Ah, the organic food discussion. It seemed only natural to dive in after talking about detoxification. There’s a lot of chatter on both sides of the fence about organic foods regarding if they are truly different from conventionally grown food or worth the extra cost. My answer to both: emphatically YES. Here are my top 3 reasons for why to buy organic:
#1 Avoid GMOs
GMO stands for genetically modified organism. The company behind most GMOs, Monsanto, has modified foods such as corn and soy to include an insecticide (Roundup) within the plant. Unfortunately, this genetic modification has created a whole host of issues ranging from farming practices to maintaining biodiversity to human health risk. Studies done with rats fed GMO corn have shown the development of mammary tumors, liver and kidney damage, and a shortened lifespan.
People still debate about the risk to human health GMOs pose. I would ask: Do you really want to take that risk? If a chemical-laden food is causing huge change in the cellular structure of an animal, do you believe that your cells are so different (they’re not) that you won’t be effected? Sure, we’re larger organisms than rats and can perhaps handle a larger amount, but insults to the body accumulate over time and become more and more difficult for the body to clean up.
Did you catch that part where I mentioned that Roundup is in the food? Yes, you are literally eating Roundup. You can’t wash it off, it’s in the genetic structure of the plant. GMO foods are becoming increasingly difficult to avoid in conventional foods. Most corn and soy in foods is GMO. I’m not just talking about that delicious sweet corn you buy in the summer or the edamame you like to snack on. Corn is in most processed food and beverages via corn oil or high fructose corn syrup. Soy is in most processed food via soybean oil. Both oils are low quality and inflammatory to the body, and on top of that they have Roundup in them. They are cheap and readily available, so they are added to most conventional processed food products.
The only way to guarantee that you are not eating a GMO food is to buy organic. By FDA regulations, a food containing a GMO product cannot be labeled organic.
#2 Avoid antibiotics and hormones
Antibiotics and hormones in meat and dairy are a serious health concern. Whatever is fed or given to the animals we eat we consume in their tissues. As a result of the close quarters in which animals live at large industrial farms, they are given antibiotic shots regularly to keep infection down. Over half of the antibiotics used today are given to livestock, making the creation of superbugs very real. Check out this study that recently showed conventionally raised chicken given antibiotics contributes to more frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women due to the emergence of an E. Coli superbug that is antibiotic resistant. By continuing to give animals antibiotics, we are endangering our own health, as well as theirs. The root of the matter is that animals are not meant to live on top of each other, just as humans aren’t without proper sanitation. Free range livestock decreases the need for heavy antibiotic use and provides a better quality of life for animals and the humans who consume them.
Growth hormones are used to fatten chicken, cows, and pigs before slaughter. They gain weight rapidly, making them more profitable for the farmer to sell. This rapid fattening process makes the animals carry more fat than lean protein. Saturated fat from animals can be a healthy source of calories for humans, but the fat should be put on through a natural diet, rather than corn and soy fed to conventionally raised animals. Corn and soy produce inflammatory saturated fat, whereas pasture raised cows, for example, produce anti-inflammatory saturated fat.
In addition, dairy cows are given rBGH, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (manufactured by Monsanto), in order to increase their milk yield. This leads to a whole host of health issues for the cows, including weakened bones (caused by loss of calcium through excess milk production), udder infections (leading to more antibiotic use), as well as higher inflammatory fat levels in the milk itself. rBGH can also increase IGF-1, insulin-like growth factor 1, which regulates cell growth, division and multiplication throughout life. Elevated levels of IGF-1 have been found in those who consume rBGH milk, which can lead to possibly lead to cancer. Check this article out for a history of rBGH and a more complete discussion.
The only way to ensure antibiotics and hormones are not in your meat and dairy is to buy organic. Some meats are labeled as antibiotic and hormone free, however they are typically grain, corn, or soy fed rather than grass or pasture fed. Pasture raised organic animals net you the benefits of no antibiotics or hormones and healthy, anti-inflammatory fats in the meat. Dairy is much the same; rBGH and antibiotic free labeling doesn’t guarantee the animals had a healthy diet. Look for an indication on the label as to how the animals were fed, and you’ll get the most bang for your buck in terms of health for you and the animals.
#3 Richer nutrient content
In the past few years, more and more evidence has mounted regarding the nutrient density of organic versus conventional produce. Here’s an article explaining the landmark study on strawberries, with a direct link to the study itself. Organic won in taste, nutrient level, plant health, and soil health. Plus, buying organic produce nets you the benefit of avoiding pesticides, which are potent neurotoxins, carcinogens, and endocrine, or hormone, disrupters. You can find lots of information about their toxic effects on the EPA’s website. Consumption over a lifetime can slowly chip away at cognitive ability, increase cancer risk, and cause a myriad of hormonal issues such as PMS, fibroids, thyroid issues, blood sugar issues, and more. In my next post, I’ll explain produce that has the highest and lowest pesticide residue.
I strongly recommend investing in your health and purchasing as much organic produce, meat, and dairy as you can. The up front cost of organics can seem prohibitive, but their cost pales in comparison to the cost of ill health down the road.