Organic Food: Is It Really Worth the Price?

Organic Food: Is It Really Worth the Price?

In the past, organic food was something we saw most frequently in health stores, marketed to people who were willing to pay extra for environmentally-friendly, and natural foods. However, as more research into the dangers of non-organic produce comes to light, organic foods have become undeniably mainstream. Not only can you find organic foods at your local grocer, but you can also purchase this produce from big-name commercial giants too.

According to statistics, global sales of organic foods1 amounted to approximately $81.6 billion in 2015. Since these products cost more than “standard” produce, many consumers are looking for evidence that their food is worth the price.

According to the USDA, organic produce is food that must be grown without the use of any synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or GMOs2. For meat, the food must come from animals that were raised in a natural setting, free from hormones and antibiotics, and fed a diet of 100% organic produce. The question is, what difference does this absence from hormones, pesticides, and fertilizers make?

In simple terms, any substance that’s designed to genetically alter food, or kill pests, can’t be good for your health. The more of these dangerous toxins that you expose yourself to, the more potential problems you might face. Fortunately, organic food allows us to avoid a lot of the poisonous additives that are a part of standard foods. According to a 2012 meta-analysis3 , exposure to pesticide residue is five times lower in organic produce.

The Dangers of Non-Organic Produce

Non-organic produce is grown using toxic petrochemicals like herbicides, pesticides, and antimicrobials. Farmers use these substances to prevent pests from ruining their vegetables and fruits. While the goal is to make sure that only the targeted pest is harmed, the truth is that pesticides aren’t picky about who they affect. Pesticides can just as easily damage the environment and the people who are exposed to them.

The pesticides in non-organic foods4 can cause serious hazards to human well-being. Over the years, exposure to these substances has been connected with a range of concerns, including neurological conditions like ADHD, long-term illness like diabetes, and even fatal diseases like cancer. At the same time, non-organic vegetables also contain higher levels of heavy metals too. This is because heavy metals like arsenic are mixed into petrochemicals, which remain in the soil and can be absorbed by the roots of produce.

Science continuously shows us5  that organic foods have lower levels of pesticides, higher amounts of nutrients, and more ability to provide health benefits than any non-organic produce. Some non-organic fruits and vegetables have even been genetically modified. Now, our knowledge of the long-term effects of GMOs on humans is relatively under-researched. However, the studies available aren’t promising6 .

While many government officials have indicated that non-organic food remains safe for human consumption, various studies have shown a link between pesticides and countless health problems, including:

  • Cancer: Countless studies have investigated the connection between cancer and pesticides. Research frequently finds links between pesticide exposure and brain cancer, childhood leukemia, and lymphoma7 . Some connections have also been made between pesticides and breast cancer8 , as well as prostate, liver, and pancreas cancer9 .
  • Neurological and Developmental Issues: Exposure to pesticides in non-organic foods can disrupt the development of cognitive function in children. It’s recently been suggested as a source of neurodevelopmental delays, behavioral problems, and problematic motor skills10. What’s more, farmers exposed to certain pesticides have shown a 70% increased risk of suffering from Parkinson’s disease11 .
  • Hormone disruption: Some of the chemicals in pesticides can disrupt important chemicals throughout the body, including androgens, thyroid, and estrogen hormones, which can impact fertility and reproduction.
  • Lung, skin, and eye issues: Like most other chemicals, pesticides can also promote irritation for some people in the skin, eyes, and respiratory system, depending on their level of exposure.

The Effect of Glyphosate on Human Health

While there are many different pesticides that can have an impact on human health, one of the most commonly-cited chemicals is “Glyphosate”. Though most people know this substance by its commercial name, “Roundup”, this herbicide is notorious for its use in commercial farming, and the countless dangerous health conditions it has been linked to by environmental scientists.

While the research of the impact of low-level exposure to glyphosate residue is somewhat limited, studies indicate an increase in findings12  that suggest this substance may be a culprit of numerous development disabilities and health conditions. Back in 2015, the World Health Organization officially named glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen13.”

The reports regarding glyphosate and non-organic foods just keep coming. One study conducted in 201114  by an international scientific team found that research done back in the 1980s had already started to show that the active ingredient of Roundup could cause birth defects in laboratory animals – even at particularly low exposure levels. Here are just some of the health concerns that link to glyphosate and Roundup:

  • ADHD: In strong farming communities, studies have shown a correlation between glyphosate exposure and ADHD15 , potentially due to the fact that the substance can disrupt the function of thyroid hormones.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease: In lab tests, Roundup causes the same level of oxidative stress and cell death observed16 in Alzheimer’s patients. It also affects an enzyme called CaMKII which has been linked to the disease.
  • Brain cancer: In one study17 that compared healthy children to children with brain cancer, researchers discovered that if either of the parents had been exposed to glyphosate during the two years before the child’s birth, the chances of the child developing cancer would double.
  • Birth Defects: Glyphosate has been known to disrupt the vitamin A pathway important for fetal development. This is why a study from Paraguay18
    showed that women living within a one-kilometer radius of fields sprayed with glyphosate were more than twice as likely to have babies with birth defects.
  • Celiac disease and gluten intolerance 19 :

In one study, fish exposed to glyphosate developed the same digestive problems reminiscent of people with celiac disease. There are various connections between celiac and glyphosate, including imbalances in gut bacteria, enzyme impairment, and amino acid depletion.

  • Colitis: Glyphosate is often considered to be toxic to the beneficial bacteria that suppress clostridia, which could be a significant predisposing factor in the overgrowth of clostridia, which leads to the development of colitis.
  • Depression: Because glyphosate is responsible for impacting the chemical processes 20 that allow for the production of serotonin, it has been linked to problems with appetite, mood, sleep, and depression.
    Diabetes: Lower than usual levels of testosterone have been determined as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Rats that were fed environmentally relevant doses of glyphosate over a 30-day period suffered from reduced testosterone production.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Glyphosate is known for inducing a severe deficiency in tryptophan, which can lead to extreme types of inflammatory bowel disease such as leaky gut syndrome. This limits your ability to absorb nutrients through the gut222 2 and can cause bleeding, inflammation, and diarrhea.
  • Parkinson’s Disease: Various herbicides have been linked with brain damaging effects that can lead to neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. According to various studies, the onset of Parkinson’s 23  following exposure to glyphosate is common, as Roundup can induce the cell death that is characteristic of the disease.
  • Reproductive Problems: According to studies of laboratory animals 24 , male rats exposed to high levels of Roundup are more likely to suffer from reproductive problems such as decreased sperm production, delayed puberty, and reduced testosterone production.

The Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen

The studies mentioned above, and countless others have helped to contribute to the overwhelming demands made by Americans for foods that are free of dangerous synthetic chemicals. Unfortunately, the Environmental Working Groups (EWG) research shows us that about 70% of samples 25  taken from 48 different types of conventionally-grown produce had been contaminated with pesticides.

Some types of foods are more likely to have higher amounts of pesticides, hormones, and toxins than others. In an attempt to improve your shopping choices, and give you a better insight into the chemicals that go into standard foods, the EWG created an “annual shoppers guide” for produce, and pesticide contamination. The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists are updated every year, following extensive research.

The Dirty Dozen List

The Dirty Dozen list is the EWG’s way of outlining the produce that’s most dangerous in terms of pesticide and herbicide exposure. This list could be used by consumers as a way of deciding which produce should always be bought in its organic form. The EWG singles out the produce that has the highest residue of pesticides present, after testing was conducted for a number of different residues. For 2019, the new additions to the lists were potatoes, and pears, replacing cucumbers and tomatoes from the year before.
The dirty dozen for this year 26 include:

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes

Importantly, over 98% of the samples tested for spinach, strawberries, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and apples tested positive for chemical residue for one or more pesticides. One particular sample of strawberries also indicated the presence of 20 different pesticides. On average, spinach samples also had twice as much residue by weight than any of the other crops in the test.

For 2019, the dirty dozen list has also expanded to include hot peppers which aren’t typically included in the standard ranking system. However, the hot peppers tested were contaminated with insecticides that the EWG found to be detrimental to the human nervous system. This means that the regulators have suggested that people who eat hot peppers on a frequent basis should always buy them organically, or cook them to minimize pesticide exposure.

The Clean 15 List

The clean fifteen list is the EWG’s collection of fruits and vegetables that are typically less likely to contain high levels of pesticide and herbicide residue. For people attempting to improve their health by “going organic”, the clean fifteen can be an insight into which foods you might be able to buy without worrying about organic prices. Although all non-organic foods are typically exposed to pesticides, the clean fifteen outline those that are less toxic than most.
The clean 15 list for 2019 27  includes:

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet peas frozen
  • Onions
  • Papayas
  • Eggplants
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwis
  • Cabbages
  • Cauliflower
  • Cantaloupe
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Honeydew melon

Sweetcorn and avocados were by far the cleanest produce on the list, with only 1% of all samples indicating any signs of pesticides. Additionally, more than 80% of the papayas, asparagus, pineapples, cabbage, and onions tested had no signs of pesticides.

How to Eat Organic on a Budget

The dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists produced by the EWG are a great solution for people who want to protect themselves and their families from the dangers of non-organic produce while sticking to a budget. Ultimately, it might be difficult for standard families to afford to eat entirely organic, which is why smart shopping choices are so essential.

While organic foods are certainly more nutritional than their counterparts 28 , it’s most important to ensure that you avoid exposure to pesticides and herbicides as much as possible when choosing which organic foods to consume.  Ideally, if you can ensure that you only buy organic foods when selecting items from the “dirty dozen” list, this should go a long way towards protecting your health and defending you from exposure to damaging substances like glyphosate.

When it comes to shopping smart with organic foods:

  • Prioritize Your Purchases: If you have a limited budget to spend on organic food, make sure that you use the dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists to guide you. Try to buy organic animal products, like milk and eggs as often as you can. Remember, also, that it’s most important for pregnant women, young children, and people with weaker immune systems 29 to stick to organic foods in all their meals.
  • Buy Produce in Season: If you’re looking to save money on your organic produce purchases, then it’s a good idea to adapt your recipe plans according to the season. Buying organic foods in season is often much kinder on your wallet, or you could even consider visiting a farmer’s market for better prices. Remember, livestock products are best bought from local professionals.
  • Think about Buying in Bulk: It won’t be possible for you to buy all your organic produce in bulk. However, there are many locations, such as supermarkets and organic stores, that will sell bulk bins with organic grains, coffee, dried fruits, and other substances, that could help to save you money. Remember to select “generic” options over branded food where possible when you’re trying to cut down on your grocery bills.
  • Look for Coupons and Sales: As more health food shops and organic stores continue to open to help people improve their well-being with the substances they eat, more coupons and sales are becoming available. Keep an eye out both online and offline for deals that will allow you to make the most of your organic shopping.
  • Try Growing Your Own Food: Finally, as daunting as it sounds, growing your own organic produce might be easier than you think. There are plenty of videos and articles available online that will give you the guidance that you need to start your own organic garden, regardless of whether you have plenty of yard space, or you’re just growing a couple of things from a small apartment window box.

As you continue making decisions that better your health, we’re here to assist! Our robust coaching program will walk you through every step of the journey to heal the body. You can learn more about it here.



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