Q: How important is organic food to my overall health?
A: The Environmental Working Group released a study that identified 232 chemicals in the cord blood of babies, which showed that even before we're born, we're bombarded with toxins from our environment. Buying organic is a key way to reduce exposure to pollutants.
Organic fruits and vegetables are grown without pesticides, which are poisons designed to keep pests away from produce. At low levels, some have no proven dangerous effects on humans, but there aren't studies on the lifelong cumulative effect of exposure. When choosing to buy organic focus on most vegetables, and thin-skinned fruits like apples, cherries, and berries (the thicker the skin the less pesticides inside). Wash any non-organic produce you buy in a citrus-based fruit and vegetable wash, which helps to lift pesticides from the skin.
When you're shopping for meat, also consider organic. In non-organic poultry, cattle, and fish farms, chemical additives are used heavily -- including growth hormones, antibiotics, and grains grown with pesticides -- which are then passed on to you when you eat them. In contrast, organic animals eat whole foods and consequently, cattle and pigs that forage have higher omega-3 health fats.
Woodson Merrell, M.D., is Chairman of the Department of Integrative Medicine, Beth Israel Medical Center, and coauthor of "Power Up: Unleash Your Natural Energy, Power Up Your Health, and Feel 10 Years Younger."
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