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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  • David

    that good news for me as I doing my best by only buying organic potato’s which are on the top ten worst list and other organics when I can afford them

    • Deb Cee

      Unless you’re blood type “O” – then the only potatoes you need are Sweet Potatoes…

  • dm777

    There is a problem with organic farmers taking advantage of people. Recently I saw a 3 lb bag of oranges for $7.50 in a store. Trader Joe’s had the same 3 lb. bag for $3.50.

    You claim that organic produce is 100% to 150% more expensive than conventionally grown produce. Is this increase a result of increased costs of production? We know that GMO seeds and pesticides do not increase crop yields. So crop yields are not affected by using organic seeds. If using organic farming techniques results in more crop losses due to pests, then theoretically, pests would have to destroy half of an organic farmer’s crop every year in order to justify a 100% price increase. If the manhours required to produce organic crops is twice the number of manhours for inorganic crops, then a 100% price increase is justified.

    Considering that farmers have been farming for the last 6,000 years, it is amazing that it is extremely expensive farm organically now.

    Al alternative may be corporate greed that is ripping off people when in fact the costs of organic crop production is not that high.

    Obviously investigation is needed.

    • JK

      Don’t blame the farmers; blame the stores that mark it up. I know someone who makes organic ice cream and sells it for the same price to all buyers. I’ve seen it sold for $5 a pint and $6 a pint and everything in-between, but they all paid the same price for it. Discrepancies are worse in the produce department.

  • Yeah Yeah, it’s worth it!!!!

  • Genny(Gennet) Abbott

    You did not really tells ways of affording truly organic foods–How? Where? Also are the labels reliable. I have read that often they are not or are somehow misleading by use of some form of the word “organic” or the whole word in the brand name, though the foods are not truly organic at all.?

    • JK

      I buy only organic on a limited budget and have seen the apples and other organic procuce at independent stores cost the same and sometimes even less than the non-organic produce. The big grocery stores charge more for organic because the can, but that doesn’t mean it costs them more and I suspect it often doesn’t. Probably the reason my food budget goes so far is that I don’t spend any of it on meat. It amazes me that anyone can afford even factory farmed meat, which is a horrible thing to support and should be criminalized.

  • Paul Atreides

    The Environmental Working Group (EWG), publishes a consumer shopping guide of produce that can be eaten even if not organic, and produce that should not be eaten unless it’s organic, called the “Clean Fifteen” and the “Dirty Dozen.” You can download the shopping guide here: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/

  • kelly vanderlan

    I also remember hearing that alfalfa sprouts are particularly important to be organic. What are the “dirty dozen”?

  • Rick Baldwin

    I buy local eggs but how do I find out what kind of doped up chickens provided them?

  • Joyce Duke

    To make matters even worse, the word is out that monosodium glutamate has been added to commercial fertilizer for at least the past decade. Word is also out that they are spraying monosodium glutamate on the crops in the fields.

  • If a person could not afford all organic foods, are the non-organic foods safe to use if (as an apple) you would peel them ? Are the non-organic bananas safe to eat ? Are bananas sprayed or have pesticides used in them ? Thank you for any answers.

    • JK

      Apples are sprayed from the time they are buds and are completely penetrated by the sprays. Most fruits are sprayed, including bananas. They put the sticker on non-organic bananas using the wetness from the final spray. All bananas are gassed, even organic ones, but the gas doesn’t seem to last.
      One thing I didn’t see in the article is that, besides being healthier, organic foods almost always TASTE BETTER.

  • Jerry

    It’s not hard to tell if organic makes a difference. It’s at least a psychological lift.
    Try one organic at a time, otherwise you might find yourself overwhelmed.
    Try dumping the teflon if you have pain such as artheritis.
    Research proper cooking methods and dietary structures.
    Put some good energy into your cooking. Crabby cooks might be good cooks, but the energy isn’t there. Food is all about energy and will accept yours.
    Saying grace or meditating a bit before eating aligns you with the energy of the food.
    Set conversational guidlines around the eating table. And guys, please present yourselves properly to recieve the blessing of food. Wash and dress for the occasion. After all, someone workd hard in the kitchen. Show some repect. Respect is another wonderful energy.
    And do remember please, if I’m cooking throw your excessive money into the kitchen – I think it’s great energy.

  • M.K. Haugstad

    Good to read articles like this. I live in Sweden and I buy organic when available.

  • Cris Nelson

    Organic apples and pears grown in the US for the European Union (EU) market are grown without streptomycin and tetracycline (antibiotics), but in the US, both are used. Tetracycline can permanently turn kids’ teeth yellow.

    Best pears: Orient, Summercrisp and Kieffer
    AVOID: Bartlett.

    Safest apples: Jonafree, Melrose, Northwestern Greening, Nova EasyGro, Prima, Priscilla, Quinte, RedFree, Sir Prize and Winesap.
    AVOID: Beacon, Braeburn, Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Gingergold, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeygold, Idared, Jonathan, Lodi, Monroe, Mutsu (Crispin), Paulared, Pink Lady, Rome Beauty, Wayne, Wealthy, Yellow Transparent and Zesta.

    http://www.naturalnews.com/039551_organic_apples_antibiotics_truth.html

  • Mark Thorson

    Joyce — I’ve never heard of monosodium glutamate being added to fertilizer and it would make no sense to do so. MSG is the salt of an amino acid (glutamic acid) that occurs naturally in all plant and animal cells. If you added it to fertilizer, most of it would be eaten by soil bacteria. It has a little nitrogen, no potassium, no phosphorus, and no minerals (except sodium), so it would have almost no value as a fertilizer. I can’t think of any advantage it would provide to the farmer. Fertilizer is normally made from cheap stuff like ground-up rocks, so MSG would greatly increase the cost of the fertilizer.

    Audrey — some fruit trees such as citrus trees are treated with systemic insecticides. These are insecticides added to the water given to the trees, and which is then taken up through the roots and distributed throughout the plant. Peeling citrus fruit (or any other fruit treated with systemic insecticides) will not avoid the insecticide. I don’t know if systemic insecticides are used on bananas.

    Everybody — all honey is organic. Bees are among the most sensitive insects to insecticide, so they die before returning to the hive if they encounter insecticide. The only concern about honey is adulteration with invert sugar syrup, which is very difficult to detect by standard analytical chemistry. I would only buy American honey, definitely not honey from China. It would also be possible to feed invert sugar syrup (such as HFCS) to bees, and they would incorporate it into their honey — though I’m not sure that would legally count as adulteration. After it passes through the bees’ bodies and is partially dehydrated in the honeycomb, it is honey. I have never heard of bees being fed sugar syrup except to help the bees survive the winter, but I suppose it could be going on to increase honey yield. Somebody ought to look into that.

    • Heather

      Auxigro contains MSG. MSG is added to fertilizer and pesticide in order to dilute the solution and save money. MSG is also used in shampoos, vaccines, as well as being added to virtually all processed foods and. , can even be hidden in organic foods.

  • crashaxe

    When you cut out all the poisonous GMO toxic foods and this is pretty much everything in your pantry and focus on eating organic and NON-GMO you will actually save money.

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