Benefits of organic food

Another great reason to eat organic is one of the key reasons we eat anything — for flavor!

by Ben Ta’ati — 

According to the American Chemical Society, a 10-year study by UC Davis researchers has indicated that levels of antioxidants known as flavonoids increase over time in crops grown in organically farmed fields. Other recent scientific studies have suggested that the consumption of flavonoids may protect against cancer, heart disease and other age-related diseases.

In order to bear the label “organic,” foods must be produced according to certain standards. For example, crops must be grown without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste or sewage sludge, and must be processed without the use of ionizing radiation or food additives. In most countries, organic produce cannot be genetically modified. Furthermore, according to MSNBC, products must be cultivated organically for three years using only organic seeds in order to receive organic certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In 2002, Common Ground Magazine reported on studies confirming increased nutrients in organic food, as compared to conventional versions of the same. Organically grown foods also contain reduced amounts of heavy metals such as lead and mercury, and solvents like benzene and toluene, when compared to conventionally grown foods. Several studies corroborating this finding show that 77 percent of conventional food carries synthetic pesticide residues, compared to 25 percent of organic food.

According to the Environmental Working Group, the 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residue, in order of toxicity, are: strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, cherries grown in the U.S., peaches, Mexican cantaloupes, celery, apples, apricots, green beans, grapes from Chile and cucumbers. A 2006 study measured the levels of organo-phosphorus pesticide exposure in 23 school children before and after replacing their diet with organic food. The findings indicated that levels of organo-phosphorus pesticide exposure dropped dramatically and immediately following the children’s switch to an organic diet. Many similar studies have discovered links between pesticide exposure and severe health problems, including respiratory problems, memory disorders and cancer.

Another great reason to eat organic is one of the key reasons we eat anything — for flavor! Washington State University researchers concluded in 2001 that organic apples were sweeter, had a better texture and were firmer than those grown conventionally. These differences were attributed to the improved soil quality involved in organic farming techniques, compared to those of conventional farming.

Beyond the nutritional, taste and health benefits of organic food in our diets, one cannot ignore the environmental benefits of organic farming. Organic farms use less energy — both per unit area and per unit of yield — and produce less waste in their packaging materials for chemicals and feed. Another study at Washington State University in Pullman compared the energy consumed by labor, machinery, electricity, fertilizer, pesticides and weed control to grow apples in organic and conventional orchards, finding that the organic orchard was seven percent more energy efficient.

Additionally, researchers at Cornell University estimate that at least 67 million birds die in the U.S. each year from pesticides used on non-organic fields; the annual number of fish killed is conservatively estimated at between six and 14 million. Pesticides have also been implicated in numerous cases of wildlife deformities, including the shrunken reproductive organs of Florida alligators and grotesque abnormalities of the eyes and limbs of frogs around the country. Also, the runoffs from fields containing pesticide and contaminants cause immediate health issues for humans, especially the farmers and their families.

 

Ben Ta’ati, H.M.A., M.S.A., is a faculty member of the American Medical College of Homeopathy in Phoenix. www.MyArizonaHomeopath.com or 480-626-8485.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 2, April/May 2008.

 

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