The Payoff of Going Organic

According to Nutrition Action Health Letter, nearly 4,000 farms in Canada produce certified organic products. Sales of organic foods continue to grow, and now exceed $2 billion a year. Half of that comes from mainstream grocery stores. Organic foods are working their way into Canadians’ diets – and that’s a good thing.

Some benefits of organic produce:

  • Higher levels of potentially healthy compounds in 60% of studies
  • No synthetic fertilizers that contaminate ground water
  • They don’t chase away important pollinators such as bees and butterflies
  • Reduced exposure to harmful pesticide residues

Organic expert Charles Benbrook says “the data shows that you reduce your exposure to pesticide residues when you buy organic foods.” While organic foods may not be entirely free of synthetic pesticides due to traces blown in the air from conventional farms, still – organic produce score higher. They store longer due to the fact that they’ve got a higher concentration of antibacterial phenolic acids right under their skin, which helps to retard the growth of moulds and bacteria that lead to spoilage, says Benbrook. While conventional farms can drive up the yields and produce bigger plans, their levels of vitamins, minerals and polyphenols are diluted.

Benbrook refutes the results of Stanford University’s review which claimed that organic produce isn’t more nutritious than conventional. Studies that compare the same varieties of fruits and vegetables grown in similar location is the ideal way to do comparisons says Benbrook and he found that only half the Stanford studies were done that way.

Nutrition Action Health Letter reported that it appears where your produce is grown makes a difference. Some countries test higher for pesticides in certain crops than others. The U.S. Department of Agriculture tests selected fruits and vegetables and publishes a Dietary Risk Index (DRI) for selected fruits and vegetables. (The Canadian government does no systematic testing.) It’s not a uniform level for all produce in any one country. For example, cherries in Canada score 40 on DRI while cherries grown in the U.S. score 12. However, green beans from Mexico score 79 and green beans from the U.S. score 157.

Organic Foods and Children

It seems that for children, organic produce is even more critical as they are exposed to more pesticides than adults. Benbrook stresses that pesticide regulation must focus on protecting the developing fetus and protecting children especially  during the first two years of life – even through adolescence. The brain continues to grow and the nervous system continues to develop throughout the teenage years.

Good news – Benbrook assures that the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) in the U.S has restricted the use of pesticides by reducing the numbers and rates of pesticide applications and lengthened the interval between the last application and the harvesting of food. Most of those restrictions were also made in Canada. This act has no impact on imports.

Do your best to choose organic produce. Some safe foods are blueberries, strawberries, mangoes, oranges, apples, bananas, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapes, cherries, pears, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions, kale, spinach, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, summer squash.

For better health, Benbrook advises: number one – eat more fruits and vegetables. Number two – eat more organic produce.