The low down on buying organic fruit and vegetables

What you need to know...

Advocates of pesticide laden foods say there is no nutritional difference or harm caused by eating non organic fruits and vegetables however I am not so sure. My father and sister used to work in the field of medical research and both of them were consistently told by Drs and professors to eat organic (particularly cruciferous vegetables like broccoli) and to stay away from chemical pesticide residues. I have even been told of company directors of large pesticide companies that choose to eat organic foods, perhaps they know something that they are not telling us?

I wanted to share with you my low down on whether it is worth paying the extra to eat organic. In an ideal world I would recommend that we all choose to eat organic where possible however it is not always that easy. For some people it may be difficult to access organic produce and for others it may simply come down to a matter of expense. Below I have shared useful hints and tips when it comes to pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables and how to minimise your exposure to them.

Pesticide concern

Recent research from a UK based study concluded that organic plant foods have higher levels of antioxidant and beneficial plant compounds than their non-organic counterparts. This may be part due to organic foods not being left in cold storage for months on end which decreases a fruit or vegetable’s natural protective chemical compounds. Non organic fruits and vegetables have pesticide residues which can contain toxic chemicals and heavy metal residues such as cadmium. The toxic chemicals that are found in pesticides have been linked to a number of health related disease such as hormonal imbalances, infertility, autism, neurodegenerative diseases and even some cancers. An example of a toxic herbicide is glyphosate used by the company Monsanto, which has been linked to cancer and non hodgkins lymphoma. Surprisingly it is still deemed safe to eat apparently because we eat it in such small quantities.

I do find organic fruits and vegetables taste much better, to the point I can usually taste straight away if the food is not chemical free. Organic food generally has more flavour, tastes fresher and doesn’t have that chemical or waxy after taste that you get with non-organic fruits and vegetables.

My top reasons to eat organic foods

  • They taste better

  • They are fresh

  • They have higher nutritional value

  • They are better for the environment

  • They are GM free

Tips for organic food preparation

As eating all organic can be a bit tricky not to mention expensive I have compiled a list for you of foods that contain the most chemical residues and are the ones to choose to eat organic.

Apples come out the worst so if you are not eating organic apples it may be wise to peel them to avoid eating the chemical residues left on the skin. Fruits and vegetables with thicker skins such as bananas and oranges tend to be safer options and okay to eat non organic.

Organic certification means that the product was grown or produced without the use of harmful chemicals or genetically modified organisms. Organic certification can be time consuming and very expensive and I am noticing some produce is now being marketed as chemical free. This means that it has not gone through the intensive protocols or expense of being certified organic however it indicates that the produce was grown without the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides. This is also a good option when choosing fruits and vegetables. The down side to choosing chemical free over organic however does mean that there has been no certification process. You are therefore relying on pure trust and integrity of the company that you are purchasing your goods from.

Wash Thoroughly

If you are eating non organic wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly with a vegetable wash. These washes can be purchased from health food stores or you can use vinegar. Do not wash fruits and vegetables with dishwashing liquid. You would be surprised how many people do this! Dish washing liquid is also full of synthetic chemicals that you do not want to be eating.

DIY Vegetable Wash

Fill up a large bowl with 1 part vinegar and 4 parts water. Add your vegetables or fruit and leave to soak in this mixture for up to an hour. Make sure that your produce is fully immersed. After 1 hour (you can leave apples for half an hour longer as they have more of a waxy coating) remove, rinse with water and dry with a clean tea towel. If you get into the habit of washing your produce as soon as you buy it you then have fruits and vegetables ready to eat whenever you like!

Check organic labels

Do be mindful when purchasing organic labelled food and drinks such as organic wine, yoghurt, coconut cream and plant milks as they can still have nasty additives such as carrageen gum and preservatives added. Many packet organic foods can also have high amounts of salt and sugar so just because the label says organic it doesn’t always mean it is the healthiest option. Reading the ingredient label carefully is the only way to find out exactly what is in the food that you are eating. Whilst eating fresh organic produce is the best possible option, washing your produce thoroughly and peeling the skin where possible can really help to minimise your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and toxins.

Fruits and Vegetables best to eat organic!

(This list has been influenced by the U.S Environmental Working Group (EWG) which publishes a yearly shopper’s guide (the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen) to the amount of pesticides on fruit and vegetables. I have modified the list to make it more appropriate for Australia).

Worst for pesticides:
  • Apples

  • Peaches

  • Nectarines

  • Strawberries

  • Blueberries

  • Raspberries

  • Cherries

  • Grapes

  • Celery

  • Spinach (you can taste the chemical residue on non-organic spinach leaves)

  • Capsicum

  • Cucumbers

  • Cherry tomatoes

  • Snap peas

  • Potatoes

  • Kale

  • Chilli Peppers

  • Broccoli

Whilst the cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower are listed as safer options due to lower pesticide residues, I do recommending buying organic broccoli and cauliflower as the florets soak up the pesticide residues which are hard to remove by soaking.

Better for pesticides:
  • Avocados

  • Pineapple

  • Cabbage

  • Frozen peas

  • Onions

  • Asparagus

  • Mango

  • Papaya

  • Kiwi

  • Eggplant

  • Grapefruit

  • Rockmelon

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Bananas

  • Oranges

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