Why Buy Organic: Organic Food Contains More Nurtients (Part 2)

In the first part of Why Buy Organic? I talked about the pesticides, herbicides, and other toxic substances that are used to grow conventional produce.

However, toxins in conventional produce is only part of the story. The other important piece, is the amount of nutrients in conventional vs organic produce.

Many people purchase organic food because they believe it is healthier than conventionally grown food. Yet, the organic industry is constantly told that there is no evidence to support these claims. I’ve read on more than one occasion about “research” that “proved” the equal nutritional value of conventional produce when compared with organic.

I don’t believe that at all.

While certainly eating conventional produce is better than not eating plant foods at all, organically produced fruits and vegetables contain much higher amounts of nutrients, and therefore are more nutrition-rich and health promoting, than their conventional counterparts.

And there are numerous studies that prove that.

“Research published in 2001 showed that the current fruit and vegetables in the USA have about half the vitamin content of their counterparts in 1963. This study was based on comparing published US Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures.
A scientific study published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition in 1993 clearly showed that organic food is more nutritious than conventional food.
Organically and conventionally grown apples, potatoes, pears, wheat, and sweet corn were purchased in the western suburbs of Chicago, over two years, and analyzed for mineral content. The organically grown food averaged 63% higher in calcium, 73% higher in iron, 118% higher in magnesium, 178% higher in molybdenum, 91% higher in phosphorus, 125% higher in potassium and 60% higher in zinc. The organic food averaged 29% lower in mercury than the conventionally raised food.
A peer reviewed scientific article published in the February 2003 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry stated that organically grown corn, strawberries and marionberries have significantly higher levels of cancer fighting antioxidants than conventionally grown foods. Some of these compounds, such as Flavonoids, are phenolic compounds that have potent antioxidant activities. Many are produced in plants in response to environmental stresses, such as insects or competing plants. They are protective compounds that act as a plant’s natural defense and also have protective properties in human and animal health.
The research suggested that pesticides and herbicides disrupt the production of these protective compounds. Good soil nutrition appears to increase the levels of these natural compounds that have anti cancer, immune boosting and anti aging properties.” via http://www.permaculture.com/drupal/node/144

It’s All In the Soil

The main reason for this is the quality of the soil.

If we care about the nutrition that we receive from our food, we absolutely must not ignore the quality of nutrients plants receive from the soil because the quality of the soil in which the plants grow has a huge influence on our health and on the health of the animals that eat those plants.

The soil plants grow in are as important to our health as plants themselves, if not more!

Conventional agriculture ignores the complex ecosystems of the soil and focuses their efforts at supplying potassium, nitrogen and other chemicals to the plants.

Organic farmers, on the other hand, make sure they are feeding the living microorganisms in the soil, which are essential for growing plants that are rich in nutrients and health promoting minerals.

Organic vs conventional produce: It's all in the soil

Organic vs conventional produce: Nutrients come from the the soil

Microorganisms in the soil cannot survive when fed artificial fertilizers, and when all microorganisms die because of the overuse of chemicals, the soil turns into dust.

Here is an interesting fact: “the combined weight of all the microbial cells on earth is twenty-five times that of its animal life; every acre of well-cultivated land contains up to a half a ton of thriving microorganisms, and a ton of earthworms which can daily excrete a ton of humic casting.” (Peter Tompins and Christopher Bird “Secrets of the Soil.)

Most of the soil of agricultural farms in the USA contains less than 2% of organic matter, while originally, before the era of chemistry, it was 60-100%.

According to David Blume, an ecological biologist and permaculture expert, “Most Class I agricultural soil is lucky to hit 2% organic matter – the dividing line between a living and dead soil”. By applying permaculture gardening techniques to a field of extremely depleted soil, which consisted of cement-hard adobe clay, David Blume was able to bring the organic matter to the 25% level within just a couple of years. From this field he harvested the crops “8 times what the USDA claims are possible per square foot” via “Green For Life” by Victoria Boutenko

Organic Vs Conventional Nutrition

Organic vs conventional produce nutrition

Organic vs conventional produce nutrition

Solutions are available, and decisions are being made now. I will write about the in the next installment of “Why buy organic?”.

Organic vs conventional produce nutrition; via Green For Life by Victoria Boutenko

Questions? Comments? Suggestions?

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How Eating Bananas Impacts Our Environment, Plus A Delicious Banana-Less Recipe

I’ve been reading a lot about sustainability lately. I thought I’ve been doing OK with eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and eliminating most of junk foods and fast foods from my family’s diet and – although it’s still far from perfection – I’ve been pretty happy with the relatively low impact on the environment that such a diet has.

However, if I was really interested in going green and wanted to be super environment conscious with what I eat, ideally, I should be consuming locally grown produce that is also organic or grown without pesticides/herbicides.

So, what about bananas in my smoothies?

How bad are bananas for our environment?

You see, bananas are the main ingredient in most of my green smoothies.

Since I live in northern New Jersey, you will not find a banana tree in my neighborhood, even in a 100 mile radius. They have to be transported thousands of miles across the globe, producing carbon waste, so I can feed my family’s appetite for green banana smoothies.


Of course, it’s not just about bananas. Avocados, mangoes, pineapples, kiwis, etc. – I love those too, but bananas have become my staple food. Thanks to bananas, I stopped eating most of bread, cookies, and other processed carbs. They are very filling and satisfy my hunger and cravings for comfort foods.

Besides, I have to admit – I really love those banana smoothies and cannot imagine my life without them. I use loads of bananas and even if I could figure out a way to make green smoothies without them, it would be a lot more difficult to make them deliciously sweet and creamy.

So, I had this whole issue how our food choices impact the environment in the back of my mind for a couple of months now, when browsing my online library catalog I noticed a book entitled “How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything” – and my heart sank.

“Oh NO” I thought in panic “Am I going to have to give up bananas in my smoothies?”

I couldn’t wait to loan or buy the book, I had to know RIGHT NOW exactly how bad bananas really are for the environment – if they are not consumed straight from the tree, but shipped miles and miles from where they were grown to northern New Jersey.

Thank God for Amazon’s “LOOK INSIDE” feature. I quickly found the page that interested me, and here is what I learned.

Turns out the author – after doing some carbon emissions calculations (don’t ask me how) – concluded that “Bananas are a great food for anyone who cares about their carbon footprint” (that’s me, I thought, relieved). One banana produces just 80 g of carbon emissions – when imported from the other side of the world – you get a whole lot of nutrition: 140 calories as well as vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and lots of dietary fiber. Compare that to a 4 ounce beefsteak that produces 2 kg of CO2e.

Overall, while not ideal, they may be an acceptable addition to the low-carbon diet – and here is why:

1. They are grown in natural sunlight – no hot-housing required.

2. They keep well, so they can be shipped by boats, which is only about 1 percent as bad as flying.

3. There is no processing involved and hardly any packaging (although they do come in the plastic wrapping – I haven’t found a place so far that would sell them without, but maybe I should look harder – I really want to eliminate plastic from my waste).

4. Fair trade version is available (note to myself – find fair trade bananas in my area).

banana photos

All this is good news. On the other hand, the fact remains that of the 1000 varieties of bananas in existence, almost all those we eat are of the single, cloned “Cavendish” variety. In their natural form, bananas have large seeds and can be yellow, green, purple or even red. “The adoption of the Cavendish monoculture in pursuit of maximum, cheapest yields has been criticized for degrading the land and requiring the liberal use of pesticide and fungicide.”

And they are in danger of disappearing due to spreading of disease. The danger of monoculture is that once one plant gets sick, all plants get sick pretty quickly!

Check out this book with lots of interesting banana facts.

All this is means that I’ll keep using bananas in my smoothies for now (especially for my son), although I will start to prepare more recipes that are based on locally grown ingredients and use less of them in my smoothies than up till now.

Banana-Less Blended Salad Recipe

Here is a recipe that I prepared last night. This is not a smoothie recipe, but rather a coarsely blended soup, that used locally grown ingredients only – without any bananas.

1 large tomato (ripe and fragrant)
1 pear (also very ripe)
1/3 of red pepper
2-3 leaves of lettuce
10 leaves of fresh basil (from my balcony!)

I blended this in my Vitamix on low speed without any water added, just pushing down the content with the plunger, so it had a coarse consistency of a stew. It was really delicious and looked good too (I wanted to take a picture, but I had no battery in my camera, so maybe next time). In fact it was so good that I prepared a second batch, replacing pear with a peach and basil with cilantro. It was still good, but not as delicious as the first one, so I only ate a little, and left the rest in the fridge for the next day. So today, I added 2 more very ripe pears and more lettuce, and blended the everything to a very smooth consistency – and it was amazing.

Unfortunately, my son still did not like it. Perhaps I could try adding some sweetener, like maple syrup or agave? But for now, I’m going to buy some bananas tomorrow for sweet banana smoothies (with greens, of course).

In conclusion

Of course, everything we eat has some impact on the environment, so at least I was relieved to learn about the boat transportation that is relatively Earth friendly – so much more than planes and trucks.

But what about other aspects of eating bananas (or other fruits for that matter)?

The question on many people’s minds is: Are bananas good for our health? Read about it in the upcoming Part II.

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