Please excuse me while I finish my wheatgrass smoothie – Just kidding! I’ve never tried the stuff. I will never forget the time I saw an interview with a New York RD that advised all of her clients to start their day with a wheatgrass smoothie. Um, pretty sure NONE of my clients would see me again if I started prescribing that. Be careful that the advice you get is personalized to you – that’s how nutrition advice should be. It is not a “one size fits all” approach.
There was an article going around Facebook last week about how to eat healthy when you can’t afford organic food. I stopped myself short at reading the article for fear that I may want to make a comment that I might regret (although, no worries in the Facebook world, it can be deleted whence embarrassment and regret ensue). However, I did not stop myself from reading the comments and that gave me a very good idea of the content of the article and how there is still so much misunderstanding of organic foods.
I take for granted that the last year of my Master’s program had me knee deep in studying organic produce. I reviewed more research than I care to spell out, about the nutritional value of conventional versus organic fruits and vegetables. Need a consensus in a nutshell? The jury is still out for most produce. The truth is, nutrient content for any fruit or vegetable is dependent on many things. Soil type, cropping system, variety, how much water they get, how much sun they get, when they are harvested, how long they sit in the supermarket…the list could really go on. There are so many factors.
This is why research in this field is so difficult. In order for research to be reliable, it must be able to be reproduced, under the same conditions. That is virtually impossible. No two growing seasons are exactly the same and rarely can exact soil content be duplicated. Researchers have tried and tried hard, because this topic is so important to so many people.
So that just covers produce, what about the wealth of other organic products? One of the comments on this article had someone claim that “organic” doesn’t mean anything. Well, my friend, you should really do more homework. It does and there are stringent requirements. For example, it’s a redundant statement for organic foods (with a USDA organic seal) to put “non-GMO” on their products, but they have to – consumers don’t necessarily know, that in order to be organic, it can’t have GMOs in it.
This post would go on for longer than your attention span if I posted all the organic rules, but feel free to do some light reading to educate yourself when you have some free time. A great place to start is with the USDA: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=organic-agriculture.html
It’s an interesting question though – does eating organic make you healthier? No. Organic farming is not JUST about price or health, although, those two things are factors that play into decisions regarding purchasing. It’s also about the environment and sustainable agriculture. One of my professors brought up an amazing discussion topic at my MS Defense when she asked me about the dirty dozen. You know, the dirty dozen, a marketing ploy that is put out every year to scare Americans with conventional fruits and vegetables that contain the highest pesticide residues. Okay, yes you know.
Believe it or not, synthetic pesticide residue is only one of the reasons that consumers cite when they choose between conventional and organic produce. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report that, in choosing organic produce, a child’s exposure to synthetic pesticides was decreased, but it did not have the evidence to support that it will improve health.
We all know the other reasons when making a decision to choose – nutrition, price, convenience, availability, environmental impacts, social impacts. Hmmm, social impacts, what does that mean? Some nutrition professionals think that touting their prowess and their endorsement of organics makes it seem like this is the only option. Being bullied into buying something is never a comfortable decision. A good nutritionist (and dietitians now are also called nutritionists) will tailor their nutrition advice to what best fits the needs of their client.
Really, people want to hear that dietitians sit at home at night and munch on fried chicken and candy bars – sorry to disappoint, that’s not the case. Most of us walk the walk and talk the talk. However, I love food, that’s why I got into this business, and I indulge when I want.
Is the next dying question going to be whether or not I buy organic? The answer is yes and no. I buy it when I can and if I can’t, I don’t sweat it. During my research, I came to understand that it’s not just about the money or about the nutrition, it is also about the farmers and how they are working hard to build a sustainable ecosystem that is void of synthetic chemicals and one that supports humane livestock practices, among many others.
Organic food does not make you healthy. Making smart choices everyday about what you put in your body and how you keep yourself fit, that is what makes you healthy. Eating an apple, regardless of what farm it came from, will do you more good than eating French fries any day of the week…or maybe you should try the wheatgrass.