Do you choose organic produce when you grocery shop? What are the benefits when you choose organic? Does it matter? It’s generally more expensive than conventionally grown but is it necessary? Can you afford not to?
Should I Choose Organic?
In my 20’s, I didn’t think much about what I ate. I knew that fruits and vegetables were ideal and that I couldn’t sustain life on Dorito’s and ice cream. However, I didn’t give much thought to the chemicals in the food I was consuming. When I was 28, I was slapped with a cancer diagnosis and boy did that change my thinking process. When the oncologist asks you questions like, “did you grow up in an industrial area?”, you begin to question what you put in to your body. I didn’t grow up in an industrial area, in fact I grew up in the suburbs surrounded by lots of trees and parks and all the “good natural stuff” with “clean air”. So in my mind, it wasn’t the environment that caused my cancer.
At about this same time, the popularity of organic produce seemed to be rising up. Either that or I was just more attune to it given my then current circumstance. I’m not a sciency gal, my brain just doesn’t work that way but I decided to do some research on conventionally grown produce. If I was going to pay more for organic, there needed to be a good reason.
Bad vs. Good
During my research, I came across the Environmental Working Group. If you’re not familiar with the EWG, it is an independent non profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. Their website is full of so much great information, it’s like my bible reference guide for food, personal care products, cleaning products, etc. Every year, they compile a list of the Top 12 (Dirty Dozen) fruits and vegetables highest in pesticides and a list of the Top 15 (Clean 15) fruits and vegetables with the lowest amount of pesticides. I decided to focus my grocery dollars on buying the organic variety of Dirty Dozen products.
Then We Had Kids
When you first become a parent, you want to shield these little human beings from everything. Unless you live in a bubble, that can be quite difficult. Did you know that today, there are over 85,000 chemicals in existence and only about 200 have been tested for their impact on human health? That’s absolutely appalling. Years and years ago when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested and approved many of the pesticides that are in use today, studies hadn’t yet been conducted linking them to cancer. Over half of the herbicides and fungicides already approved, are now considered to be potential causes of cancer. Umm, ok, how about we take those things off the market?
Why I Choose Organic
I choose organic produce for our family based on the EWG recommendations for several reasons. Half of my gene’s, the good, bad and the ugly, were inherited by my kids. So whatever flawed gene I may have that led to my cancer diagnosis could be running around in their bodies as well. If conventional pesticides could be linked to cancer, I can’t think of any good reason not to do my best to prevent it. If you are a parent, you know that the simple act of breathing can induce a sense of parental guilt so no matter what I do, I’ll feel guilty. Think I’ll take the cautious route. You also know that most kids can eat their weight in fruit so if they are eating the fruits on the Dirty Dozen list, this could be a problem. Personally, it comes down to doing my part to minimize the impact on their developing bodies and controlling the things I am able to.
Related Post: 3 Ways to Reduce Chemical Exposure In Your Home
What Does The Science Say
The science says a lot, of contradictory things. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to provide a conclusive answer. You will find any number of articles that say organic produce is more nutritious and is much better for you but there are the same number of articles that say the opposite. It all depends on who you ask and what study they are referring to. The only thing that does seem to have a concrete answer is that organic is better for the soil and for the environment. Honestly, that might just be good enough for me.
What About a CSA?
A friend and I share a Share at a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) not far from my house. If you’re not familiar with CSA’s, the concept is that you purchase a “share” of what the farm produces for the season. The one I belong to has several growing seasons during the year and you pay for your Share ahead of time. The farm is open one day a week for you to go pick up your “share” for the week. CSA’s offer such a wonderful opportunity to get the freshest locally grown produce that you may have never known existed. Not to mention knowing the farmer who is growing your food. You are able to ask any questions about their farming practices and what to do with the produce you receive. We have been CSA share holders for probably about 5 years and just love it. Sure, some years are better than others, if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, the crop yield may not be as great. However, when Mother Nature cooperates, you could wind up with more eggplant than you know what to do with, as happened to us one year. It’s such a great way to try produce you wouldn’t otherwise choose at the store and most farmers respect the land and use sustainable farming practices. To find a CSA in your area, click here.
Farmer’s Markets offer a great option for fresh, local produce as well. They are quite popular here in the Atlanta area and in many areas throughut the country. The offerings can be quite similiar to what you’ll find at the CSA, just with a wider selection to choose from. In high school and during college summers, I worked at a farm market and it was probably my most favorite job I’ve had to date. I think that’s where my love of fresh produce first developed. There was nothing quite like the smell of fresh peaches that screamed summer to me. Farmers Markets offer a great opportunity for discounted produce. If you go close to closing time, many of the farmers don’t want to take home anything so they’ll sell what they still have at a discounted rate. It’s not a guarantee but it’s highly likely. To find a Farmers Market in your area, click here.
Finding A Balance
Though the research seems even more divided as to whether conventional pesticides are harmful or potentially cancer-causing, my purchasing decisions remain pretty much the same. I do not buy the organic variety of each and every piece of produce we consume, my wallet simply cannot afford it. We all know that our health is better when we eat a rainbow and many will say you can either pay the farmer or pay the doctor, the choice is yours. If you are concerned about the amount of pesticides on the produce you consume, there are several options and they can be married together. Review what you and your family are consuming, compare that to the Dirty Dozen list and make a plan from there. If you don’t eat any of the fruits and vegetables on that list, you may not need to worry about pesticides on your food. If the produce on the list is all you and your kids consume, you can try to switch up your diet, slowly move towards locally grown or organic or only buy when things are on sale. When I shop at the grocery store, I stick to the Dirty Dozen list. I don’t worry about the produce I get from our CSA farm because my friendly farmer is already practicing organic farming. Thankfully, it’s not all or nothing.
What’s your favorite fruit and/or vegetable? Do you have a favorite recipe? I’d love to try it out.