inside (hey, no body’s perfect). I’m going to resist launching into an anatomy lesson here, but our bodies don’t need the additional burden of figuring out what to do with the pesticide residue that often tags along with conventionally grown foods.

A National Academy of Sciences study stated that, “Low level pesticide exposure can cause serious, developmental risks to infants and children, some with lifelong consequences.” While limiting exposure is especially important for kids, it’s important for everyone, regardless of age. Continually dosing ourselves with synthetic fertilizers and chemicals designed to kill insects, fungal “pests,” and weeds can’t possibly be good for us. If this stuff keeps animals, insects, and bacteria from eating the food, maybe we shouldn’t be eating it either. Uh-oh, does that mean these little critters are smarter than we are?

At least try to minimize exposure by choosing organic when purchasing the following fruits and vegetables (the first list below). These have been labeled the “Dirty Dozen” by the Environmental Working Group after running over 50,000 tests for pesticides on produce collected between 2000 and 2005. If you can’t opt for organic in all your food choices, try to make your conventional choices from the “Cleanest 12” and your organic choices from the “Dirty Dozen” list.

The Dirty Dozen (highest in pesticide residue in order as listed)
peaches
apples
sweet bell peppers
celery
nectarines
strawberries
cherries
lettuce
imported grapes
pears
spinach
potatoes

The Cleanest 12 (lowest in pesticides)
onions
avocados
sweet corn (frozen)
pineapples
mango
sweet peas (frozen)
asparagus
kiwi
bananas
cabbage
broccoli
eggplant

Get the full list of results at www.foodnews.org.

I’m anxiously (seriously, I can’t sleep at night) awaiting the spring start-up of my Grant Family Farms CSA weekly delivery of organic fruits and vegetables. Have I mentioned how much I love these guys? Okay, okay — I know I talk about them a lot, but I’m not obsessed or anything. I promise. Well, maybe a little, but the bottom line is — I want safe, healthy, nutritious food that is locally grown by people who not only care about the food they’re growing, but how it impacts the environment as well. Yes, I admit it, I love these people.

Go forth and eat organic food, join a CSA, and thrive!
Melissa
P.S. The above photo depicts some odds and ends in my refrigerator crisper drawer and the dregs from almost-empty rice bags. Everything is organic. I also had a left-over baked sweet potato and some home-made broth in the fridge. The result was the most wonderful and nutritious soup. Eating organic does not have to be expensive and with a little creativity you can stretch something like this “catch-all” soup for 2 or 3 days.

12 Responses to “organic food”

  1. Lo says:

    I sincerely believe that eating organic makes a difference — both to my own health, and the health of the environment.

    In the current economy, we live by the lists you’ve posted — and use them to save a bit of money here and there. We buy all but the most tropical fruits organic… and save money by opting for crucifers and other low-risk foods when organic isn’t an option.

    In addition, we always opt for organic when there is little/no price difference.

  2. Miles says:

    Melissa,
    There are some fine looking ingredients there, glad you made a soup with it, that’s exactly what I would have done. Thanks for the list, I never knew that.
    Very informative as usual.

    Miles

  3. Elsie Nean says:

    Melissa,
    This is a very interesting post and thank you for sharing the information. I have taken a copy of the list for future reference.
    I love soup, in fact we had one today made up of all my leftover veg. My parents used to call this type of soup: across the garden soup :)
    Elsie

  4. Melissa says:

    Lo,

    I couldn’t agree more. It takes some detective work, but there are ways to economically eat organic (even in these financial times).

  5. Melissa says:

    Miles,

    Fine looking ingredients indeed. I love the looks of fresh, organic veggies.

    Elsie,

    You’re welcome — that list is a good one to keep on hand and refer to on occasion. Yes, isn’t soup the best way to use leftover veggies? And so easy and healthy!

  6. greedydave says:

    Melissa,
    I was presented with quite an interesting organic quandary, far from gluten-free so I hope you’ll forgive.

    I’m a homebrew beer maker and I searched high and low for UK organic grains and hops for my beer but without success. I saw online that there were several US retailers of organics, but this raised the question, do I go local and unorganic or import organic across the Atlantic? So far I’ve stuck with the local option but it’s never quite sat right. Hopefully soon there will be a better option.

    GDave

    PS. Hang on a minute, two posts in two days? Is your surname Collins or something? :)

  7. Melissa says:

    GDave,

    You could successfully argue each side of that debate, which in some ways, sets up false choices from the beginning. That’s why either way you go probably won’t “sit right” with you (as you mentioned). This question could be a thesis paper — and probably has been.

    What is important is that you are an aware consumer. You think about the impact of the choices you make. Being aware and staying informed is more important. Lots of variables to think about including the actual cost to you. Seems to me you made the best choice.

    Homebrew beer? Sounds like there could be a blog brewing there.
    :-)

  8. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    I love the cavolo nero leaf you have in the picture. Last year I tried to grow some but the packet of seed turned out to be a sort of curly redish kale…. still good though. Keeping the caterpillars away from leafy green vegetables is hard work. Those organic farmers deserve medals and reliable customers to keep them going. Your system sounds like a
    brilliant idea that the rest of the world should adopt.

    Do all agronomists believe in pesticides I wonder?

    Cid

  9. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    Are all these names (cavolo nero, lacinato blue, and dinasaur) attached to the same plant? I’ve heard all of them used for what I would think is the same variety of kale. I usually call it dinosaur kale — it’s very primitive looking.

    Yes, I love my CSA delivery and am thrilled to have someone else doing the hard-core farming for me, while I play around in my little garden with a few herbs and easy veggies.

    :-)

  10. We don’t have a lot of organic goods avialable here, but I take advantage of them when I can. I was eating my organic salad greens yesterday and I was having to pick through the containers to find leaves that were not too far gone. I was getting annoyed and then stopped and laughed at myself. It’s good those leaves are going bad. That’s what they are supposed to do after several days. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t taste as good or be as good for you. We often “joke” about this topic in our support group. Why would we want to buy food that even bugs won’t eat becuse of all the pesticides? Homegrown pesticide-free broccoli? Just soak in some saltwater and rinse before you eat to get rid of any critters. Also, I just discovered that some of those foods are also on the current GMO list or on the TBD GMO list. Very disheartening. Check it out here. http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/issues/gm/usfoodcrops.html Not to be overly discouraging, but when I read info like that, sometimes I wonder how we’ll be able to eat safely at all.

    That’s a beautiful picture. Real food, fresh and good.

    Great post–thanks,
    Shirley

  11. “but our bodies don’t need the additional burden of figuring out what to do with the pesticide residue that often tags along with conventionally grown foods.” — I couldn’t have said it better myself!

    We joined a CSA for this year and are incredibly excited. We are also growing our own spinach, brussels sprouts, and blueberries. We may end up with too much, but that’s a good problem to have :)

  12. Melissa says:

    Shirley,

    Thanks for the great comments and the link to GMO lists. Interesting. Also, good tip on soaking the veggies. I always appreciate your input!

    Lauren,

    You will love your CSA. I’m going to be posting weekly tips and recipes related to what I receive each week in my CSA box. Keep in touch, I’ll help you use all that food (or store it some way).

    :-)

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Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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