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Pesticides, Produce, & Organic Food!

by chew.com

​Although organic food enjoys a reputation for higher overall nutritional value and the use of fewer harmful chemicals in its production, buying all organic isn’t always a financially viable option in today’s weak economy. Consumers on a budget can try to limit their exposure to both harmful chemicals and high food prices by confining their organic food purchases to the fruits and vegetables that have been shown to be the least contaminated with pesticide and insecticide residues.

Over the last few decades the people who produce the nation’s food supplies as well as the consumers who purchase it have both become much more educated about the food we eat. In that time organic food has enjoyed a reputation for higher overall nutritional value and the use of fewer harmful chemicals in their production. Even though the levels of food awareness and education continue to grow in this country, the current economic quagmire has caused grocery shoppers to be more concerned about each dollar they spend on food today. As a result, more people are beginning to wonder if the much-touted benefits of organically produced produce are tangible enough to justify the higher prices that organic foods now command at local markets.

It is obvious that harmful pesticides can be absorbed into fruits and vegetables, and then deliver trace residues of those pesticides to humans when they eat that produce. Many different organizations and agencies have studied the use of pesticides on our food and nearly all of them found that organic produce does have far fewer pesticides than non-organic produce. Although the conventionally grown produce did have more trace amounts of pesticides on and in them, the levels were found not to be high enough to cause health problems for humans, and in that light, the lower levels of contamination in the organic produce do not really seem to justify their significantly higher costs.

However, when the nutrient vales of organic foods are compared to non-organics, is when the real benefits start to show up. Various studies have all shown that most organic produce has higher levels of certain nutrients including vitamin C, zinc and iron, than conventional produce. As an example, one study of organically grown berries and corn found that both contained over 50 percent higher levels of beneficial polyphenols and antioxidants than conventionally grown berries and corn did.

Further research to examine exactly why organic growing methods yield superior produce point to the differences in soil fertility because organic plants grow slower than those fertilized with conventional fertilizers that grow very rapidly and spend less energy to develop nutrients. When organic methods are employed, the nitrogen present in the soil is released much more slowly and the plants grow at a more normal and slower rate, leaving all of their nutrients in proper balance. Because organic foods are usually grown by smaller, local producers, it can present additional benefits in freshness too. The nutrient values in most types of produce reach their peak just after they are harvested and are in their most ripe condition, and since organic produce from smaller producers is generally is closer to the consumer, it has less distance to travel and is often fresher and more nutrient-rich as a result.

Comparing the results of hundreds of different tests of the nutritional qualities of organic produce compared to the effects conventional farming methods on the specific nutrient content shows that organic-based foods are definitely more nutritious overall.

Whether or not that difference justifies their higher cost is up to the individual consumer however. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is always a good idea of course, but buying all organic isn’t always a financially viable option for everyone in today’s weak economy. Because some foods are less prone to contamination than others, savvy consumers on a budget can try to confine their organic food purchases to those fruits and vegetables that have been shown to be the least contaminated with pesticide and insecticide residues. In order to help you make the best choices when it comes to pesticides and produce, we have presented the most and least contaminated types of produce at your local grocery market today:

Popular Produce Most Commonly Contaminated with Pesticide Residues -

Apples
Bell Peppers
Blueberries
Celery
Strawberries
Peaches
Spinach
Nectarines
Grapes
Bell Peppers
Potatoes
Lettuce

Popular Produce Least Commonly Contaminated with Pesticide Residues -

Asparagus
Avocado
Cabbage
Cantaloupe
Eggplant
Onions
Corn
Pineapples
Peas
Kiwi
Watermelon
Sweet Potato
Grapefruit
Mushrooms


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