March’s Healthy Home Challenge: Eat More Organic Produce + Reduce Pesticide Exposure

Last month, I kicked off the Healthy Home Challenge for the first time with challenging you to transition from plastic containers (especially the ones with BPA) to glass containers! I’ve really loved all of the messages I received about you all making the swap!

If you missed it, here’s the skinny on #thehealthyhomechallenge: I’ve become really interested in trying to eliminate unnecessary toxins from my home, especially after I was diagnosed with PCOS in September (read more about my PCOS journey HERE). However, there is so much information on environmental toxins and cleaning up your home that it can become extremely overwhelming. I decided to take one step at a time, instead of looking at transitioning to a toxin free home as an all or nothing sort of deal. I decided to create this monthly challenge as a way to encourage you to make small, attainable changes in your home too!

Now that you’re caught up, let’s jump in to this month’s healthy home challenge: eat more organic produce!

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What’s Organic?

If we’re going to talk about eating more organic produce, we have to talk about what the heck organic means!

When a food is “organic” this means it was grown by farmers meeting certain requirements by the USDA. According to the USDA, certified organic foods are grown and processed  according to federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives. Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible (McEvoy). This means that in addition to these environmentally conscious organic farming practices, most synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and genetic engineering practices cannot be used on organic produce (Are Organic Foods Worth the Price).

 

Why Pesticides are Raising Concern for Human Health

Like most human studies involving lifestyle factors, it is very difficult to complete studies on the effects of pesticides on human health without a reasonable amount of error. There are just simply too many factors that can’t be controlled. I always keep this in mind when researching about environmental toxins, but I do find the research interesting!

In December of 2018, a study was published in JAMA looking at the association between organic food-based diet and cancer risk. The study included a large cohort of 68,946 French adults and found that a higher frequency of organic food consumption was associated with a reduced risk of cancer (Baudry).

Another study published in JAMA in January 2018 looked at the association between exposure to pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables and pregnancy outcomes with women undergoing infertility treatment. The study found that in a cohort of 325 women undergoing infertility treatment with assisted reproductive technology, intake of high–pesticide residue fruits and vegetables was associated with a lower probability of live birth, while low–pesticide residue fruit and vegetable intake was not associated with this outcome. This data suggests that dietary pesticide exposure within the range of typical human exposure may be associated with adverse reproductive consequences (Chiu).

Additionally, in an interview with Dr. Zach Bush (a triple board certified physician in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism, and Hospice/Palliative care), the harmful effects of pesticides on the human gut microbiome are discussed. He also discusses the negative effects of a commonly used weed killer and the harmful impacts on human health (Avalon).

If you are interested in reading more about pesticides and the impacts on human health, the EWG has a great article published in 2019 HERE.

Additional Benefits of Organic Produce

In addition to lower exposure and consumption of pesticides, new research is indicating that there may be other benefits of eating organic produce. These findings are suggesting that organic produce may contain more nutrients and lower levels of cadmium (a toxic metal) in organic grains (Are Organic Foods Worth the Price).

Additionally, organic farming practices typically focus on environmental sustainability over the long term. You can read more about the environmental benefits of organic agriculture HERE.

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Tips to Eat More Organic Produce on a Budget

The most obvious downside to eating organic is the cost. Typically, organic produce is more expensive than non-organic produce. If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know we budget (heyyyyy Dave Ramsey) and are conscious with how we spend our money. However, health and nutrition is something I deeply value, so we’ve made an effort to consume more organic produce in our home. Key word: more not all. Though we’ve been able to purchase more organic produce at a discount, not everything we purchase is organic. Again, it’s a slow and steady transition, not an all or nothing sort of deal.

Through this process of becoming more intentional about consuming organic produce, I have discovered a few tips to making organic more affordable:

Tip 1: Use Misfits Market Subscription Service 

To get 25% off your first Misfits Market order, use the code  COOKWME-AB0BBY

I’ve been using Misfits Market for a month now, and I have been very impressed with the service. Misfits Market is a weekly subscription box full of discounted high quality, organic produce that don’t look “perfect” enough to be on the grocery store shelves and would typically be thrown out. By using this service, consumers are able to purchase organic produce at a 25-40% discount, while also helping to reduce food waste.

There are a few other organic produce subscription services, but Misfits was the only service that delivered to my zip code. Most Misfits customers cannot choose their produce, however they are beta testing the ability to choose produce in your box each week with a small group of customers. Somehow I was selected to be in this group (I think it has something to do with location) and I have been able to select my produce for a couple of weeks now, which I admit has been wonderful. However, I still loved getting my first few boxes without the ability to select produce.

I can also confirm we have actually saved money from using this service! For the first time (maybe ever), I was under my monthly grocery budget!

Tip 2: Join a CSA

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. This is a great way to get local produce that is typically cheaper than buying directly from the store. A CSA works by a farmer offering a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season (Community Supported Agriculture). There is a possibility of shared risk with a CSA, which is important to understand. Find out more about the process HERE.

There are no CSA’s near me that offer services during the winter, so I am unable to be a part of one at the moment. However, you can easily research CSA’s near you by going on the Local Harvest Website. Many of these farms are certified organic farmers, however not all have met the qualifications, so be sure to read the description of each farm.

Tip 3: Shop at Discount Grocery Stores

Another option to purchase organic at a more affordable cost is to shop at discount grocery stores. Stores such as Aldi, Trader Joe’s, and even Costco carry organic items that are typically cheaper than the organic version at the typical grocery store.

Tip #4: Shop Organic from the Dirty Dozen List, and Shop Normal from the Clean Fifteen List

Frequently, the EWG compiles a list of the produce with the high and low concentrations of pesticide. If you aren’t able to buy all of your produce organic, using these lists as guidelines can be a great way to help you decide what is worth spending your money on.

EWG’s Dirty Dozen for 2019 (found HERE) includes strawberries, spinach, kale, apples, tomatoes, celery, and much more. These foods tested high for concentrations of pesticides (EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce). These are the foods I try to buy organic since they tend to have the highest concentrations of pesticides.

While EWG’s Clean Fifteen for 2019 (found HERE) includes avocados, onions, eggplants, asparagus, and more. These foods tested low for concentrations of pesticides (EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce). If the organic version of these foods isn’t in my budget, I choose to get the non-organic version of these foods and wash them well at home.

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I hope today’s blog post inspires you to incorporate more organic produce this month. I’d love to know what you found most interesting about this blog post and your thoughts on pesticides. Let me know in the comments! Don’t forget to use the #thehealthyhomechallenge on social media!

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Health Disclaimer:

I am not a physician or Registered Dietician. Some blog posts discuss healthy eating and exercise, and the purpose is to share my personal journey and experience with diet and fitness. As always, consult a physician before making any changes in diet or exercise. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.

 

Works Cited:

“Are Organic Foods Worth the Price?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 4 Apr. 2018, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880.

Avalon, Melanie, and Gin Stephens. “The Intermittent Fasting Podcast.” The Intermittent Fasting Podcast, 11 Mar. 2019, https://play.acast.com/s/the-intermittent-fasting-podcast/-099-dr.zachbush-pesticidesandthegutmicrobiome-enviornmentalchemicals-restoreyourgutandenviornment-soildepletion-autophagy-seekingacceptance-farmer-sfootprint-andmore-.

Baudry, Julia, et al. “Association of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk.” JAMA Internal Medicine, American Medical Association, 1 Dec. 2018, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2707948.

Chiu, Yu-Han, et al. “Pesticide Residue Intake and Assisted Reproductive Technology Outcomes.” JAMA Internal Medicine, American Medical Association, 1 Jan. 2018, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2659557.

“Community Supported Agriculture.” Local Harvest, http://www.localharvest.org/csa/.

“EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™.” EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce | Summary, 20 Mar. 2019, http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php.

McEvoy, Miles. “Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means.” USDA, 13 Mar. 2019, http://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic-101-what-usda-organic-label-means.

 

 

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