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Tip 472: Tips to Make Organic Foods Work For Your Health, Body Composition and Your Budget

11/7/2012 9:14 AM

Choose organic foods selectively to support optimal health and stick within your budget. Recent research shows how to best incorporate organic foods into your diet so that you eat more nutritious meals, while decreasing your exposure to growth hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides.

Opt for organic, pasture-raised meat and dairy whenever possible because there’s a wealth of evidence that organic animal foods are more nutritious and so much safer than non-organic. For example, Dr. Sean Lucan wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that factory-farmed beef “comes from animals raised on mixtures of genetically modified corn, chicken manure, antibiotics, hormones, and ground-up parts of other animals.” Compare that to organic pastured beef that comes from animals raised on grass and other vegetation!

The first benefit of choosing organic animal products is “cleaner” food. Aside from providing a large toxic load of growth hormones, conventional meat has been found to have 33 percent more antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can make you sick. This is due to the overtreatment of conventional animals with antibiotics due to the abysmal conditions in which they are raised.

The second benefit to choosing organic animal products is that research shows they are MUCH more nutritious. A new analysis compared nutrient content of dairy products and found that organic diary contains higher levels of all three omega-3 fats (EPA, DHA, and ALA) and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is a potent anti-cancer fat that has also been found to produce fat loss in subjects who get large amounts in their diet.

Additionally, the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio was much higher (nearly 2 to 1) in the organic dairy, which is more favorable for health and body composition. Generally, omega-3s fight inflammation, while omega-6 fats are considered pro-inflammatory, meaning they cause it.
Of interest, this review found that organic dairy had the highest levels of the favorable nutrients during the summer months. During winter, they are fed “conserved forage,” whereas during summer they graze outside on fresh forage. Still, organic dairy had so many more omega-3 fat and CLA that the organic dairy products are able to maintain their favorable “premium” nutritional quality year round.

Organic meat provides similar benefits as dairy: One review showed organic beef provides superior content of CLA, and the omega-3s. Organic and wild meats are also packed with glutathione—an amino acid composite that is enormously effective at protecting your DNA and cells from cancer. Organic beef and ham have the highest glutathione content of all foods, surpassed only by fresh vegetables like asparagus.

When it comes to produce, you have more room to mix and match organic and conventional foods. Nutritional content in produce is most influenced by soil quality, whether the food is native to the area it’s being grown in, and if it is in season. The priority is to choose produce that is local, ripe, and seasonal, and add organic to that list when possible.

The Environmental Working Group provides a great Guide for fitting organic produce into your budget because they provide two produce lists: The foods that are lowest in pesticides and those that are most contaminated. The good news is that many of the highly contaminated foods are readily available in organic form in most grocery stores, while the cleanest fruits and vegetables tend to be more exotic, expensive foods.

The EWGs Clean 15 includes onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, kiwi, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, and mushrooms.

The EWGs Dirty Dozen Plus (they added two veggies to the new 2012 list!) includes apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries potatoes, kale, and green beans.
Lucan, Sean. That It’s Red? Or What it Was Fed/How it Was Bred? The Risk of Meat. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012. 96(2), 446.

Daley, C., Abbott, A., et al. A Review of Fatty Acid Profiles and Antioxidant Content in Grass-Fed and Grain-fed Beef. Nutrition Journal. 2010. 9(10).

Palupi, E., Jayanegara, A., et al. Comparison of Nutritional Quality Between Conventional and Organic Dairy Products: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.