A few months ago I sat down with a group of local farmers and inquired about organic fruits and vegetables vs. non-organic. I asked them if they'd grown anything organic and, if so, whether they were selling them in local stores and markets. I was surprised to learn that the farmers were indeed growing organic fruits and vegetables and selling them throughout the region.
My next question was about organic labeling or tags on produce. They explained that smaller farmers weren't able to afford the organic certification label that you'd find on organic produce. An organic classification label generally costs a farmer anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 a year. They told me their fields are free of pesticides and hormones; and even though they couldn't afford the label, they're still growing fruits and vegetables organically.
While organic fruits and vegetables are purported to be good for you, there is an advantage to buying them locally, whether organic or not. Here's the advantage: Locally or regionally grown fruits and vegetables are generally loaded with more nutrients than the fruits and vegetables packaged and shipped from other parts of the country.
When fruits and vegetables are shipped from long distances, they tend to lose anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent of their nutritional value. You'd have to take into account packaging and environmental hazards as well. If you're into health and wellness, I would advise you to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables – particularly the organic variety that's farmed locally – and store them in your freezer until its time to cook them.
I don't know about you, but like most Americans, I was not raised on organic vegetables. Even though the majority of our veggies came from our garden, I didn't see anything wrong with that. The fact of the matter is we grew pesticide-free veggies because we didn't know anything about pesticides or chemicals. Our vegetables, you see, were the fruit of our labor, so to speak.
In a recent study conducted by Stanford University and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers concluded that there is little evidence that organic food is healthier for you. Dena Bravata, MD, MS, a senior affiliate with Stanford's Center for Health Policy and the senior author of the paper, said there isn't much difference between organic and conventionally grown foods. The only exception, she pointed out, is that organic foods can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure.
I've often wondered myself which one is healthier: organic or conventional foods. But I will say this: If it has a label, make sure it says "locally grown." It does make a difference. If fruits and vegetables are imported from foreign countries, you can be certain they're chemically treated. The import laws in most foreign countries are totally different than the laws here in the United States.
I know organic fruits and vegetables cost a little more than conventional foods. But don't be dismayed. If you can afford to purchase them, you won't regret it. If you cannot afford to go organic, don't worry. According to Bravata, there is little difference between organic and conventional foods anyway.
I might add that fruits and vegetables, albeit organic or conventional, are continually being frozen, canned and stored on warehouse shelves for long periods of time until they're delivered to stores and subsequently sold to consumers. No one really can tell the difference in their appearance after eating organic or conventional foods. Now a few pounds might be added to your frame if you have bad eating habits.
The bottom line is this: Choose your fruits and vegetables carefully. It shouldn't matter if they're grown organically or conventionally. The choice is yours. But make sure you buy fruits and vegetables in season when possible. What's more important is that you eat more fruits and vegetables to help stave off catastrophic diseases.
Regardless of your income, you should strive to live healthy and happy. But if you're looking for ways to eat inexpensively, switching to a plant-based lifestyle will save you a tremendous amount of money year after year.
(Dr. Timothy Moore teaches nutrition, heart disease and diabetes reversal through a plant-based lifestyle. He is a professional speaker, wellness coach and personal plant-based chef. He is the author of "47 Tips To Reverse Your Diabetes." He can be reached by email at cheftimothy@cheftimothymoore .com, visit www.cheftimothy moore.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/cheftimmoore.)