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More reasons to eat organic foods

 

Last updated 3/13/2008 at Noon



New research shows more good reasons to choose organic food.

A recent four-year study in England showed that produce and livestock raised on adjoining organic and non-organic land demonstrated a significant difference in nutritional value:

• Organic wheat, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and cabbage had 20 to 40 percent more vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C and beta-carotene (a known cancer preventive)

• Organic potatoes, kiwi and carrots had higher levels of vitamin C, an antioxidant immune booster

• Organic milk had more vitamin E (a cardiovascular antioxidant) and a better ratio of good to bad fatty acids

While great news, this is “icing on the cake” for organic food proponents.

The main reason most of us have been avoiding commercial produce, poultry and meats (when we can) is because of the known effects of endocrine-disrupting pesticides.

The endocrine system is fundamental to life. It uses chemicals (hormones) to regulate essential body functions such as metabolism, growth and development, sexual maturation and reproduction.

Most of the chemicals found in pesticides and plastics (such as phthalates in water bottles, toys and food packaging) are estrogen mimics. They bind to estrogen receptor sites and make the body think it is getting an extra dose of female hormone.

In men, women and children – especially fetuses – this excess “hormone” can have disastrous effects.

Studies have linked estrogen-mimicking pesticides to breast, testicular and prostate cancers, early puberty, malformed genitals and male sexual dysfunction.

Sperm counts and viability have been dropping worldwide, particularly in industrialized nations (a recent study showed sperm counts in Europe are down nearly 50 percent).

Pesticides pass the placental barrier and accumulate in breast milk. Even small amounts can affect neurological development, growth and lifelong hormone “set points” in fetuses.

If that’s not scary enough, the chemicals are fat soluble, which means they store in fat cells instead of flushing quickly from the body. They also accumulate as you move up the food chain.

When you eat a hamburger, for instance, you are consuming stored pesticides from the cow, the water it drank, the plants it ate and the air and soil that fed the plants.

There will also be higher pesticide levels in fatty foods, such as oils, nuts, butter, whole milk, meats and poultry. All of these accumulate and store in your fat cells as well, with the potential for increasing effects over time.

The good news is, organic food is gaining in popularity and prices are coming down. Local organic produce is available at farmer’s markets countywide. It is fresher and has a smaller “carbon footprint” than produce shipped from other areas.

Your local health food store is an obvious source for organic foods, both fresh and “larder staples.” Most will special order case sizes at a lower “per each” price, allowing you to save on frequently used items.

Chain grocery stores are beginning to carry an increasing number of organic items. Ralph’s in particular has organic items in nearly every department, at prices only a little higher than the standard items.

Encourage your supermarket to stock more organics at reasonable prices. They have the buying power to influence how much organic food is produced.

Depending on how you feel about the shipping issue, online retailers can be another source for items you cannot find locally.

It would take a long time to get the pesticides out of our environment, even if we stopped using them immediately. But it’s getting easier to reduce or remove them from our diet – and that we can do now.

 

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