Do you know how many toxins are lurking in your fruits, on your veggies, and in that chicken breast? If they aren’t 100% US Certified organic, then you really have no idea.
The reality is that toxic chemicals are virtually unavoidable in non-organic food. Modern conventional farming practices are now built around the widespread use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), synthetic pesticides and herbicides, and the liberal use of antibiotics and growth hormones, the majority of which have not been adequately tested for safety. In fact, a Pew Research Center report found that 80% of the chemical additives found in food lack the research needed to determine how much a person can safely ingest without negative consequences.
The cumulative impact of daily exposure to these toxins increases your risk of developing an autoimmune disease, and can cause your condition to progress if you’ve already been diagnosed. As I explain in my book, The Autoimmune Solution, and this blog post, reducing your toxic burden is one of the four key pillars of preventing and reversing autoimmune disease, and understanding how to avoid toxic chemicals in your food is a great place to start!
Here we’ll look at three reasons organic food is healthier for you, particularly if you have an autoimmune disease or inflammatory condition, and I’ll share helpful tips for eating organic on a budget!
1. Pesticides Have Been Directly Linked to Autoimmune Disease
Although exposure to any toxins should be minimized in order to reduce your risk of developing an autoimmune disease, pesticides are especially risky because they have been directly linked with autoimmune disease.
In one 2007 study, 300,000 death certificates over a 14-year period showed that farmers who were exposed to pesticides while working with crops were more likely to die from a systemic autoimmune disease. Recent research has even linked household pesticides with an increased risk for developing autoimmune diseases, including Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus.
It’s important to note that many of the pesticides used in conventional farming are systemic, meaning they become an integral part of the plant and its products, and cannot be washed off. An apple that has been grown in a pesticide-filled orchard, for example, has integrated the pesticides into that sweet white part that tastes so good, so washing it won’t wash off the pesticides.
2. Non-Organic Meat Contains Growth Hormones & Antibiotics
American livestock is regularly injected with engineered growth hormones, designed to increase animal size, get animals large enough for slaughter faster, and ramp up milk production. These growth hormones may increase insulin-like growth factor, elevated levels of which have been associated with an increased risk of breast, prostate, and other cancers.
Besides growth hormones, cows, chicken, and pigs are also routinely give courses of antibiotics, both because they are highly susceptible to infection from living in such crowded and dirty conditions, and because regular doses of antibiotics cause animals to grow faster. The frequent use of antibiotics in livestock helps breed antibiotic-resistant “supergerms” that our immune systems have a very difficult time fighting. These super bugs can be particularly dangerous in those who are immunosuppressed, as many people taking medications for autoimmune disease are.
3. Organic Produce is More Nutritious
A recent study proved that organic foods are richer in nutrients and antioxidants and lower in heavy metals, especially cadmium, and pesticides. Other studies suggest that good soil nutrition increases the production of cancer-fighting compounds, called flavonoids, and that conventional farming practices like pesticide and herbicide use disturb their production.
Tips for Going Organic
Now that you know the hazards associated with toxic pesticides, dangerous hormones, and unnecessary antibiotics, let’s focus on what you can do to minimize your risk. Eating organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised foods will significantly reduce your toxic burden and will ensure that you eat wholesome, nutritious meals. In fact, a study in 2005 demonstrated that in as little as 15 days, children adopting a primarily organic diet experienced a dramatic decrease in urinary concentrations of organophosphorus pesticides.
I know that switching to all organic foods can be expensive, and even logistically challenging if you live in an area without many grocery store options, so here are a few tips to make transitioning to an organic diet as feasible and convenient as possible.
1. Start with organic, pasture raised chicken and grass-fed beef. Animals are at the top of the food chain, so if they’re eating food laced with toxins, then you’re getting those chemicals magnified many times. Prioritize eating organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised meats.
2. Prioritize the “Dirty Dozen.” The Environmental Working Group maintains a list of the twelve foods that have the highest concentration of pesticides. If you can only buy some of your produce items organic, pick these.
3. Eventually adopt the “Clean Fifteen.” Also maintained by EWG, the fruits and veggies on this list contain the lowest concentration of chemicals, and can be prioritized third.
I’ve created a handy, printable version of The Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists that you can bring with you to the grocery store. Download your free copy below!
Where to Buy Organic Groceries Online
Although I buy my fruits and veggies fresh from the grocery store, it can sometimes be more convenient and even less expensive to buy organic meat, seafood, and pantry products online. Here are three of my favorite resources for buying 100% Certified Organic groceries online.
1. Butcher Box – I love knowing that all of the meat I order from Butcher Box is organic, grass-fed, and free-range. They have a wide variety of beef, bison, lamb, chicken, pork, and more.
2. Thrive Market – Thrive Market offers wholesome products at wholesale prices through their unique membership-based online marketplace that provides healthy foods and toxin-free household products at 25 – 50% below retail prices. You can shop by “values” including certified organic, gluten-free, paleo, etc.