Some of My Best Friends Are Organic

Even a TOJ who's been hit in the head too often and lost some IQ points is still smart enough to buy lots of organic fruits and vegetables. It's not just because organic tastes better than industrially-grown foods (they do), are not slathered with pesticides containing neurotoxins (they aren't), and are not brimming with high levels of poisonous nitrates from chemical fertilizers (whew!).

Yes, organic foods avoid the yuch factor of the anti-life chemicals in found in conventionally grown foods. However, an even better reason to eat them is that they offer a much better value because you get more NUTRIENTS for your hard-earned food dollar.

After more than 40 years as a food movement, organics have found their way into even the largest food stores, including WalMart. Although the demand for organic is growing fast, it still represents a small percentage of the rack space and selections in most stores.

To the naked eye, a conventionally-grown apple looks like a better deal than the organic one across the aisle. You pick it up and look at it. The conventionally-grown one is bigger (nitrate fertilizers are like steroids to plants) and it's flawless skin has been waxed to a shiny luster that covers the residues of 14 or so pesticides and fungicides.

You go across the aisle and pick up an organic apple and compare the two. The organic one doesn't have the same lustre, and here and there has dimples or small spots on the skin. And it's smaller. But you have to look more than skin deep -- the likelihood is the the organic apple will have a much higher nutrient density, despite superficial media stories to the contrary.

For several decades, experts in the USDA have been aware that the vitamin, mineral and protein content in foods grown in America have been in decline. This decline has coincided with the increase in corporate, industrial, large scale chemical farming. The experts attribute the decline to "the dilution effect," that is, as seeds have been genetically manipulated to maximize yield per acre an an unfortunate and unintended consequence is that they have also also reduced or eliminated many nutrients.

To gain more insight into how nutritious foods are grown (or not) read this detailed and informative 2008 study entitled "New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods." Until recently, studies comparing conventionally-grown foods to organic have focused on differences in minerals and trace elements like copper, phosphorus, and zinc.

However, overlooked in these studies was the impact on the phytochemicals in plants, the compounds that promote heart health, reduce inflammation, and prevent cancer. The phytochemical content in organically-grown fruits and vegetables has been found to be 25% or more higher. For good reason, organic food is more expensive.

These are tough economic times. You want your food dollar to go as far as possible. Some conventionally grown foods are so contaminated with pesticides that they should be avoided, especially by children, at all costs. You can find a reliable list at Many conventionally-grown foods pose little or no toxic threat. A few won't kill you.

The real difference between organics and industrial/conventional foods is nutrient density. When you shop for food, factor your health and well-being into your calculations. Then, when it comes to organics, the price is right.

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