A FEW YEARS ago, a holistic health practitioner told me that if I was going to make any kind of a move towards organic foods, I should switch my oils and any fatty foods first because toxins such as pesticides were easily stored in fat.
Given that she’s one of the most knowledgeable and practically orientated holistic health people I know, I just accepted her theory as if it were gospel. Since then, wherever possible, I’ve used organic olive oil, organic peanut butter, organic nuts, etc.
Over the years, I’ve done a bit of reading on the subject and I’ve figured out that she was likely talking about chlorinated pesticides. We’re exposed to these nasties from fatty foods such as meat, poultry, dairy products, and fish. They’re also present in some vegetables thanks to agricultural run-off. Chlorinated pesticides are fat-soluble toxins, so we store them in our body fat, which isn’t a great plan given that we’re an increasingly overweight population.
Most of these pesticides have been banned but according to a recent study out of The University of Otago, they’re still out there thanks to a legacy of extensive use, and in some cases, they’re in current use. According to the study, the levels aren’t all that high but in some cases, they’re over the limits.
Theoretically, it doesn’t matter if the farmer is using conventional methods or is totally organic, if there’s contamination in the soil, it can end up in the food, particularly in the fat of animals that graze there (but of course, if you don’t eat meat or partake of dairy, then that’s not an issue).
So the jury is out as to whether there are chlorinated pesticide residues in the high-fat foods I mentioned earlier, but that doesn’t really matter to me anymore. Over the years, I’ve noticed that the organic variants of these foods always taste better than their conventional equivalents. Compare organic almonds with the plain old versions and you’ll never eat anything besides organic. The same applies to peanut butter – the stuff on the supermarket shelves is more like plastic, even the ones without added junk. Try the Ceres Organics peanut butter on the other hand and going back to the rest just isn’t an option.
Yes, they’re a little more expensive but the taste difference makes it worth it to me. And regardless of the jury still being in thinking mode, I like the peace of mind that I get from the organic (or spray-free) high-fat foods I eat. And if you extend the thinking and start wondering about all the other pesticides that are in common use, and their potential negative effects, then the peace of mind increases dramatically.
Another health practitioner once told me to beware of veggies with “lots of surfaces and hiding places”, by which he meant items such as broccoli and cauliflower, because with all that curly surface area, the pesticide residues would be high and would also be difficult to remove. He was also adamant that all non-organic veggies should be soaked for five minutes in water and then carefully rinsed. Five minutes seems a bit much but these days, when I rinse the organic and spray-free veggies, I give them a good rinse and that’s it but when I rinse the supermarket stuff, the little voice inside my head keeps asking, “Is that enough? Maybe another couple of rinses? Maybe a few more?”
Yes, I know I’m probably a bit paranoid but still, it seems so much simpler to buy the better tasting organic veggies rather than even wonder about how long to rinse my food for.
From a taste perspective, it really does make a difference. I’ve noticed that when I buy spinach and silverbeet from the supermarket or the veggie shop, my daily smoothies simply don’t taste as good. But when I grab my veggies from one of the local organic shops, I devour these smoothies with increased relish.
There’s another factor to consider – simple plant health and nutrient value. I once had the pleasure of sitting next to a very clued-up (and rather lovely) nutritionist for four hours on a bus between NYC and Boston. We chatted about food and health for the full duration of the trip (I know, I know), and she was dismissive of the pesticide issue because she was convinced that the levels in the USA were too low to be of concern. However, she was definitely in favour of organics purely from the perspective that an organic vegetable is basically a better vegetable. It needs to survive on its own merits, with far less help than your average conventionally farmed veggies, which is mollycoddled within an inch of its life.
A hard life makes for tougher veggies, which makes for better nutrient values. The modern tomato for example is apparently a pale shadow of its former self in terms of nutrients, and we’re not talking macronutrients here (fat, fibre, etc) but rather micro and phytonutrients, the things that make a whole food a ‘whole’ food.
So why not eat something that’s not only pesticide-free but is also just a better food, and is better for you all round? I know that I’m biting the bullet more and more, and just using the supermarket for the basics while spending more time and money at the organic shops. As far as the price goes, if you really believe that the only thing you have is your health (think about it), then the extra expenditure is a non-issue. What price your health, and doesn’t everyone want to avoid their doctor as much as possible?
(And before I get hammered for suggesting that everyone should eat organics when there are many families out there who can barely afford food, I say yep, I hear you, I totally get that, but most of those families could be better off physically and financially by moving towards a plant based wholefoods diet with some of their food grown semi-organically at home, but that’s another article entirely). ASHLEY KRAMER
(Also, while I was looking for images for this article, I stumbled across this snippet: “A study recently published in Pediatrics demonstrates a link between Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and organophosphate pesticides”. Who needs to worry about this sort of stuff? Just feed your kids more organic food because isn’t their health as important as yours? End of story.)