How Safe Is Your Produce from Pesticides?

Organic Produce at Natural GrocersOne hundred years ago everyone ate “organic” produce, says Karen Falbo, Nutrition Education Program Manager for Natural Grocers.

Now, shoppers must seek out organic meat and produce. It’s a challenge when many stores stock items with pesticides and other chemicals.

“There really is a food revolution taking place. People are becoming more aware … it’s a bigger conversation today,” Falbo says.

And fathers are part of that dialogue. Dads are more likely now to be hitting the Safeway or Food Lion. So it’s important for them to understand just what ends up in the shopping cart.

All produce sold at the Natural Grocers chain, which recently opened its 18th location in the metro Denver area, is USDA certified organic. While some consumers resist the appeal of organic foods or simply don’t want to pay more at the supermarket, Falbo says the pesticides and chemicals which too often reach our plates make buying organic worth the effort.

The Dirty Dozen Isn’t a War Movie

Even fathers who don’t do the weekly food shopping may have heard of the “Dirty Dozen.” It’s a list of 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest concentration of pesticides. Think apples, celery and grapes.

Falbo says scientists have evaluated the impact these chemicals have on our bodies. They considered how they interact with the chemistry in our brains. She says pesticide exposure has been linked to higher levels of ADD and ADHD in children. They also can disrupt hormone levels, primarily estrogen, in both men and women.

“We all are better off by minimizing exposure to chemicals and pesticides,” she says.

The matter is more pressing with children, she adds, because they lack the detoxification enzymes to protect them from chemical exposures. The elderly, or those with compromised immune systems, should also be wary of food-based chemicals.

Falbo is often asked about the latest fad diet or supplement du jour. She also hears some misinformation about eating that she’d like to debunk. For instance, the notion that a low-fat diet is healthier just isn’t true.

“There is increasing evidence that cholesterol and fat are not the bad guys,” she says. Some low-fat fare ramps up the sugar and artificial sweeteners to compensate for any loss in flavor. “We lose some of our nutrition by going low fat.”

Make Fat Your Friend

Animal products like milk, yogurt and cheese often contain important, fat soluble nutrients like Vitamins K3 and D.

She says dairy products, especially from pasture raised cattle, are a wonderful source of fat-soluble vitamins. These vitamins are partly responsible for healthy skin, strong eye sight and hearty bones.

Skim milk lacks nutrients like Butyric acid (which helps the brain and nervous system). One less scientific reason for embracing the fat? Meals with healthy fats make us feel more satisfied after eating.

There are still critics who contend the organic food business is essentially a scam. They point to reports showing the nutritional benefits of organic fare are overhyped. Others point to food vendors who bend the rules to suit their whims.

Falbo counters with peer-reviewed studies showing organic produce offers higher levels of key antioxidants than conventional items. The level of vitamins and minerals, though, often depends on the soil used and the combination of water and nutrients used to feed the plants.

“The studies that say organic produce is no different nutritionally than conventional produce have been done growing crops side by side … vitamin and mineral content is subjective to soil nutrient content, water, and fertilizing agents,” she says.

Organic produce

Falbo adds that The Environmental Working Group found that some children are born “pre-polluted,” meaning their young bodies can have up to 200 industrial chemicals and pesticides in their blood thanks to nutrition passed on by their mothers. Lab studies have shown these chemicals can cause cancer, she adds.

She suggests Dads can find out more about healthy food choices by visiting naturalgrocers.com, the Environmental Working Group or The Weston A. Price Foundation.

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