Thursday, October 8, 2009

Forking over the big bucks for organic…is it really worth it?

Every trip to the grocery store challenges us, as parents and grandparents, to decide whether or not it’s worth it to spend more on foods labeled as organic. After all, it seems like the right thing to do for our kids, but is it really necessary?

Basically, at this point, researchers have found no scientific evidence suggesting that the minute traces of chemicals found in non-organic produce is going to be a threat to your child’s health in the long run. However, we have to remember how long it took for scientists to start recognizing and publicizing the risks involved with BPA or allowing our babies to wear chemically-laced disposable diapers. Are there going to be warnings two years from now? Five? Ten?

So let’s start with produce. When does it, and when does it not, make sense to purchase organically grown fruits and vegetables?

Fruits with peels that are taken off and discarded, such as bananas and oranges, carry the least amount of chemical residue when you get down to the actual fruit. So you can probably skip paying premium prices here. Additionally, the following produce is proven to be exposed to the least amount of chemicals:
Sweet corn
Sweet peas

On the other hand, if you’re concerned about exposing your family to pesticides, here are some of the ones most likely to carry the highest percentage:
Bell peppers
Red raspberries

According to research, higher levels of antioxidants and other nutrients exist in organically-grown strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, and corn. But it’s important to note that some of these studies were paid for by the organic-food industry.

In order to be labeled ‘organic,’ the produce, along with grains, must be grown on land where no genetic engineering or irradiation are allowed. There also can be no synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge used. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture enforces strict standards on foods that indicate they are organic.

There are different reasons for buying organic when it comes to meat and dairy products. For more about the specifics of organic milk, refer to my blog posting on September 21, 2009.

The situation with meat, milk and poultry is that in order to be labeled organic, they have to come from animals raised without any of the growth hormones or antibiotics that are traditionally given to their non-organic alternatives. The animals must be given access to the outdoors and be fed a completely organic diet, which includes grazing on fields where pesticides have not been used for over three years and there are no pesticides in their feed. They also cannot be given any antibiotics or animal by-products.

A side benefit here involves a decrease in mad-cow disease, since animal by-products provide a link to bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Additionally, some research has revealed a risk to human health in cases where people are consuming meat and dairy products that contain rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), which is a hormone connected to breast, prostate and colon cancers. While rBGH is banned in the European Union as well as some other countries, the U.S. Government continues to approve its safety. Again, it may just be a matter of time.

Packaged foods provide yet another option when it comes to buying organic. If they are labeled with the USDA Organic Seal, they must include 95% or more of pesticide-free ingredients. If the label says “made with organic,” the content of true organic ingredients only has to be at 70%. Either way, check out the labels on the processed food you buy. A reduction in non-organic ingredients might not make the cookies, crackers, baked goods or snacks the healthiest option, as they often have an increased fat content.

I know it’s a lot to take in and I hope this article clears away some of the fog. You may want to print it and tote it along to the grocery store to help you make some better choices for your kids. After all, it’s each of our responsibilities to make the right decisions for our children’s health.

Keeping it green and healthy,


No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog