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The Benefits Of Eating Organic Produce

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Say you walk into your nearest supermarket to pick up the ingredients for a green smoothie. It calls for lemon juice, but you’re feeling adventurous, so you decide you’re going to get the juice fresh from the lemon instead of a prepackaged juice container. You head into the produce section and spot the lemon bin right away. You grab one and move along to the next food on your grocery list only to discover <i>another</i> lemon bin the next aisle over. Choices, choices! You can see that the lemons in the first bin are shinier and plumper, priced lower, and separately labeled as “conventional.” This second bin is marked “organic.” You’ve heard of organic, but what does “conventional” mean? And is buying organic food worth the price difference? <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Conventional Produce and All That Entails</p></h4> In the United States, we have two main choices for produce: organic produce and conventional produce. Produce that is not organic is grown on farms with pesticides (kills insects), herbicides (kills plants), hormones (to ripen the foods and extend their shelf-life), and anything else that doesn’t strictly adhere to the USDA-organic guidelines, they could even be GMO (genetically modified). In other words, if it’s not organic, it’s conventional. In a different world where food is scarce, these farming practices could be a blessing, but we don’t live in that world, and the reality of consuming harmful pesticides in our food and altered produce can actually cause severe damage to both ourselves and our environments. <div class="row mb-4"> <div class="col-12 col-md-5 push-md-7 align-self-center"> <img class="img-fluid" src="https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/wm-wmade-static-media/media/public/Assets/images/dying-wheat.jpg" alt="Dying Wheat"> </div> <div class="col-12 col-md-7 pull-md-5"> Let’s start out with the most straightforward and familiar example: Roundup. Roundup is an herbicide used on farms to kill unwanted weeds in crop farming and to pre-harvest food like grains and legumes. It’s produced for farms by the infamous agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto and the main ingredient is the dangerous component glyphosate<sup>1</sup>. Roundup gets sprayed on a wide array of produce, but in America, it is standard practice to add it to grain crops to make harvest easier. </div> </div> This means that pretty much any type of food grown on farms, that you can make into a burger bun or wrap has been treated with this widespread compound unless it has been specified as organic. Why, though? Well, there is a complex agricultural science behind harvesting these grains and working with a dried out and dead crop saves the farmer a lot of time, effort, and therefore, money<sup>2</sup>. Monsanto works closely with the USDA to regulate and advise farmers on the safest levels of Roundup to use on their crops without causing damage to the food consumers eat. But guess what? Farmers and field workers are still highly advised to wear a hazmat suit or gas mask to protect them from the stuff they spray. Some farmers don’t even bother to touch these crops, and instead fly overhead by plane and rain down the pesticides from above. If your farmer doesn’t want to touch Roundup, or other synthetic pesticides, why would anyone want to eat it as food? But eat it we do, and it’s making us sick. Studies have linked the rise of celiac disease and gluten intolerance to the rise in the use of glyphosate on our wheat and grains<sup>3</sup>. And the fastest growing food allergy is to corn<sup>4</sup>, which is the most genetically modified crop in the American marketplace<sup>5</sup>. You may be thinking beyond produce and asking: is organic farming a thing with livestock and dairy products? Great question! Organic and conventional standards apply here too. Livestock and dairy can also be labeled organic. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/is-grassfed-beef-worth-the-price-tag/"><b>Organic meat</b></a>, poultry, eggs and dairy products are given an organic label if no antibiotics or growth hormones were fed to the animals. Also, the food given to the animals and fertilizers used can’t contain any synthetic pesticides or GMOs. So, look for organic labels when shopping for meat and dairy products! <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">The Range of GMOs</p></h4> Not all GMOs are harmful, but GMO has a very broad definition. A farmer who cloned his heirloom tomatoes to save the strain from lousy weather has to mark them as GMO. Harmless, these types of GMOs are the poster child for safe, farming that is not organic. But on the other hand, some crops have been modified so severely that they are now toxic to our bodies. For example, there is a commonly used variety of corn that has been genetically modified to <i>secrete its own pesticides.</i> The GMO process doesn’t stop just because you ate it. That altered gene is found throughout the entire corn crop, in every single cell nucleus. And because of the way DNA works, those genes can be activated outside their intended purpose. All of these farming practices that are not organic have been linked to the rise in chronic disease. We’re at the point where 60 percent of American adults have been diagnosed with a chronic illness<sup>6</sup>. Will one bite of an apple that is not organic kill you? No. But will eating one apple a day that is not organic keep the doctor away? Also, no. <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">The Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen</p></h4> Luckily for our wallets, there is a list of conventionally farmed foods that don’t retain the pesticides they are farmed with. This type of produce is called the “Clean 15,” their opposite are foods that are especially sensitive to what they’re grown with, dubbed the “Dirty Dozen.” The Clean 15 are okay to buy if not organic, and save money on, while produce in the Dirty Dozen category really call for a trip to the organic side of the grocery store. <div class="row"> <div class="col-12 col-md-6"> <h5>The Clean 15</h5><ul> <li>Avocados</li> <li>Sweet Corn</li> <li>Pineapples</li> <li>Cabbage</li> <li>(Frozen) Sweet Peas</li> <li>Onions</li> <li>Asparagus</li> <li>Mangoes</li> <li>Papayas</li> <li>Kiwi</li> <li>Eggplant</li> <li>Grapefruit</li> <li>(Domestic) Cantaloupe</li> <li>Cauliflower</li> <li>Sweet Potatoes</li> </ul> </div> <div class="col-12 col-md-6"> <h5>The Dirty Dozen</h5><ul> <li>Strawberries</li> <li>Spinach</li> <li>Nectarines</li> <li>Apples</li> <li>Grapes</li> <li>Peaches</li> <li>Cherries</li> <li>Pears</li> <li>Tomatoes</li> <li>Celery</li> <li>Potatoes</li> <li>Sweet Bell Peppers</li> </ul> </div> </div> By eating the cleanest produce possible, you allow your body time to detox from all of the pesticides in foods that aren’t organic which get introduced to your digestive tract day in and day out. When we don’t give our bodies a break from pesticides, they get overwhelmed, and instead of cleaning house in the usual orderly fashion, the body will begin to store those chemicals in a place where it can’t harm you: in your fat deposits, medically dubbed <i>adipose tissue.</i> And if you don’t have enough fat deposits, your body will make more to keep up with the chemical demand. <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">How We Make Ourselves Sick</p></h4> There is another phenomenon that happens when we ingest too many chemicals, and that is leaky gut syndrome or “intestinal permeability.” Chemicals like glyphosate destroy our intestinal lining and allow food particles to permeate our digestive tract, letting undigested food bits and microbes, like bacteria and viruses, free-roam in our bodies. This leads to an inflammatory response as our immune system tries to fight off the stuff that shouldn’t be there, and so we develop food sensitivities, allergies, and perhaps a descent into autoimmune disease. Our poor immune systems become overstimulated and easily triggered. Having a leaky gut does not automatically mean you will get an autoimmune disease just as having an autoimmune disease doesn’t automatically mean you have leaky gut. But the autoimmune epidemic in America is linked to our leaky guts, which in turn is connected to our conventional food consumption. As awful as this sounds, it’s entirely reversible. You see, our bodies don’t want to be sick. Every shred of our human DNA is designed to create a thriving body. In the modern era, all we have to do is get out of the way. When we start eating nutrient-dense foods clean of chemicals, we give our bodies all of the tools they need to repair the damage and function at optimal levels. Of course, eating organic food after a lifetime of eating food that is not organic may not be the only thing to reverse your symptoms. Be sure to work with a healthcare provider to determine what else you may need to do to heal you gut. <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">The Grocery Store’s Secret</p></h4> Cool, so we start eating organic, right? Yes. But to take it a step further and to give your body every fighting chance to heal itself, we need to eat organic and <i>local.</i> When we eat local organic food via farmers’ markets, CSAs (community-supported agriculture), and by shopping directly on organic farms, we are eating foods that are grown in healthy soil. Why does that matter? Well, think about it. We get nutrients from the food we eat. So do plants. And what do plants eat? Plants eat water, air, sunshine, and the dirt they live in, so to speak. <div class="row mb-4"> <div class="col-12 col-md-5 push-md-7 align-self-center"> <img class="img-fluid" src="https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/wm-wmade-static-media/media/public/Assets/images/lemons-with-stickers.jpg" alt="Lemons With Stickers"> </div> <div class="col-12 col-md-7 pull-md-5"> If we go back to our lemon example, one is <i>not</i> organic. It is full of chemicals and hormones designed to make it grow faster, fatter, and to be more attractive. Sometimes, the organic lemon is a little deflated-looking, kind of sadder, but it’s just a lemon. It passed the USDA-organic certification process and promises to do you no harm. But does it promise to do everything a lemon can to help your body? Well, let’s say it’s April, meaning lemon season is over in all US climates. Neither of those lemons grew anywhere near you, and when you examine your choices, and the stickers on both of them, you see that they are products of Brazil<sup>7</sup>. This is why the organic lemon looks so tired; they both traveled very far to get to your local store. </div> </div> Do you know how long ago they were picked? At best, it was over a week ago, but most likely it was last year. You see, even with large scale organic farming, farmers grow a lot of produce each season, but they are always at the mercy of the weather and other growing conditions. Within the organic farming industry, farmers are never 100 percent sure that they will have a successful crop to live off of next season, so they freeze their produce when it’s freshest and sell to stores based on how much they have and how well their current season is growing. This is a common organic farming practice across the world because it brings stability to an unstable industry, and the bigger the scale of the farm, the better equipped they are to produce organic food this way. Oh, and by the way, that’s all for the organic lemon! In the case of the lemon that is not organic, it could be even longer from tree to plate because foods that are not organic are given chemicals and hormones to extend their shelf life (preventing mold and bacteria from eating it right away). But both lemons are still <i>old</i> by produce standards, and because they are both produced by “Big Agriculture,” they each contain about the same amount of nutrients. Monocrop farming is a common practice of big agriculture; this means both of those lemons grew on a tree raised in a plot of soil that hasn’t known anything other than lemon trees for a very long time. This is problematic for soil. When the same vegetable or fruit is planted over and over again in the same spot, the earth becomes depleted of nutrients—the same nutrients needed to make a healthy plant and the same nutrients we want to find when we bite its produce. <div class="row justify-content-center"> <div class="col-10 col-md-3 push-md-9"> <img class="img-fluid" src="https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/wm-wmade-static-media/media/public/Assets/images/various-green-crops.jpg" alt="Various Green Crops"> </div> <div class="col-12 col-md-9 pull-md-3"> Soil needs something called <i>nutrient cycling</i>, a natural process that involves a give and take of different nutrients. Farmers can do this by introducing different plants, insects, and animals to the same plot of land. When farmers play it smart and rotate their crop fields, they ensure that the soil maintains a rich balance necessary to produce healthy crops. You can only get this from shopping locally as crop cycling requires more organic farming land and doesn’t yield enough for a farmer to sell his harvest on the international scale, not with Big Ag as their competition, anyway. But shopping organic and locally is far from a pain in the rear, even if your nearest farmer or farmers’ market is two hours away. </div> </div> <h4 class="my-5"><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">The Farmer’s Market Solution</p></h4> “Hey, now,” you might argue, “I don’t have four hours to spare every time I need organic groceries.” Even if it means supporting organic farming! <div class="row mb-4"> <div class="col-12 col-md-5 push-md-7 align-self-center"> <img class="img-fluid" src="https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/wm-wmade-static-media/media/public/Assets/images/figs-and-strawberries.jpg" alt="figs and strawberries"> </div> <div class="col-12 col-md-7 pull-md-5"> Ah, but you’ll be eating fresh, healthy produce rather than old, sickly produce. When you shop at the grocery store, how long does your food last? Likely only between one to three days, so in a month you may have to make about ten grocery runs. Well, when you make choices like shopping local, you are getting fresh produce. That basket of organic blueberries or bunch of organic kale was picked, at most, three days ago. In fact, most farmers’ markets boast organic produce that’s less than a day old. Now, that’s fresh! What does this mean for your fridge? It means you can buy an entire week’s worth of fresh organic groceries in one trip, and if you follow some fridge hacks, you can make that produce last up to three weeks. Maybe more! </div> </div> You can also buy “ugly produce” which is still organic and fresh from farmers for cheaper prices. Sometimes, the organic produce will look kind of funky, like a three-legged carrot, but still have that delicious, nutritious taste! Shopping locally and organic also allows our bodies to sync up to the season as food is information about the state of our environment. And if you’re reading this in the dead of winter somewhere, you don’t have to wait for vibrant produce until spring. Plenty of farmers produce organic food during the cold season. Organic winter kale, cabbage, and root vegetables are everywhere at a chilly farmers’ market, and a lot of small-scale farmers will ferment or can their unsold crop and sell that in the winter. Making choices like reseeding your gut with organic fermented foods is crucial for your health, so don’t shy away from them! Give them a try! To get back to our search for smoothie produce, let’s say that after all this, you decide to skip the lemons. You opt for the avocado that is not organic (one of the Clean 15) to balance out your total when you buy the fresh organic ginger root. You leave with only two ingredients because you checked what was in season in your area, and as it turns out, you can buy all the other organic food you need from local farmers at the market in town. By the end of the day, you have made good and fresh choices! You have supported local agriculture, and have a fridge fully stocked with a diverse selection of mostly organic nutrients and minerals that your body will thank you for as you begin the next week of your journey towards health. <h5><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Resources</p></h5> 1. <https://www.ecowatch.com/roundup-cancer-1882187755.html> 2. <https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenny-dewey-rohrich/the-truth-about-toxic-wheat_b_6180498.html> 3. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945755/> 4. <https://www.foodallergytalk.com/corn.htm> 5. <http://naturalsociety.com/top-10-worst-gmo-foods-list/> 6. <https://www.rand.org/blog/rand-review/2017/07/chronic-conditions-in-america-price-and-prevalence.html> 7. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon#Production> 8. <https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php> 9. “The AutoImmune Fix” by Tom O’Bryan

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