Health savvy moms have you gone organic? Have you felt unsure of why or what it is that you actually get when you purchase something organic? Well you are not alone so we thought we should enlighten you on the matter. The definition of organic foods are foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers, they do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives (Wikipedia). Meaning that there is less ‘stuff’ in your produce, they typically contain more polyphenols (a powerful anti-oxidant) and taste a whole lot better. Plus did you know 60% of herbicides, 90% of fungicides, and 30% of insecticides are known carcinogens?
Genetically modified foods are becoming more and more prevalent in our grocery stores. The definition of a genetically modified food is organism whose genetic material has been modified by genetic engineering. For example it’s like inserting a gene from Arctic Char (a fish) into a strawberry so that it doesn’t freeze in the winter (hmm, our bodies aren’t used to fish with our strawberries, perhaps this isn’t such a good idea!). Common foods that predominately come GMO are corn, soy, canola, rice and cotton seed oil and unless otherwise specified (ie: labelled organic or non GMO) are probably GMO. Going organic is a way to ensure that what you are eating has not been genetically modified in any way. If the thought of this makes you uneasy, perhaps it is time to contact your MP and start demanding mandatory GMO labeling.
So what are the Canadian standards on what is considered at Organic product or produce? Here is an outline on organic product from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency:
- Only products with organic content that is greater than or equal to 95% may be labelled as: “Organic” or bear the organic logo.
- Multi-ingredient products with 70-95% organic content may have the declaration: “contains x% organic ingredients.” These products may not use the organic logo and/or the claim “Organic”.
- Multi-ingredient products with less than 70% organic content may only contain organic claims in the product’s ingredient list. These products may not use the organic logo.
The fact of the matter is that organic farms have stricter guidelines then non-organic which ensure that health remains a top priority. Organic farms are also far more sustainable making this an environmentally friendly decision. Protecting the quality, and volume of our top soil means protecting our life on this earth. Sadly, soil is diminishing at an alarming rate and we must do all we can to prevent this situation from getting worse. Eating organic also usually means we are helping to support smaller, local farms, and protecting the health of our farmers.
So what are the benefits? Organic produce tends to be grown in higher quality soil. Most chemical fertilizers contain only nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The elemental composition of the human body contains 26 minerals and unless we are taking supplements we need to get these minerals from food! Organics also tend to have higher anti-oxidant content such as flavonoids and polyphenols. We need high levels of antioxidants in our diets to help combat all the free radical stress that our body endures, thus organic food helps our body heal more effectively. Not only that, but organic produce typically tastes better.
A study conducted looking at children who consumed a higher diet of non-organic versus organic that they had six times higher amounts of Organophosphorus (OP). It has been indicated in other studies that chronic exposure to this pesticide may affect neurological functioning, neurodevelopment, and growth in children.
For those who want to go organic but feel it may be expensive here are a few rules for you to ease into the organic food world:
- Follow the dirty dozen and clean fifteen rule. These are lists that have been developed to identify which fruits and veggies are the safest to buy non-organic and those that absolutely should be organic as they are susceptible to the most contamination. We have included these lists for you incase you were unaware however a good rule of thumb is that if you eat the skin or the produce in its entirety then it should probably be organic. If it has a hard or thick casing then the chemical agents are less likely to penetrate the food making them a safer non- organic purchase.
- If there are certain foods that you and your family eat all the time then these are the ones that you should consider making organic first.
- If it is good enough for your children it’s good enough for you. We have had so many moms tell us that they have a separate menu then that of their children because they are so passionate about giving their children the very best but fail to do that for themselves. Lead by example of what a healthy diet is, they are watching what you are eating and how you are treating yourself. Eat well, you deserve it!
Here are the dirty dozen, our additional “must buy organics” and pretty clean fifteen:
- Imported Nectarines
- Sweet bell peppers
- Domestic blueberries
- Kale/ Collard greens
- Green beans
Our important additions to the dirty dozen
- Animal meats, eggs and dairy products – Organic meats are free from antibiotics, pesticides and hormones. The animal is not fed genetically modified grain and are never fed animal by-products. Also these animals have freedom to be outside making this a more humane (and cleanly) practice.
- Baby food – Infants are more sensitive to pesticides due to the vulnerability of their nervous and immune systems.
- Tomatoes – As many as 30 different chemicals are sprayed on tomatoes, not to mention they are often genetically modified as well.
- Soybeans & other soy products (milk, tempeh, tofu, miso, lecithin) – Almost always genetically modified.
- Wheat – Often genetically modified. Also note that up to 75% of the germ may be removed from items labeled as “whole wheat” in Canada.
- Canola – Often genetically modified.
- Peanuts & Peanut butter – Peanuts absorb a large amount of toxins from the soil and can contain a mold called aflatoxin, a dangerous carcinogen (Goodbye Kraft, Jiffy and any other non-organic PB’s, plus these usually contain sugar and hydrogenated fats, the worst of the worst!!)
- Bananas – Try to find fair trade organic bananas instead, as they are often shipped from long distances and sprayed with chemicals along the way to help them ripen.
- Rice – Since many tend to eat so much of it, it is important to buy rice organically grown. Buy in bulk at health foods stores to save on packaging and cost.
Pretty Clean 15
- Sweet corn
- Sweet potatoes
- Sweet peas
- Domestic Cantaloupe
Going organic is an important step in improving our health and food quality. The food that we eat can be healing, as food is medicine, but we need to ensure that the food we eat is what nature intended. We know that a common concern is its cost, but if you look around the grocery stores these days a growing number of organic foods available are very close in price to the non-organic option. Furthermore, their are other costs that one must factor in such as your health, and the health of the planet. “Those who do not make health a priority now will have to make time for disease tomorrow”, Unknown. Food is healthy or harmful and small changes that you make today can impact your health and well-being positively in the years to come.
In great health & happiness,
Dr. Michelle and Samantha Peris, Holistic Nutritionist
Dr. Michelle Peris is a Naturopathic Doctor whose goal is to inspire health through educating, motivating and empowering people. She has a family based practice out of a clinic in Oakville, Ontario.
Contact Dr. Michelle today to book your 15 minute complimentary consult.