Recently while grocery shopping, my son asked me to buy grapes. Since there were no organic varieties available, I said we’d have to wait. He didn’t question me. If you ask him why, he’d say it’s because he knows organic food is healthier for our bodies. And that is primarily why we buy it. But there are many reasons to make organic food a priority. Here are a few you might want to consider before you head to the checkout line.
1. Reduce pesticide exposure
Unlike conventional crops, organic produce isn’t treated with synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Ingesting these chemicals, such as glyphosate, the main ingredient in the weed-killer Roundup, has been linked to birth defects, learning disabilities and infertility. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, at least 19 million pounds of glyphosate is applied to conventional crops each year, and it turns up in the air we breathe and in the water we drink.
Choosing organic helps prevent pesticide exposure in two ways: First, it ensures the food we put in our bodies does not contain toxic chemicals. Second, by supporting organic farming, we take a step toward eliminating the widespread use of these chemicals.
2. Fight obesity
When a pattern of unexplained obesity and diabetes began to emerge among farm workers, researchers examined the effects of heavy exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs, often found in pesticides). Sure enough, individuals who apply pesticides have a greater chance of developing these conditions, according to a 2008 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
When researchers delved a little deeper, they discovered that the general public’s pesticide exposure put them at risk too. Even in small doses, the hormone-disrupting properties of POPs appear to contribute to obesity and insulin resistance, common precursors of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to a 2011 study in the scientific journal PLoS One. You can avoid these pollutants by choosing organic foods.
3. Make more jobs—and more food
Conventional farmers’ reliance on pesticides and machinery means they can produce more crops with less labor, which might sound good, but the loss of jobs can hurt farming communities. What’s more, cutting back on jobs does not necessarily mean more yield or greater profits.
A study conducted by the nonprofit Rodale Institute revealed that organic systems average $558 in net returns per acre per year, versus $190 per acre per year for chemical systems. And while the study showed no difference in yield between organic and conventional plots of corn, soy or wheat during normal growing conditions, it did reveal that in times of drought, the yield of organic plots was a whopping 30 percent higher than those of conventional plots.
Every time you buy organic food, you are supporting job stability and increased food production.
4. Protect vitamin D levels
We’ve heard a lot about vitamin D lately—how adequate levels help support the immune system and bone health, and more. Many of us have heeded the warnings and started supplementing. However, even if you are ingesting enough vitamin D, certain pesticides known as organophosphates, which account for 70 percent of those used in the U.S., may interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize and absorb the nutrient. Even small exposure to these chemicals was shown to lead to vitamin D deficiency, according to a 2012 PLoS One article. In order to keep your vitamin D levels where they need to be, consider taking supplements and avoiding pesticides by eating organic.
5. Avoid drugs, hormones and bacteria
Organically raised animals are not fed antibiotics, bovine human growth hormone (rbGH) or other artificial drugs. Nor are they allowed to eat genetically modified foods. They are raised in healthier environments than their factory farm counterparts, which means the animals themselves and the meat they provide is cleaner and healthier.
For example, a 2011 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives shows that organic poultry farms have significantly lower levels of drug-resistant enterococci bacteria in the livestock as well as the feed and water. Since these antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be passed to humans via meat consumption, eating organic animal products is the best way to keep your body free of such contaminants.
Tip: the best place to buy organic foods & snacks is at Vitacost.com!