When to Choose Organic Produce
Did you see “Food Inc.”? Has it changed your supermarket behavior? It did mine. Having followed Michael Pollan’s sage advice since, I buy organic foods whenever possible in my local supermarket, specialty markets and farmer’s markets. According to Pollan, buying produce grown in healthy soil “benefits not only your health (by, among other things, reducing your exposure to pesticides and pharmaceuticals), but also the health of the people who grow the foods as well as the people who live downstream and downwind of the farms where it is grown.” I’ll take my local farmer’s produce over Monsanto’s any day. That said, this is an expensive choice. Another option is to become informed about which organic foods are most worthy of your hard-earned money.
When to choose organic? The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit aiming to protect public health and the environment, published a shopper’s guide to the “Dirty Dozen”–12 fruits and vegetables that contain the highest amounts of pesticides. The EWG reviewed close to 100,000 produce pesticide reports for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and found that several fruits and vegetables contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving. This produce is more susceptible than others because it has softer skin which absorbs more pesticides. According to the EWG you can reduce pesticide exposure by up to 80% by choosing the organic version of these Dirty Dozen:
Potatoes, Corn (recipes below) and Soy: These three foods are on my list of organic musts. Of the 12 Dirty Dozen offenders, potatoes are the one we often peel. However, it’s important to know that peeling won’t remove the bulk of pesticides; a study by the USDA showed that 81 percent of potatoes still contained pesticides, even after being washed and peeled. Corn and soy, while not on the list of offenders, are on my list of organic musts because they are often genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We just don’t know enough about the long-term consequences of GMOs. And, since one of the goals of genetically modifying seeds is to enable them to withstand more pesticide use, I’ll take mine without, thank you very much. According to the EWG, “Commodity crop corn used for animal feed and biofuels is almost all produced with genetically modified (GMO) seeds, as is some sweet corn sold for human consumption. Since GMO sweet corn is not labeled as such in US stores, EWG advises those who have concerns about GMOs to buy organic sweet corn.”
Pesticides and Nutritional Content: Just to throw a wrench into the organic vs. conventional issue and offer another plug for organics, another consideration when choosing produce is the effect of pesticides on the nutritional content of the food. Several studies of plants grown with pesticides have found that antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are not as abundant as they are in the organic versions. This was true for crops and even for tea leaves which are supposedly loaded with antioxidants.
What to do? According to the EWG, the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. The bottom line: Eat a diet rich in fruits and veggies, and choose wisely.
Healthy Mashed I made this for Thanksgiving this year, and ooh la la were they delish. They were voted a new staple in my family for Thanksgiving and any old day. This recipe replaces dairy with healthful coconut oil and conventional salt with mineral-rich Himalayan salt.
3-4 T coconut oil
About 1 t Himalayan salt
About 1 t freshly ground pepper
Boil potatoes for 30 minutes until fork-tender. Drain. Add coconut oil and mash. Oil will melt as you mash. Pick out large pieces of potato skin or leave in if you wish. Add salt and pepper to taste and mash again.
Snap, Crackle, Popcorn This delicious, simple popcorn recipe comes from Chef Trudy Schafer who specializes in preparing nutritionally packed meals for people with cancer. She is the head chef for the Ceres Community Project of Marin, an amazing nonprofit teaching teens to prepare healthful, organic, healing meals and deliver them to people with cancer in the community.
2 T coconut oil, melted
1 t Himalayan salt
Pop kernels in microwave according to directions. Pour finished popcorn into bowl. Add melted oil and salt and toss.