One argument for eating organic foods is to reduce chemicals that get into the body. The World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report last year stating that endocrine (hormonal) disruption from harmful chemicals is more extensive than was thought 10 years ago. Buying organic is more expensive so I buy those organic foods that make the most difference to my chemical exposure. Here are my suggestions and explanation based upon UK information.
1. Apples & pears. I have one of these every day and as I eat on the go I don’t peel them. These are 2 of the fruits which have been found to have the highest pesticide residues in UK bought produce. Oranges are the highest but as they get peeled that makes a difference. I got this information from PAN (Pesticide Action Network) see here: http://www.pan-uk.org/food/best-worst-food-for-pesticide-residues
2. Salad veg especially tomatoes & lettuce. I have at least one salad veg every day so where I can I like to buy organic versions of those I don’t peel which have been shown to have higher pesticide residues. This is usually tomatoes & lettuce but sometimes I also buy organic peppers & celery. I always peel cucumber. If anyone has green fingers it would be great to grow your own organically.
3. Grapes & dried fruit. It’s my children that tend to eat grapes and raisins but as you don’t peel them, and the fruit is small with a greater surface area for chemicals to coat. Not surprisingly they come high in the worst residues list on the PAN website.
4. Milk & dairy. As with most families with children we get through a lot of milk, cheese and yogurt. I don’t find the price differential too high especially now the supermarkets have multibuys on the large containers of milk.
5. Soy milk. I don’t have soy milk that often but use it as a milk substitute as I don’t tolerate milk well. I buy organic as I then know it is not genetically modified. With organic, the production process is usually stricter.
6. Rice. The small size of grains means that like grapes, there is plenty of surface area for chemicals. Most rice is from Asia and America. And it’s not just pesticides. Recently levels of cadmium, arsenic and lead found in rice samples are of concern particularly in China due to the fast pace of industrialisation. I think I’m buying greater safety with organic but I also avoid Chinese rice. Plus I eat rice 2-3 times per week. See this about Chinese rice: http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/25/after-cadmium-rice-now-lead-and-arsenic-rice/
7. Oats. I often eat oats at breakfast or oatcakes as a snack. As with rice the size of all grains makes them a good candidate to buy organic so if I ate bread and used wheatflour regularly I would buy organic.
8. Cornflour. I don’t eat bread, pasta or other wheat products so rice, oats and corn are my grains. I don’t have much corn but do use cornflour occasionally in cooking or baking. I use organic as it’s a grain and along with soy it is one of the most genetically modified crops.
9. Organic mince. I would like to buy all organic meat, chicken and fish but it is so expensive. This must say something about higher welfare standard requirements that go along with organic meat. I find organic mince isn’t that much more expensive so do buy this. And if I ever see it on offer or reduced-to-clear in the supermarket I buy it for the freezer.
10. Tea and coffee. Because I use these often, they are made from small leaves and beans, and they are produced abroad (where there is less control over pesticide use), I like to buy organic. When I buy decaffeinated also buying organic can mean you have a more natural production process. For example some decaffeinated organic tea (e.g. Clipper) is decaffeinated by carbon dioxide rather than using harmful chemicals in the process.
I think we can all benefit from fewer harmful chemicals in our bodies. These chemicals can enter our bloodstream and some are known to interfere with the body’s hormone systems, which could affect normal development.
I would recommend to pregnant or fertility clients that they eat organic foods to reduce chemical exposure that could affect fertility or be passed on to foetuses and babies. Also, children with their less developed immune systems and teenagers at important stages in hormonal development would be other key groups to go organic.
When I eat or drink organic, I prioritise. I choose those that I use most, in the largest quantities, out of those that I know have been found from UK data to have the highest levels of pesticide residues.