Organic foods


Author: Canadian Living


Organic foods


These days everything seems to be going organic -- from broccoli to cereal to meat, even pet products. In fact, a recent survey found that 55 per cent of Canadians eat organic foods.

"Organic basically means that a food is grown or processed without the use of genetic engineering, no synthetic or artificial fertilizers, no pesticides, no antibiotics, no growth regulators, no preservatives or dyes," explains nutritionist Leslie Beck. "And when we talk about organic meat and poultry, those graze on certified organic fields and also they're given no antibiotics or growth hormones to speed up growth. These are really foods that have a lower level of trace chemical residues."

But can you be assured that a food claiming to be organic really fits the bill?

Absolutely, Beck says. There are third-party organizations called certification bodies that assure that the foods you're buying are, in fact, organic.

There is a noticeable price difference between organic and non-organic foods. So what are the benefits of eating organic?

According to Beck, there are a lot of people who simply say organic food tastes better, so it's worth the extra cost to them.

"There's a little bit of research now to show that organically grown produce may have higher levels of magnesium, vitamin C and important antioxidants called flavonoids, which may help reduce the risk of disease," Beck says.

"I think really people are going to organic foods because of the concern about pesticide residues that linger on the surface, especially on fruits and vegetables, and they may increase health problems. There's no research whatsoever (to support this). In fact, the National Cancer Institute of Canada, in 1997, reviewed all the studies and concluded that conventionally grown fruits and vegetables did not increase the risk of cancer. Plus, we know that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day protects us from cancer."

There are some scientists and watchdog groups that are concerned about the possible harmful effects of a lifetime exposure to pesticide residues, she says. Children, pregnant women and breast-feeding moms may be more vulnerable to those effects.

A U.S. study looking at 38 popular fruits and vegetables, found the following to be the least and most contaminated.

Least Contaminated

• Avocadoes
• Brussels sprouts
• Corn
• Onions
• Sweet potatoes
• Cauliflower
• U. S. grapes
• Bananas
• Plums

Most Contaminated

• Bell peppers
• Apples
• Cherries
• Some imported grapes
• Celery

Two things are important to note about this study, Beck says. No Canadian produce was tested and none of the foods were so contaminated that people shouldn't be eating them.

So what can you do if you don't eat organic or decide that it's not worth the extra price?

Rinse them under running water, Beck said. That gets rid of a lot of pesticide residues. Also, discard the outer leaves on things like cabbage and lettuce, and scrub thick skinned vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. Beck doesn't think produce washes help because none of them claim to remove pesticides.

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Organic foods