Organics Rid Your Body of Pesticides, Study Shows

Common sense suggests that fruits and vegetables grown without the use of hazardous pesticides and insecticides are safer to eat. This is particularly true of organic produce, which is grown without using conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.

While this is a very important point of differentiation with conventional produce, it is one of the least understood and most important considerations in choosing healthy food. A recent study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science shows why parents should be concerned about this difference.

The peer-reviewed study found that the urine and saliva of children eating a variety of conventional foods from their local grocery stores contained traces of organophosphates (this is the family of pesticides derived from nerve gas agents created in World War II—including malathion and chlorpyrifos). According to Chensheng Lu, the principle author of the study, "It is appropriate to assume that if we are exposed to (this class of) pesticides, even though it's a low-level exposure on a daily basis, there are going to be some health concerns down the road."

In light of this study, it is undeniable that organic produce is a safer choice. When the same children ate organic fruits, vegetables and juices, signs of pesticides were not found. And when switching from conventional food to organic, the pesticides that were previously measured in the urine disappeared within 36 hours. Not surprisingly, the pesticide levels immediately returned when the children went back to the conventional diets.

While the EPA insists that "dietary exposures from eating food crops treated with chlorpyrifos are below the level of concern for the entire U.S. population, including infants and children," others beg to differ. Chuck Benbrook, (chief scientist of the Organic Center, a nationwide, nonprofit, food research organization) says that this statement by the EPA is simply "not supported by science.” Pointing to “the almost daily reminders that children are suffering from an array of behavioral, learning, neurological problems,” he questions, “doesn't it make sense to eliminate exposures to chemicals known to trigger such outcomes like chlorpyrifos?"

So what’s the solution? The gut reaction of some parents might be to limit the consumption of fresh produce, but that would be a big mistake. According to Lu, “It is vital for children to consume significantly more fresh fruits and vegetables than is commonly the case today." While it may not be practical for some people to switch to a 100% organic diet, parents should at least avoid conventional produce with high levels of pesticide residue (peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, strawberries and cherries are among those that most frequently have detectable levels of pesticides).

For over 30 years, Down to Earth has been offering our customers a wide selection of organic and locally grown, fresh produce. While many of you already know that organic foods are safer, tastier and more nutritious (not to mention better for the environment), we hope that you’ll share this information with your family and friends.

At the end of the day, most people are very sensitive to the safety of the food they and their families eat and want to be confident that the food they consume is wholesome and will cause no harm. Going “organic” is an important step in the right direction, and they will appreciate information to help make healthy choices.

Aloha!

Organics Safer for Your Health

September is a time of year when people across the country are celebrating Organic Harvest Month. Sponsored by the Consumer Trade Association, this annual event highlights organic agriculture and the growing organic products industry. It’s a great theme for this month’s newsletter as we endeavor to increase understanding and acceptance of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle based on organic and natural products.

In the case of produce, the arguments are rather compelling. According to the Organic Trade Association, based in Greenfield, Mass., there is mounting evidence to suggest that organically produced foods may be more nutritious. Research documented on their website shows that, “…organically grown fruits, vegetables and grains may offer more of some nutrients, including vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and less exposure to nitrates and pesticide residues than their counterparts grown using fertilizers and synthetic pesticides.”1 This is important for good health because many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases.

In the long run, organic farming techniques provide a safer, more sustainable environment for everyone. Basically, however, common sense suggests that fruits and vegetables grown without the use of hazardous pesticides and insecticides are safer to eat. This is particularly true of organic produce, which is grown without using conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. While this is a very important point of differentiation with conventional produce, it is one of the least understood and most important considerations in choosing healthy food.

A recent study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science shows why parents should be concerned about this difference. The peer-reviewed study found that the urine and saliva of children eating a variety of conventional foods from their local grocery stores contained traces of organophosphates. This is the family of pesticides derived from nerve gas agents created in World War II—including malathion and chlorpyrifos, which is one of the most widely used organophosphate insecticides in the United States and, many believe, the world. According to Chensheng Lu, the principle author of the study, "It is appropriate to assume that if we are exposed to (this class of) pesticides, even though it's a low-level exposure on a daily basis, there are going to be some health concerns down the road."2

In light of this study, it is undeniable that organic produce is a safer choice. When the same children ate organic fruits, vegetables and juices, signs of pesticides were not found. And when switching from conventional food to organic, the pesticides that were previously measured in the urine disappeared within 36 hours. Not surprisingly, the pesticide levels immediately returned when the children went back to the conventional diets. While the EPA insists that "dietary exposures from eating food crops treated with chlorpyrifos are below the level of concern for the entire U.S. population, including infants and children," others beg to differ. “This statement by the EPA is simply not supported by science,” says Chuck Benbrook, chief scientist of the Organic Center, a nationwide nonprofit food research organization. Pointing to “…the almost daily reminders that children are suffering from an array of behavioral, learning, neurological problems,” he questions, “doesn't it make sense to eliminate exposures to chemicals known to trigger such outcomes like chlorpyrifos?"3

So what’s the solution? The gut reaction of some parents might be to limit the consumption of fresh produce, but that would be a big mistake. According to Lu, “It is vital for children to consume significantly more fresh fruits and vegetables than is commonly the case today." While it may not be practical for some people to switch to a 100% organic diet, parents should at least avoid conventional produce with high levels of pesticide residue. Fruits that most frequently have detectable levels of pesticides include peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, strawberries and cherries.

Organic agriculture minimizes children’s exposure to toxic and persistent pesticides not only in the foods they eat, but in the soil in which they play, the air they breathe, and the water they drink. Choosing organic products is an easy way to help protect yourself and your family. At the end of the day, most people are very sensitive to the safety of the food they and their families eat and want to be confident that the food they consume is wholesome and will cause no harm. Going “organic” is an important step in the right direction, and they will appreciate information to help make healthy choices.

For over 30 years, Down to Earth has been offering customers a wide selection of organic and locally grown, fresh produce. While many already know that organic foods are safer, tastier and more nutritious (not to mention better for the environment), we hope you will share this information with your family and friends.

Footnotes: 
  1. “Conclusive study finds big nutritional benefits for organic” Organic Trade Association, http://www.ota.com/news/press-releases/110
  2. “Harmful pesticides found in everyday food products,” Seattle PI.
  3. Ibid.

The Dirty Dozen: Most Heavily Sprayed Foods

by Tracy Rohland

As consumers become more aware of the dangers associated with chemical pesticides and preservatives in produce, many are trying to adopt a more organic way of eating. While you may not be ready to eat exclusively organic, the next best option is to avoid those fruits and vegetables that are sprayed with pesticides more heavily than others. To help you make the healthiest shopping decisions, we’ve compiled this list of the most pesticide-contaminated foods (based on recent reports from the Environmental Working Group and TheDailyGreen):

Peaches

Sprayed with multiple varieties of pesticides. Plus, their delicate skin makes it easy for chemicals to penetrate the skin.

Apples

Scrubbing and peeling can’t get all the pesticides off. The heavy waxing of apples also traps pesticides underneath.

Strawberries

One EWG report found 36 types of pesticides on strawberries. Out-of-season, imported strawberries are the most risky.

Grapes (especially imported varieties)

Another thin-skinned fruit, sprayed with 35 different pesticides.

Cherries

Pesticides were found on 91% of the cherries tested in the EWG study.

Nectarines

Pesticides were found on 97% of the nectarines tested.

Pears

A pears delicate skin makes it difficult to scrub thoroughly and easy for chemicals to sink in.

Red Raspberries

Their fuzzy exterior makes it difficult to wash off any of the 39 pesticides used.

Sweet Bell Peppers

Thin skinned and heavily sprayed.

Celery

The thin skin of this vegetable is sprayed with 29 varieties of pesticides.

Spinach and Lettuces

Lettuces are frequently contaminated with what are considered the most potent pesticides used on food.

Potatoes

In addition to pesticides, potatoes are contaminated with fungicides.

Tomatoes

Their soft skin is easily penetrated by contaminants.

Milk

Non-organic milk contains innumerable pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.

Meat

Of course, we don’t recommend organic meat, as meat should be avoided regardless. But it is good for consumers to know that animals are dosed with hormones and antibiotics and fed pesticide-rich grains before they are slaughtered.

Following is a brief list of a few foods that are less likely to be heavily contaminated by pesticides:

  • Onions
  • Avocados
  • Sweet Corn (Frozen)
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya

The most important thing is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, eating organic whenever possible. Hopefully these lists can help you save money while still looking out for your well-being.

Make the Earth-Friendly Choice! Buy Organic

by Michele McKay

As the seasons turn and we enjoy the bounty of fall, September is a great time for the Organic Trade Association’s celebration of “National Organic Harvest Month.” Organic agriculture not only produces food that is tasty and good for our bodies, it is also good for the planet: organic methods work with the natural environment, they foster sustainability and they promote ecological harmony. Organic crops are grown without the use of herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetic engineering, sewage sludge, or irradiation. Organic dairy products come from animals that are not given antibiotics or hormones to promote growth and milk production. In contrast to the many risks of commercial agricultural chemicals, organic farming provides these environmental and health benefits: Organic agriculture protects land, water, and ecosystems through:

  • promoting biodiversity
  • fostering long-term soil fertility
  • encouraging insects that are beneficial to crops and the environment
  • supporting microbes that promote soil health
  • not harming wildlife
  • keeping hazardous chemicals out of groundwater

Organic farming practices are good for people and communities because they:

  • protect farm workers, communities, and consumers from the hazards of exposure to dangerous agricultural chemicals
  • eliminate toxic sprays that drift airborne into residential areas
  • protect water supplies from contamination

What you can do

In addition to keeping harmful chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones off our plates and out of our bodies, buying organic also supports those farmers that are practicing natural, sustainable agriculture. Consider the toxic toll of conventional crops and dairy products… then, help support the long-term health of the planet and its inhabitants by choosing organic whenever possible. Want to go one step further for the Earth? To have a truly eco-friendly diet, and to prevent the extreme suffering of animals, go vegetarian.

Footnotes: 

Visit the Organic Trade Association’s website at www.ota.com. The Organic Consumers Association has great information at www.organicconsumers.org, and on their Hawaii page at www.organicconsumers.org/state/HI.cfm. For additional local information, visit the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association (HOFA) website, http://www.hawaiiorganic.org/ or phone them at (808) 969-7789.

Feed the People... Organically

by Michele McKay

The concept of sustainability is taking root in Hawaii as citizens and government officials awaken to the benefits of self-sufficiency. Growing food organically is both a “natural” step toward sustainability and a profound opportunity to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, shipping, and agricultural chemicals.

Corporate agribusinesses have long argued that farming without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers produces low yields; they maintain that chemicals and genetic engineering are necessary for production of food on a large scale. However, research published in July, 2007 shows that worldwide, organic farming can compete with standard agricultural methods.

Researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed several published studies on the yields of organic farming, reviewing 293 samples. Their report, published in the Cambridge University Press journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems states that “Model estimates indicate that organic methods could produce enough food on a global per capita basis to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base.” They went on to say, “Data from temperate and tropical agro ecosystems suggest that leguminous cover crops could fix enough nitrogen to replace the amount of synthetic fertilizer currently in use. These results indicate that organic agriculture has the potential to contribute quite substantially to the global food supply, while reducing the detrimental environmental impacts of conventional agriculture."

Ivette Perfecto, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, said in a statement, "My hope is that we can finally put a nail in the coffin of the idea that you can't produce enough food through organic agriculture." She added that "Corporate interest in agriculture and the way agriculture research has been conducted . . . with a lot of influence by the chemical companies and pesticide companies as well as fertilizer companies, all have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food.”

What you can do:

  • Consumers vote with their dollars, so cast your vote for organic farming and a cleaner, safer environment every time you shop. By buying local, organically grown products, you will be supporting Hawaii’s own organic growers and retailers, and helping our islands move toward sustainability.
  • Visit the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association (HOFA) at their website: http://www.hawaiiorganic.org/, or phone them at (808) 969-7789 to learn about issues and opportunities. Get involved in helping to spread the good word for organic agriculture in Hawaii.

Supporting a Healthy Planet with Organic Cotton

by Michele McKay

When you say "organic" to someone, the natural response is for them to think about food. Most conversations and discussions on organic are about fruits and vegetables, but the scope of organic products does not stop there. You can also purchase organic clothes. “Why should I buy organic cotton?” you ask. “I don’t eat my clothes!” Good point... but the answer is more serious than most people think.

Eating organic food makes common sense, of course – if we don’t want to be around toxic chemicals, we certainly don’t want them in and on our food. (See more about what it means to “eat organic” in this month’s feature article) Even though we don’t eat our clothing and linens, we can understand the importance of organic cotton products when we learn a little bit about what goes into the production of conventionally grown cotton.

Textile labels often describe “100-percent pure cotton” content, leading buyers to believe they are purchasing a natural, chemical-free product. In reality, there is not much that is “pure” about conventional cotton. It is grown with mega-doses of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and defoliants that contaminate the soil, make their way into ground water, and drift airborne into residential areas. They create health hazards for farmers, workers, communities, and wildlife. They kill the beneficial insects and microbes that promote soil health.

Did you know:

  • 25 percent of all the insecticide used for crops worldwide is applied to cotton.
  • 8.5 million tons of pesticides are sprayed on cotton crops annually in the United States.
  • Cotton is grown on only 1 percent of U.S. agricultural land, yet it accounts for 10% of all agricultural chemicals used annually.
  • 1/3 pound of chemical pesticide and fertilizer is required to produce one pound of conventional cotton.

In contrast, organic cotton is grown with sustainable, time-proven methods that include the use of organic fertilizers, cover crops, crop rotation, ecological pest management and beneficial insects. These methods foster soil fertility and ecosystem diversity rather than dependence on the chemical industry.

Organically grown cotton products are becoming more available as public awareness and interest increases. Leading names in the clothing industry are including organic cotton in their lines, and as demand and production rise, the costs go down. Everyone wins when more acres go into organic production.

What you can do:

Consider the toxic toll of conventional cotton, and help support the long-term health of the planet and its inhabitants by choosing organic whenever possible. You don’t need to eat your clothing to make a positive impact.

Organic versus Conventional: the difference is more than just skin deep

Photo: Farmer Spraying Pesticides

by Caitlin Rose

As the organic movement gains traction, more and more people are likely to wash and peel their non-organic produce to minimize exposure to dangerous pesticides. Many articles on organic foods list the "dirty dozen" - foods that should be purchased organic whenever possible because of high pesticide residues and “the clean fifteen.” - foods with the least amount of pesticide residue. It's important to arm yourself with this knowledge so you can protect your family even on a limited budget. However, it's equally important to remember that the dangers caused by these pesticides don't stop at the peel. Pesticide contamination is an ongoing, worldwide issue. At an international convention organized by the UN in Stockholm, nine of twelve of the most persistent and dangerous chemicals were revealed to be chemical pesticides.1 Some of the researched side effects of pesticide contamination include birth defects, autism spectrum disorders, brain cancer, pancreatic cancer, Parkinson's disease and endocrine disruption resulting in excess weight gain.2,3,4,5,6,7

Besides negatively impacting the health of human beings, synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers have also been found to disrupt the health of ecosystems. Nitrogen runoff from industrial farms in the Midwest has been found to contribute to a large "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico where fish and other marine life have experienced massive die-offs.8 The indiscriminate use of DDT after World War II resulted in the near extinction of bald eagles. Recently, honeybees, bats and frog populations have begun to plummet as pesticide residue overwhelms their immune systems.9 While the government has set "safe levels" of use for many synthetic chemicals, these levels are easily exceeded when pesticides and herbicides accumulate in groundwater over time.

By comparison, organic farmers use a variety of non-toxic methods to control weeds and insects, such as companion planting, mulching, tilling and maintaining soil fertility. Weeds flourish in soil that is unbalanced and undernourished, so the best method of controlling weeds is to build up the nutrients in your soil. When you have healthy soil, your plants will grow faster than the weeds - a win-win solution! Similarly, the best way to keep unwanted insects in check is to maintain a healthy environment where the natural predators of pests can thrive.

Over the last three or four generations, farming has largely changed from a cultural practice to an industry, subject to the same cost-benefit analysis of manufacturing. Organic farmers, however, know that the infinite variables in nature make growing food a far more complex task. In all cultures that live close to the land, farmers are respected as living reservoirs of vital knowledge. As methods are tried and tested, best practices are handed down from generation to generation. This knowledge of the land is itself a threatened resource that must be maintained.

So, next time you browse the organic section at the produce isle, consider the stories behind those crimson beets, leafy greens and purple radishes. Consider the knowledge locked up inside each sweet potato, each taro root, each hand of bananas. Eating organic produce helps to minimize your exposure to pesticides, but even when you know that a particular fruit or vegetable is not at risk for a high level of pesticide contamination you can still feel good about buying organic because you are supporting a practice that maintains the health of our planet and all its inhabitants.

Footnotes: 
  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_Convention
  2. Duhigg, Charles (August 22, 2009). “Debating How Much Weed Killer is Safe in Your Water”. The New York Times.
  3. “Maternal Residence Near Agricultural Pesticide Applications and Autism Spectrum Disorders Among Children in the California Central Valley,” Environmental Health Perspectives web site, 2007.
  4. Occupational and Environmental Medicine online, June 2007.
  5. The Lancet, Dec. 18, 1999.
  6. BMC Neurology Journal (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7318188.stm), 2008.
  7. Molecular Endocrinology (Vol. 20, No. 9), September 2006.
  8. http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/539988/
  9. http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts

Studies Show the Effect of Pesticides on Children

Photo: Children Smiling

by Tandis Bishop

Some of us may not be very concerned about eating organic. Heck, with today’s busy lifestyle, it’s a challenge just to get enough fruits and vegetables in our diet. However, there is a special group of people who may need to eat organic as much as possible. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) infants and children may be especially sensitive to the health risks posed by pesticides.1 One of the reasons for their vulnerability, the EPA says, is that their internal organs are still developing and maturing. Another reason is that in relation to their body weight, children eat and drink more than adults do, which increases their exposure to pesticides. Also, children’s exposure to pesticides is increased because of their tendency to put objects in their mouths, and to play on lawns, floors, etc.


Many studies are showing the effects of pesticides on children. In 2010 the journal Pediatrics published a study by the Harvard School of Public Health which found that children with high levels of pesticides known as organophosphates were twice as likely to develop ADHA (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity-Disorder).2 The data found was based on the general U.S. population. Which means pesticides could be harmful at levels normally exposed to children. Researchers agree that this is a strong association and that if true, is a very serious concern since these are widely used pesticides. Organophosphates were originally developed for chemical warfare and are known to be toxic to the nervous system.


Beyond infants and children, new studies are also showing that pesticides in fruits and vegetables may be harmful for a developing fetus as well. A new University of California, Berkeley study linked prenatal pesticide exposure to lower levels of IQ in children. The study measured pesticide exposure in the urine of pregnant women in Salinas and found a 7 point IQ deficit in children whose mothers had the highest pesticide levels.3 What’s alarming is that the urinary pesticide concentrations were within the range of levels measured in the general U.S. population. In other words it was an average amount of exposure. This was one of three studies published on April 27, 2011 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, showing the association between pesticide exposure and children’s IQ. The other two studies, one at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, and the other at Columbia University, examined inner city populations in New York City. Researchers were surprised by the level of consistency across populations in the studies, which is very unusual.


What do you take home from all these studies related to pesticides and children? The answer is simple. Reduce their exposure as much as possible. How?


  • Choose organically grown fruits and vegetables, or close to it. This in itself can drastically reduce children’s exposure to pesticides and other chemicals. Identify the foods that are more heavily treated with pesticides, known as the “dirty dozen”, which you should always try to buy organic, such as strawberries, apples, potatoes, blueberries, lettuce and other leafy greens, peaches, nectarines, etc. Foods that are least contaminated, known as the “clean fifteen”, are usually safe to buy conventional, such as avocados, onions, cabbage, sweet potatoes, etc. For complete lists see "dirty dozen" and “the clean fifteen.”
  • Follow the recommendation of researchers by washing fruits and vegetables very thoroughly.
  • Avoid the use of pesticides and insecticides in and around your home. Most hardware stores have natural forms of pesticides and insecticides as a safer alternative. Even then, you should keep children and their toys away from the treated areas. You can also find a lot of tips for natural, home-made pesticides on the internet.
  • Frequently wash children’s hands, toys, and bottles. Keep floors and surfaces clean to reduce exposure to residue from pesticides and other chemicals.
Footnotes: 
  1. Environmental Protection Agency official website: https://www.epa.gov/pesticides
  2. Bouchard MF, Bellinger DC,Wright RO, Weisskopf MG. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides. PEDIATRICS Vol. 125 No. 6 June 2010, pp. e1270-e1277 (doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3058). Available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/125/6/e1270?maxto...
  3. Bouchard MF, Chevrier J, Harley KG, Kogut K, Vedar M, et al. 2011 Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-Year Old Children. Environ Health Perspect doi:10.1289/ehp.1003185. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21507776

Nutritional Benefits of Eating Organic

Photo: Person Holding A Seedling in Soil

by Tracy Ternes

The positive environmental benefits of organic farming are well-documented. Organic farming preserves biodiversity and soil fertility, prevents soil erosion and reduces contamination of the water supply from toxic runoff. Anecdotal evidence and common sense tell us that organic food tastes better and is less likely to be contaminated with pesticides. However, when it comes to the assertion that organic food is actually more nutritious than non-organic food, most scientists agree there is a need for more research. Fortunately, studies of this type are increasing and many recent studies are concluding that organic food may indeed have higher levels of some nutrients and antioxidants and lower levels of nitrates and pesticides.1


Three different studies examined the nutrient values of organic strawberries, blueberries and kiwis compared with their non-organic counterparts. The results showed both organic strawberries and organic kiwis as having higher levels of vitamin C and higher antioxidant activity.2,3 The study on blueberries reported that organic blueberries yielded significantly higher levels of fructose and glucose, malic acid, total phenolics, total anthocyanins as well as higher antioxidant activity.4


Similar results were reported from a study on organic oranges. According to research at Truman State University in Missouri, organically grown oranges contained up to 30% more vitamin C than those grown conventionally.5 Furthermore, a study from University of California, Davis found that organic tomatoes contained averages of 79% and 97% more quercetin and kaempferol aglycones (beneficial flavonoids) than conventionally grown tomatoes.6


Further supporting the claim that organic foods in general are more nutritious is a report by Virginia Worthington, M.S., Sc.D., C.N.S. Reviewing 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains, Worthington concluded there were significantly more of several nutrients in organic crops. These included 27% more vitamin C, 21.1% more iron, 29.3% more magnesium, and 13.6% more phosphorus.7 A 2008 report jointly produced by The Organic Center and professors from the University of Florida Department of Horticulture and Washington State University provides evidence that organic foods contain, on average, 25% higher concentration of 11 nutrients than their conventional counterparts.8


Research on organic milk has reported such positive findings as higher levels of antioxidants and beneficial fatty acids such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-three fatty acids.9 One of these studies reported that the organic milk actually had 68% more omega-3 fatty acids, on average, than conventional milk.10


While the scientific debate is still out regarding the nutritional superiority of organic foods, research concluding in the favor of organics is certainly growing as evidenced by the above studies. As consumer interest in organic products continues to grow, new studies will continue to shine light on the many possible benefits of eating and growing organically. At Down to Earth, we have always been aware of the value of organics, whether supported by science or simple common sense, and we remain committed to supporting organic farming and providing you with quality organic products.

Footnotes: 
  1. Organic Trade Association. Nutritional Considerations. 2011. 2 May 2012.
  2. Reganold JP, Andrews PK, Reeve JR, Carpenter-Boggs L, Schadt CW, et al. (2010) Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems. PLoS ONE 5(9): e12346. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012346
  3. Amodio, Maria L, et al. “A comparative study of composition and postharvest performance of organically and conventionally grown kiwifruits.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 87:1228–1236 (2007).
  4. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Vol. 56, pages 5,788-5794 (2008), published online on July 1, 2008.
  5. American Chemical Society. "Research At Great Lakes Meeting Shows More Vitamin C In Organic Oranges Than Conventional Oranges." ScienceDaily, 3 Jun. 2002. Web. 3 May 2012.
  6. Mitchell, Alyson. “Ten-Year Comparison of the Influence of Organic and Conventional Crop Management Practices on the Content of Flavonoids in Tomatoes.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2007 55 (15), 6154-6159
  7. Worthington, Virginia M.S., Sc.D., C.N.S. “Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains.” Published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2001 (pp. 161-173).
  8. Charles Benbrook, Xin Zhao, Jaime Yáñez, Neal Davies and Preston Andrews. “Nutritional Superiority of
    Plant-Based Organic Foods.”
  9. Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, online (2008).
  10. Ellis, K., Innocent, G., Grover-White, D., Cripps, P., McLean, W.G., Howard, C.V. & Mihm, M. “Comparing the fatty acid composition of organic and conventional milk,” Journal of Dairy Science, 89: 1938-1950 (2006).

Healthy, Natural Foods are Affordable

by Caitlin Rose

Making healthy food accessible and affordable for everyone has been a focus of Down to Earth since opening its first store at Wailuku on Maui 35 years ago. The idea was that whole, minimally processed foods often cost less than highly processed foods -- those laden with fat, sugar, additives and preservatives--because the cost to produce, package, and market them is much less.

Now, a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms that healthy food can be affordable and can cost less than unhealthy food.1 The researchers defined healthy food as food that helps a person meet the USDA nutritional guidelines. This includes vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and dairy. They defined unhealthy food as food which does not help a person meet the nutritional guidelines, or which has high amounts of saturated fat, added sugar or sodium.

But many consumers don't think about the difference, much less care about it. The reality is that fat, salt and sugar taste great! They think junk food is good enough because it takes the edge off of hunger and is cheaper than eating a healthy, balanced meal. Surprisingly, researchers actually confirmed that grains, dairy, vegetables and fruit are all cheaper than most meats or foods high in saturated fat, added sugars or salt. In addition, animal proteins such as meat, chicken and fish are the most expensive foods by portion size, but it is possible to meet protein requirements with less expensive proteins such as beans. So if you’re trying to stay healthy on a limited budget, you’re in luck! The findings of the USDA study confirm that a vegetable stir-fry with rice is cheaper than a burger and fries.

The authors of the study affirmed that it was possible for low-income families to meet the government’s nutritional recommendations. They pointed out that in order to meet the recommendations, fruits and vegetables should occupy half of the plate at each meal. This may mean that people should dedicate a greater percentage of their food budget to buying whole fruits and vegetables, but the amount they spend on food overall does not have to increase.

In addition to the sticker price, the cost of diet-related choices must take into account long-term health care and lifestyle costs associated with eating highly processed foods that contain unhealthy additives. For instance, five of the leading causes of death in the United States are related to improper diet: coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, and diabetes. Given the health benefits of a high-fiber, low-fat vegetarian diet, over the course of a lifetime an individual can save hundreds or thousands of dollars on health care.

Besides the savings, eating a healthy diet contributes to a better quality of life all around. Not only does eating healthy food help you avoid disease, but the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes will proactively encourage a state of health and wellbeing. The fact is that eating healthy is affordable. Now, this study by the USDA reaffirms it. Whole, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products are less expensive than processed, convenient food and animal protein. The message is clear: you don’t have to pay anything more to eat better. In fact you can save now and save later—while enjoying a better quality of life.

Footnotes: 
  1. Carlson, Andrea, and Elizabeth Frazão. Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It depends on How You Measure the Price, EIB-96, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, May 2012.

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