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Going Organic: Fact or Fiction?

I used to fantasize about the organic kitchen that would someday be mine. Beautiful white countertops and natural woods, gorgeously displayed fruits and vegetables on the countertop, my own self-grown herbs on the windowsill, and something aromatic simmering on the stove that would fuel my family with health and natural energy. If you don’t relate to my fantasy, that’s ok. As it turns out, my reality didn’t relate to it either (for a very long time). I wanted to go healthier, but was plagued by constant disruptions to my dream. Going organic seemed expensive and inconvenient, and though I believed it was important, I didn’t see that the immediate value outweighed the cost.

To put it plainly, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Vague information and procrastination were blocking my path to longterm health for me and my family. The following are four misconceptions I had to clear up before I could live the dream of a healthy home and my chemical-free kitchen:

Pesticides aren’t good, but they aren’t soooo bad…

Wrong, so wrong. Pesticides have been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease, ADHD, cancer, respiratory problems, birth defects, hormone imbalance, and infertility. This can be tricky one to navigate, since we tend to assume that eating more fruits and vegetables is automatically healthier for us. But if those fruits and veggies are laced with pesticides, that probably isn’t the case. In fact, one study regarding pregnancy found that, compared with women who ate less than one daily serving of high-pesticide-residue fruits and vegetables, those who ate 2.3 servings or more had an 18% lower probability of conceiving, and a 26% lower chance of having a live birth. To add insult to injury, endocrine disruptors like those found in pesticide-laced vegetables can actually make you gain weight. There have been multiple studies linking these hormone disrupting chemicals to weight gain, some describing them as obesity triggers, or ‘obesogens’. So if you’re dieting with conventionally grown vegetables, pesticides may be undoing some of your hard work.

Pesticides can be washed off

This is sometimes true, sometimes false. Before you assume you can rinse the effect of pesticides out of your life, take a look at your living environment. If you live in a farming community, determine what pest-control practices are being used around you. If it’s heavy pesticides, just breathing in the air around you might be assaulting your health. If you’re like me and the closest you get to farming is what you find in the produce section of your local grocery store, exercise wisdom with what you buy. High-pesticide-residue fruits and veggies, also known as ‘the dirty dozen’, are nearly impossible to clear of pesticides, and should be bought organic if at all possible. Dairy and meat are also a smart place to buy organic, since washing isn’t an effective option. Low-pesticide-residue produce, such as avocados, onions, dried plums/prunes, bananas, corn and orange juice, don’t seem to have the same negative effects and can be purchased conventionally grown.

Going organic is about what you AREN’T putting in your body

Though it’s true that going organic keeps a lot of bad things OUT of your system (pesticides are one of dozens of things you’re keeping away), the truth is that conventional farming doesn’t produce the same amount of nutrition as organic farming does. It’s well documented that an organically grown vegetable can have even thirty times the amount of nutritional value (as it relates to vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients) than its conventionally grown counterpart. This is why organic produce is usually tastier - it literally has more inside! So eating organic isn’t just about elimination - it’s about getting exponentially more nutrition for your calories. This leads me to my fourth misconception about going organic.

Going organic is expensive

I’ll be the first to admit, going organic isn’t cheap. Especially when you compare it to the frozen-pizza-ramen-noodle lifestyle that made up so much of my twenties. But when evaluating cost, it’s important to look at the big picture. If shopping organic costs 20% more but provides 100%+ more nutritional value, was it truly more expensive? If eliminating toxic chemicals costs a bit more but has the potential to reduce medical bills and pharmaceutical drugs for myself and my family years from now, was it truly more expensive? I’m no stranger to needing to stick to a grocery budget, but understanding the true value of going organic helped me make educated purchases (i.e. always going organic with the ‘dirty dozen’, dairy, and meat). Many stores are finding ways to provide relatively inexpensive organic, free-range, and wild-caught options, and I’ve become a master of knowing where those deals can be found.

Though I’m personally very motivated by the health of myself and my family, there are so many ways that going organic goes beyond the consumer and actually encourages the health of the world around us. It’s healthier for the farmers, it defends biodiversity, and you get to be an environmentalist without ever needing to go to a single protest! Who knew that helping the world could start in your kitchen.

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