Should I buy Organic?


Home grown and Organic food, is there really a difference from a health point of view?

Well first of all what is organic food?

Organic food is grown or produced without the use of agricultural chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, growth regulators, colour or flavour enhancers. That’s the vegetables covered. Organic meat and milk farmers don’t give animals antibiotics, growth hormones or medication to prevent disease or encourage growth. They provide their animals with organic feed and use measures such as a balanced diet to help prevent diseases.

Some organic foods, including fruit, vegetables and milk, may be more nutritious than non-organic produce, according to an investigation by British scientists. During the four-year project, Prof Leifert’s team, which is based at the Newcastle University’s Tesco centre for organic agriculture, reared cattle and grew fruit and vegetables on adjacent organic and non-organic sites across Europe, including a 725-acre farm attached to the university.

Results from the study showed that organic fruit and vegetables contained up to 40% more antioxidants than non-organic varieties. Larger differences were found in milk, with organic varieties containing more than 60% more antioxidants and healthy fatty acids, he said.

Organic produce contains fewer pesticides. Pesticides are chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides. These chemicals are widely used in conventional agriculture and residues remain on (and in) the food we eat.

Pesticide exposure can lead to accumulated build-up of pesticides in our bodies. This chemical “body burden” can contribute to health issues such as headaches, and add strain on weakened immune systems and elimination pathways.

One of the reasons I was inspired to write this article, was a lovely patient of mine, a young girl with behavior difficulties and skin problems. As we were doing our preliminary case taking her mother and I were discussing food allergies and sensitivities. Her mother said they were confused about strawberry intolerances as sometimes when she ate the strawberries there was no reaction, sometimes there was. After discussion we realized the home grown strawberries never triggered any reaction but the store bought ones did, of course chemicals were our first suspect. Now this patient eats organic or soaked vegetables/fruit, along with some other treatment protocols, her skin is clear and her behavior much better.

So, you would like to eat Organic but the cost is an issue. Can you remove or reduce the chemical load?

If pesticides are present on the surfaces of your fruits and vegetables, you can definitely remove a substantial amount of those surface pesticides through careful washing and light scrubbing. However, you cannot remove all of them nor can you remove pesticides that have been incorporated into the fruits and vegetables while they were growing.

The answer for you may be to go partially organic. The EWG has compiled a list of the best and worst affected foods. Environmental Working Group (2013).Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Available online at:

In a nutshell the foods with thinner and fragile skin that is harder to wash or discard has been found to contain more chemicals. Peel your fruit and vegetables and trim off outer leaves. Wash them all thoroughly. Remove fat from meat and the skin from poultry and fish – pesticide residue can also collect in fat; it is a storage site after all.

Use a veggie wash, Vegetable washes are important because most pesticides are petroleum (oil) based, and will not come off with simple water or scrubbing. This is by design, as petroleum based pesticides are designed to withstand heavy rain without the need for costly reapplication. Unfortunately this makes cleaning them all the more difficult, and requires an emulsifier to remove the majority of pesticide residues. Commercial veggie washes are available, though, an acid such as vinegar and lemon juice work too. 1 cup vinegar to 1 cup water and a good soak for 5 minutes, some people also recommend washing in a mild gentle detergent. Whatever method you choose rinse very well!

These are the “Dirty Dozen Plus.” Splash out on the Organic versions of these

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines-imported
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Chilies
  • Green Beans
  • Kale
  • Most Leafy Greens

These are the “Clean 15” considered safer choices

  • Sweet corn
  • Onion
  • Pineapple
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas, frozen
  • Papaya
  • Mangoes
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwifruit
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Mushrooms

Other considerations:

Buy in season – Fruits and vegetables are cheapest and freshest when they are in season. I am an avid believer of seasonal fruit and vegetables being crucial to our health. If you think about it produce reflects the season it’s grown in. For example tropical and summer fruit cools us down, by that logic is it beneficial for our health to have that cooling effect in winter?

Shop around – Compare the price of organic items at the grocery store, the farmer’s market and any other venue (even the freezer aisle!). Purchase the most economical ones.

Remember that organic doesn’t always equal healthy – Junk food can just as easily be made using organic ingredients. Making junk food sound healthy is a common marketing ploy in the food industry but organic baked goods, desserts, and snacks are usually still very high in sugar, salt, fat, or calories.

Consider shopping at farmers ‘markets.  Many cities, as well as small towns, host a weekly farmers’ market, where local farmers sell fresh produce direct to you. Often you will find items for less than you’d pay in the grocery store or supermarket.

Remember, it is still crucial to get at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. The benefits of eating vegetables and fruit, even if they’re non-organic, outweigh the possible risks of eating food that may contain pesticide residues.

FOODElla Doyle