The Alliance For Natural Health

Is Organic Food Worth It?

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organic-food-storageYes, if you can afford it—and if not, here are some strategies.

It’s a decision we need to make every time we go to the store: should I buy organic? Except for those few for whom money is no object, the decision to eat organic exacts a high toll on our wallets: we pay 40% to 100% extra for the privilege of eating food grown without pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, antibiotics, and chemical fertilizer. Most of us hope it’s having a positive effect on our health, but we don’t really know.

Integrative doctor Frank Shallenberger tackled this topic in his September 2013 newsletter, Real Cures. He points out that one of the worst aspects of conventional food is the chemical fertilizer used to produce it. He states:

Artificial fertilizer has only two minerals, phosphorus and potassium. Depending on the mixture of a natural fertilizer it will contain from 60-80 minerals. That’s a huge difference.

Dr. Shallenberger notes that a report called The Chemical Composition of Foods was first published in England in 1940. It listed the mineral content of seventeen different fruits, twenty-eight kinds of vegetables, various meats, dairy, and cheese. Now, in 1940 almost all food in England was grown using natural fertilizers, but by the time the last edition of the report was published in 2002, almost all food was produced with artificial fertilizer. And in those sixty-two years, the mineral levels of food dropped dramatically.

  • Vegetables: potassium fell 16%, magnesium 24%, calcium 46%, iron 27%, and copper 76%.
  • Fruits: potassium fell 19%, magnesium 16%, calcium 16%, iron 24%, and copper 20%.
  • Parmesan cheese: potassium fell 68%, magnesium 70%, calcium 70%, while iron and copper levels both dropped to zero!
  • Turkey: potassium fell 5%, magnesium 4%, calcium 71%, iron 79%, and copper 50%.

Although many health-conscious people today take mineral supplements, it is far better to get minerals from food, as they are better absorbed. But in England in 1940, everyone, whether rich or poor, health conscious or not, was obtaining high levels of minerals from their meals. This would include minerals that are not in any of today’s supplements, because they have yet to be identified or their value to health is not yet appreciated.

The International Center for Research in Organic Food Systems in Denmark recently did a study with rats, dividing them into three groups:

  1. Those that ate totally organic: natural fertilizers and no chemical pesticides;
  2. Those that ate totally conventional: chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides; and
  3. Half and half: natural fertilizers but chemical pesticides.

The rats in groups one and three (natural fertilizer) were healthier than the rats in group number two: they were slimmer, slept better, and had stronger immune systems. But the rats in group one and three did equally well, that is, the pesticides didn’t seem to harm group three. Furthermore, pesticide levels were undetectable in all three groups of rats so it was likely that it was the type of fertilizer, and not the pesticide, that caused the differences between the rats! (Dr. Shallenberger doesn’t say how long the rats ate the specified food).

Another aspect of organic farming is soil ecology, or the number and variety of bacteria teeming in the soil. Studies with rapeseed and banana plants showed that the plants grew larger and faster, and resisted fungus more effectively, when even a single type of bacterium was added to their soil.

Gardens for Research Experimental Education and Nutrition (GREEN) demonstrated that microbes in garden soil increase a plant’s ability to absorb nutrients from the soil. GREEN grew leeks and potatoes in biodynamic soil (teeming with multiple varieties of microbes) that put even the food from 1940 England to shame: the calcium content of leeks was four times higher, and the calcium content of potatoes was fifty times higher!

Dr. Shallenberger says that in addition to a diet low in sugar and processed food and proper supplementation, other equally key areas include exercise, managing your toxic exposure, and reducing stress.

Shallenberger especially advises avoiding conventional soy, as fruit flies fed conventional soy lived only half as long as their organic soy brethren (perhaps because it was also genetically modified?). Most corn, soy and sugar beets are also GMO, so as a rule better to buy the organic varieties.

Good Housekeeping came out last December with a “New Dirty Dozen,” so if you are going to buy organic, you’ll get the most bang for the buck by buying these foods organic.

The blog Mark’s Daily Apple lists nine foods to buy organic. In order of priority, they are baby food, full-fat dairy, beef, chicken, eggs, leafy greens, berries, any “dirty dozen” food that you eat regularly, and apples. Be sure to read the article for full explanations of the choices.

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