Eating organic is a growing trend in America. However, type the word “organic” into a search engine, and a bounty of debating sites appear. One of the biggest questions surrounding organic food is whether it is better to eat than conventionally grown food. According to the USDA, food or other agricultural products labeled as organic do not contain “synthetic fertilizers, irradiation, sewage sludge, or genetic engineering.”
There has not been sufficient scientific research to prove that organic food has more nutrients than conventional food. However, according to the Environmental Working Group, research has linked pesticide consumption to health problems such as nervous system damage, cancer, and hormone disruption. Pesticides are also just as harmful to wildlife and the environment.
The reality that consumers must face is that “bad” food exists and it’s everywhere. While buying organic food seems to be the simple solution, it comes at a price. According to Time Magazine, organic fruits and vegetables cost an average of 13 to 36 cents more per pound than conventionally grown produce. These prices add up, and for people on a budget, organic food can send grocery bills skyrocketing. Nevertheless, there are ways for consumers to overcome these challenges and still have a healthy, nutritious meal that is pesticide free without blowing their budget.
There are certain foods that contain more pesticides than others do. Every year, the EWG updates its “Dirty Dozen,” a list of the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables. When possible, buy these foods organic.
• Sweet bell peppers
• Nectarines (imported)
• Blueberries (domestic)
The EWG also posts its “Clean Fifteen,” a list of the 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables. These foods shoppers can buy conventionally grown and save some money.
• Sweet corn
• Sweet peas
• Cantaloupe (domestic)
• Sweet potatoes
Do not be discouraged by organic versus conventionally grown foods. The EWG said that the “Dirty Dozen” is not to discourage consumers, but rather is to help people lower their consumption of pesticides. For those foods that you cannot buy organic, there are ways to help get rid of some of the pesticides.
Social media sites like Pinterest are excellent sources to share ideas with people, especially about food. According to Susan Sumner, PHD in a Rodale article, spraying fruits and vegetables separately with vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, and then washing thoroughly under cold water, can kill E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Lysteria bacteria.
When choosing which conventional foods to buy, select produce with a thick outer skin, like pineapple and cantaloupe, as this acts as a barrier to direct contact with pesticides. Even if the skin it edible, like on apples and cucumbers, peel it off to eliminate what pesticides you can. Buying produce that is in season will also significantly reduce prices.
So, whether it is organic or conventionally grown, keep eating those fruits and vegetables!
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