Organic 101—The Case For Eating Organic Foods

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Here's an important exceprt from my bestselling book, Healthy Healing 14th Edition on the value of choosing organic fods. Pesticides can remain in the food chain for decades. DDT, chlordane and heptachlor are still found in soils more than 20 years after their use was discontinued. Even worse, pesticides used today are 10 to 100 times more potent than chemicals used just 25 years ago. While some scientists don’t believe pesticide residues harm healthy adults, even the National Academy of Sciences concedes that  just low levels of pesticides can cause toxicity in children (because of their immature immune systems) and in pregnant women (due to increased stress on their organs).

The EPA acknowledges that it sets acceptable pesticide residue risk with 150 pound adult men. More than 2 million synthetic substances are known, 25,000 are added each year—over 30,000 are produced on a widespread commercial scale. They work their way into our bodies faster than they can be eliminated, causing allergies and addictions in record numbers. Only a tiny fraction are ever tested for toxicity. Those that come to us from developing countries have few safeguards. A report from the Pesticide Action Network of North America says that Americans are exposed to toxic pollutants from foods up to 70 times a day!

Recent World Health Organization studies show that chemical and environmental factors are responsible for 80 to 90% of all cancers. Canadian research shows that pesticide sprays encourage life-threatening bacteria to grow on food crops, posing a real threat for people who eat fresh commercial produce- especially strawberries, raspberries and lettuce. New studies also link pesticides and pollutants to hormone dysfunctions, psychological disorders and birth defects. The molecular structure of many chemical carcinogens interacts with human DNA, so long term exposure can result in metabolic and genetic alteration that affect immune response.

The chemical industry points out that DDT and some other harmful pollutants containing environmental hormones are illegal in America.  Yet, 99% of Americans test positive for DDT degradants, even though DDT hasn’t been used in the U.S. since 1972. The U.S. is still the largest seller of DDT to the rest of the world. Many food-producing countries that supply America do not have pesticide bans, so imported foods from them still carry a toxic threat to us. Even if we ban the sprayed foods at our ports, the Earth’s winds circle the globe and all the waterways are connected, so pesticides with environmental hormones reach the entire world’s food supply.

The newest statistics come from breast cancer research. The dramatic rise in breast cancer in the last decade is consistent with the increased accumulation of organo-chlorine (PCB) residues. In Long Island, for instance, women living in areas previously sprayed with DDT have one of the highest breast cancer rates in the U.S.

Israel’s pesticide experience offers even more dramatic evidence of the pesticide-breast cancer connection. Until twenty years ago, breast cancer rates and contamination levels of organo-chlorine pesticides in Israel were among the highest in the world. An aggressive phase-out of the pesticides led to a sharp reduction in contamination levels… and to breast cancer death rates.

Here’s how the link between pesticides and breast cancer seems to work.  Pesticides, like other pollutants, are stored in fatty tissue areas like breast tissue. Some pesticides (including PCB’s and DDT) compromise immune function, overwork the liver and disrupt the glands the way too much estrogen does. A recent study showed up to 60% more dichloro-diphenyl-ethylene (DDE), DDT, and polychlorinated bi-phenols (PCB’s) in the bodies of women who have breast cancer than in those who don’t. Some researchers suggest that the reason today’s older women have a higher than normal rate of breast cancer may be that these women had greater exposure to DDT before it was banned.

What can we do to overcome environmental health threats? It’s a quandary. The healthy fruits and vegetables we’re all encouraged to eat are likely to contain unhealthy pesticides. Should you stop eating fresh produce? Of course not; fruits and vegetables clearly protect against cancer and heart disease. Still, only whole foods are wholesome. A healthy detox twice a year is a good way to rid yourself of dangerous chemicals.

Start With The Foods You Eat

Steps to protect yourself from chemical residues in your food.

1. Almost 50% of U.S. consumers use organic foods when they have a choice. Sales of organic foods have risen to over $23.8 billion each year! Sales of organic baby food alone increased 21.6% in 2009. U.S. organic farmland now spans 4 million acres. With 20% annual growth rate, organics are the fastest growing agricultural sector!

Organic foods are a first line of protection for you and your family against chemical overload. Organic food standards require that no food labeled organic can be treated with chemical pesticides, radiation, genetic engineering, or have any contact with sewage sludge. In a recent study of 96 school children, the only child who had no measurable pesticides in his urine lived in a home where the family ate organic food exclusively.  For the best results, fix organic food yourself if you’re on a healing diet. A rapidly growing group of Americans now seek out farmer’s markets and produce stands.... even grow some of their own foods. Grocery stores and markets now offer affordable organic produce to meet the growing consumer demand.

Organic foods are better for the environment, too. Organic farming reduces pollutants in groundwater, creating richer, more fertile soil. Organic crops are healthier, create less erosion, and use significantly less energy resources than conventional farming. Organic farming also reduces the overload of airborne toxins that add to the burden on our bodies and our planet. Even in tough economic times, Americans aren’t sacrificing organic quality to save a dollar. A poll by Mambo Sprouts marketing shows 87% of consumers are buying organic even in the recession.

2. Buy seasonal, local produce whenever you can. Avoid imported foods as much as possible. Foreign countries have different regulations for pesticide use, so produce from other countries typically contains higher levels of pesticides than U.S. grown.  Developing countries have few regulations. Mexico, for instance, has only recently begun phasing out DDT and chlordane which have been banned in the U.S. for decades. Imported produce also carries the threat of dangerous microbes, like those found in Guatemalan and Mexican strawberries in during the 1990’s.

3. Eat fruits and vegetables that have low PCB residues - like avocados, onions, broccoli, bananas, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, watermelon. Eat a wide variety of foods to keep your exposure to any one pesticide low. Choose organic for foods with high residues: strawberries, cherries, peaches, green beans, spinach, bell peppers, corn, cucumbers and grapes. Additionally, rice , soy, corn and baby food should be sourced from organic brands to avoid excess pesticides and genetically modified organisms.

To Lifelong health,

Linda Page