Friday, April 22, 2011

In Honor of Earth Day - Organics

A few years ago, I was in the camp of people that didn't really care about buying organic vegetables or fruits. Hormone-free dairy and meat wasn't even something I had ever thought about. Why bother spending the extra money??

But then, for some random reason (probably that it satisfied some honors credit and/or it was a 2 minute walk from my dorm), I signed up for an Agriculture seminar class the Spring semester of my senior year of college. I can't remember what the course was titled, but it basically focused on sustainable agriculture, food issues around the world, and carbon footprints.

And I LOVED it. I didn't miss a single class. I would bring my International Marketing textbooks, bookmarked to relevant case studies, and I would sit with the professor for an hour after the class ended talking (yes, dork, I know. I embrace my dorkiness). At the end of the semester, the professor actually offered me the chance to work as a research assistant with her and her team on a new international project for which they had just received a research grant. I had already signed the lease on my apartment and accepted my new job for after graduation, so I had to decline, but I do sometimes wonder what would have been different with my life if I had taken that opportunity, or if I had taken this class earlier in my college career! Needless to say, this class really stirred up an unexpected passion.

One thing that the professor really emphasized was "eat local, eat organic". I will never forget her saying that pesticides are designed to kill living creatures - why would you want to ingest that into your body? We looked at countless studies of pesticide levels found in urine, and especially the levels in children were really disturbing. The growth hormones found in beef, poultry, and dairy products was unbelievable too.  I know it's unrealistic to eat organic (and especially local organic) 100% of the time, but it's not an all or nothing thing. I personally believe that as long as you're doing your absolute best to eat organic as much as you can, that will have benefits to your health.

And I really really hope that this isn't coming across as obnoxious and self-righteous...I genuinely and sincerely care about this and I think it's important. I was militant about it when I was pregnant, and now that Anna's eating fruits and veggies. I go out of my way to buy only organic fruits and veggies for her food, and I buy jar organic foods when I can't find the fruits or veggies that I'm looking for in the organic sections of any of the grocery stores. Any beef, poultry, or milk that I buy is hormone-free and organic. I cut back elsewhere on my list to make sure all this fits into the grocery budget. I know organic is more expensive, but it's not THAT much more expensive. Cut out a few items off your list and it covers the difference. Cut out one restaurant trip a month and that easily covers your month's price differences!! To me, that money is definitely well spent, especially when it's going into the little baby bodies.

This is a helpful little list of the prioritized foods to buy organic- the Environmental Working Group ( calls this list the "Dirty Dozen". Memorize it, download it into your phone, make a little cheat sheet to take grocery shopping...these are the foods that tested highest for pesticide and chemical levels. If I'm remembering correctly, celery is the worst of the Dirty Dozen but they are all pretty bad!! This is not designed to be a comprehensive list- merely the top 12 foods to buy organic if you can.

And as much as possible, I think it's highly important to buy the hormone/steroid-free organic beef/poultry/dairy products as well.

12 Most Contaminated
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes
12 Least Contaminated
  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn (Frozen)
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya
For more information go to

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