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Healthy Eating, Nutrient Density and Organic Food

Food is the daily fuel for your body. Are you feeding it well by nourishing your cells, organs, and systems?  Or are you corroding and stressing them to the breaking point?

If you are constantly feeling tired, suffer from insomnia, infections, obesity and have poor immunity, your diet may be to blame.  We now know the importance of lifestyle factors like diet in the prevention and reversal of diseases.

To be healthy, you may want to consider eating foods that are nutrient dense and organic. Nutrient density refers to the amount of beneficial nutrients in a food in proportion to how many calories it has (or its energy content). Nutrient dense foods are packed with antioxidants, they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients.

Fruits and veggies are probably what come to mind when you think of healthy foods, but other whole foods have high nutrient density values, too. Examples include wild-caught fish, seaweeds, liver (beef & chicken), leafy greens like kale, collards, spinach, watercress, dandelion greens, arugula, broccoli, berries, peppers, etc.

You can pop all the supplements you want, but when you get your essential nutrients from your food, you choose the best option available.

Why should you choose organic foods?

When it comes to organic farming, there are strict standards and inspections in place. Organic agriculture only permits the use of natural fertilizers like manure and compost and bans the use of chemical and synthetic pesticides, sewage sludge, ionizing radiation &  Bioengineering (GMOs).

Pesticides are linked to dozens of health problems, including certain cancers, symptoms of ADHD, autism, Parkinson’s and a whole host of other issues. Research shows that when people switch from eating conventionally grown foods to more organic foods, concentrations of pesticide metabolites in urine decrease.

Organic foods also contain higher amounts of health-promoting antioxidants and lower levels of cadmium, a harmful heavy metal. In general,  organic foods are better for the environment because organic farms don’t pollute soil and nearby waters with harmful and toxic chemicals

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed pesticide residue testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to come up with rankings for 46 popular fresh produce items in the United States.

You can find them listed below. The first 12 are what EWG refers to as the “Dirty Dozen,” the most pesticide-contaminated foods, and the last 15 are what they refer to as the “Clean 15,” the least pesticide-contaminated foods.

The Dirty Dozen (highest pesticide contamination — buy organic if at all possible)

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, Collards, and Mustard Greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell and Hot Peppers
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

The Middle 19 (medium pesticide contamination — moderately important to buy organic)

  1. Potatoes
  2. Cherry Tomatoes
  3. Lettuce
  4. Blueberries
  5. Cucumbers
  6. Plums
  7. Green Beans
  8. Tangerines
  9. Grapefruit
  10. Raspberries
  11. Snap peas
  12. Oranges
  13. Carrots
  14. Winter squashes
  15. Summer squashes*
  16. Bananas
  17. Sweet potatoes
  18. Watermelons
  19. Mangoes

The Clean 15 (lower pesticide contamination — least important to buy organic)

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn*
  3. Pineapples
  4. Onions
  5. Papayas*
  6. Sweet peas frozen
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cabbages
  11. Kiwis
  12. Cauliflower
  13. Mushrooms
  14. Honeydew Melons
  15. Cantaloupes

Why Are Organic Food Prices Higher Than Others?

Part of the answer is that organic certification is very expensive.

It can cost farmers many thousands of dollars to certify their farm. And the cost and regulatory burden of certification can be especially hard on smaller farms.

In effect, organic farmers get penalized for growing food in a way that protects the fertility of the soil and spares farmworkers and the entire web of life, including us, from poisons.

If you can afford organic food, I encourage it. And if you can’t, then I hope you won’t let that stop you from eating and enjoying a vast array of fruits and vegetables. Hundreds of medical studies have illustrated the huge health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.

Researchers have found that pesticide residues can persist on many fruits and vegetables. So especially if it’s not grown organically, you may want to wash produce.

Plain water appears to be just as effective as (and a lot less costly than) using commercial produce cleaners.

If you want to go a step further, you can create a baking soda solution, folding in one ounce of baking soda for every 100 ounces of water. Studies have demonstrated that soaking produce in this solution for 15 minutes will remove most pesticide residues.

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