So here’s a lovely video I found (I did not produce this video, and I could not find a proper credit) on UT’s Youtube channel of Professor Lydia Steinman in which she touches on the merits of organic food and organic gardening.
A few semesters ago, I took NTR 306, Fundamentals of Nutrition, with Steinman, and the course really impacted my awareness of my diet. Now, I’ve never been obsessively healthy, and I probably never will be (midnight weakness for fried potatoes, I’m lookin’ at you), but it’s good to gain a grounded perspective amidst all the discussion of pink slime and sugar being as toxic as alcohol.
To start with something a little simpler than the politics of “lean, finely textured beef,” let’s talk organic. How important is it, and are the benefits really worth it?
Research shows that except for organic milk and organic tomatoes, organic food is not nutritionally any better than non-organic food. So why bother? Well, pesticides for one. Consuming organic produce is a good way to eliminate exposure to harmful and carcinogenic pesticides.
Steinman says there is enough research to suggest pesticide residue left on food can be harmful over a long-term period and that it is best to feed organics to young children, who are more greatly affected by the chemicals.
But for most people, says Steinman, eating organic food should be less of a concern. More important is to get adequate nutrition and consumption of fruits and vegetables up to par with the recommended standards before worrying about organics or not.
Another important aspect to consider when purchasing organic produce is to consider which fruits and vegetables absorb the most pesticides. The EWG, or Environmental Working Group, a non-profit environmental organization, produces a list of the “dirtiest” and “cleanest”—the dirty dozen and clean fifteen—fruits and vegetables. So, as a rule, choose organic when purchasing fruits and vegetables which tend to absorb pesticides, but skip (unless you can afford it) organic fruits and vegetables with skins that can be peeled off—oranges, avocados, pineapples, etc.—since they remain fairly free of pesticides.
In addition to having her own organic garden, Steinman consults for an organic baby food company, and she helped launch an organic garden for students at the University of Texas Elementary School, which is a research-based demonstration school affiliated with UT.