Whether a food has been sprayed with chemical
fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides can't function as an absolute
litmus test for its superiority because organic is but one important
qualifier among many. We need to examine the question from
different angles to get a better sense of the importance of
The Organic Raw Food Diet: Chemicals Do Matter
There's no question that the chemicals commonly applied to food can
have a disastrous effect on our bodies, especially when we're exposed
to them in large doses.
Chemical contaminants are present in 95.6 percent of Americans ages 6
and up, most of which originates from our food (1).
The food industry tries to pass these chemicals off as harmless, but
pesticides and fungicides are very simply intended to kill living
organisms, and their effects on us are not benign.
One major area of concern is organophosphate pesticides, of which there
are 40 approved for use in the United States (2). More than 73 million
pounds of organophosphates are dumped onto farm fields each year.
These pesticides have been shown to damage nervous
system function by blocking acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that stops
nerve cells from firing. When nerve cells fire unceasingly, acute
poisoning or long-term nerve damage can result.
The damage appears to begin in the womb, and prenatal organophosphate
exposure is associated with increased risk of developmental disorders,
as well as delays in mental development at 2 to 3 years of age (3), (4).
Researchers at Harvard University have found increased risk for
attention deficit-hyperactive disorder among children exposed to
typical levels of organophosphates. For every tenfold increase in
dimethyl alkylphosphate (an organophosphate metabolite) in the body,
there is a corresponding 55 to 72 percent increase in the odds of ADHD
Beyond organophosphates, the Environmental Protection Agency reports
that the majority of pesticides now in use are probable or possible
cancer causers (9).
Their use has also been specifically linked to Parkinson's
Disease (6), prostate and stomach cancer (7), and infertility (8).
The Organic Raw Food Diet:
Don't Overlook The Power Of Fruits &
Although chemical-laden foods do bring about many problems, the
salient point to remember is that fruits and vegetables, whether
and conventional, bring about massive
improvements in our bodies.
Hundreds of studies performed with typical pesticide-treated produce
demonstrate that consuming fruits and vegetables lowers your chance of
getting cancer and protects you from numerous other diseases. This
seems to suggest that the health benefits of eating phytochemical and
nutrient-rich food greatly outweigh any risk pesticide residues might
The Organic Raw Food Diet: Does Organic Equal
organic raw food diet packed with more nutrients than a
conventionally-grown raw food diet?
A review of the published literature show inconsistent differences
between the nutrient content of organic and conventionally-grown foods,
with the exception that
organic foods tend to have more of certain minerals and ascorbic acid,
and less nitrates (10, 11, 12, 13).
However the data is difficult to interpret because there is no
consistent method of sourcing, sampling, or analysis used by the
Some use produce grown in rich soil and find organic food to be
dramatically more nutritious, while others use produce grown in the
degraded soil of factory farms and find it to be about the same as
Some use just-picked produce, while others test stuff that's been
sitting on supermarket shelves for days.
This, as I'll explain, is one of the big issues with food selection:
Many factors influence how good a food is for you.
The Organic Raw Food Diet: The Attributes Of Healthy
If you had to give a robot
instructions for picking out the the best foods for you, what would you
tell it to consider, and how would you prioritize those factors?
I might come up with a list that goes like this: "Fresh", "raw",
"organic", "whole", "plant foods", and "easily digestible raw". You
might add in more, such as "grown in composted, mineral-rich
soils," and "grown in a polycultural system that builds soil and
If you are a strict vegan, "not grown with animal manure" might be
important to you. You might have other factors you value, such as
"grown by people who earn a sustainable wage."
But since it's rare to find food that meets all these criteria, you'd
have to prioritize them so the robot would know which ones to
select. After all, if you only told the robot that you wanted
organic, he might return from his shopping trip with free-range organic
I have no objection to the use of properly-treated manure for
fertilizer, and so I wouldn't list that, and I have views on wage
levels that preclude my being concerned with fair trade practices, so
that wouldn't make the list either. We all have our own personal ideal
and thoughts to consider.
The Organic Raw Food Diet: Freshness Matters Just As
Sure, no one wants their lettuce laced with pesticides, but
what if the
leaves of that pesticide-sprayed lettuce are fresh and green, while
head of organic lettuce sitting next to it is wrinkly and brown?
I frequently run into this freshness vs organic prioritization scenario
when buying produce, and it's one of the main reasons why I'm so
cautious about universal praise for organic food.
Perhaps because less volume of it is purchased compared to
conventionally-grown produce, organic seems to sit around longer on
Outside declining taste and texture, less-than-fresh food also begins
to drop in nutrient content dramatically.
There can be as much as a two-week window between when produce is
when you eat it. During that window of time, fresh vegetables can lose
a large part of their nutrient content. One study found that green
can lose up to 45 percent of their nutrients, broccoli and cauliflower
25 per cent, garden peas up to 15 per cent, and carrots up to 10 per
The Organic Raw Food Diet: What Your Local Farmer Does
The best produce I've ever eaten has come from my garden and the garden
of other organic gardners. I grow my produce in rich soils, apply no
chemical pesticides or fertilizers, pick it at its peak, and eat it
within hours. I'd be hard pressed to find something fresher or tastier.
Yet the winter brings an end to my garden, and there is a limit to how
much I can grow in my limited space, even in the summer. By necessity I
need to buy more from outside, and that usually means trade offs.
One great thing about buying from local farmers and
farmers/gardeners markets is that you can talk to the growers to find
out exactly what was sprayed onto the food.
Normally nonorganic apples have a high chemical residue content, yet
there is a
local farmer one towns over from me that always does his best to
apply only minimal amounts of it. I ask him every season what types and
amounts he sprays on, and it's usually only small quantities of the
some of the least damaging types. It's not perfect, don't get me wrong,
but I'd rather buy those "slightly inorganic" apples that were picked
the day before than ones picked two weeks before in Washington or New
Zealand from a possibly heavily-sprayed orchard.
Usually I look to prioritize an intersection between freshly picked and
least chemical use, but I might also inquire about soil fertility and
check out the soil if I'm on the farm.
Organic Raw Food Diet: Animal Foods Vs Produce
a relatively small quantity of the toxic
substances that pollute most peoples' bodies. The biggest impact you
can have on your intake is to simply give up meat, dairy, and eggs.
While roughly 89% to 99% of the foreign chemicals found into our body
originate in our food, most are sourced from animal products like
meat (especially fish, due to mercury contamination) and
dairy (15), (16), (17).
The conditions of factory-farmed animals is appalling. To help keep
alive in unsanitary, cramped, sun-free pens, many are directly sprayed
with chemicals to keep the parasites which thrive in these conditions
from killing them before they reach maturity. They are often injected
with a barrage of medicines and vitamins as well.
Animals also eat 40 percent of the grain raised around the world (18),
much of which is grown to a lesser standard than grains intended for
human consumption. These grains can be treated with pesticides banned
for human use,
and many of the grains are genetically modified to contain
Studies comparing vegans to omnivores have found vegans have
significantly less contamination from organochlorines, a very dangerous
chemical pesticide applied to animals (19), showing us that this
dietary difference carries over into our bodies.
Organic Raw Food Diet: Produce Tips
Outside of avoiding animal foods, The next best thing you can do to
avoid contamination when organic foods are not affordable, available,
or fresh, is to avoid purchasing non-organic
versions of the produce traditionally sprayed with high-levels of
Farming and pesticide-use practices differ from country to country and
climate to climate, and different weather and pest-predation patterns
can change how much chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides
A good rule of thumb is that anything that is enclosed in a skin, rind,
or peel which you discard carries a much lower chemical level than
those which have skins you consume. So, for instance, peaches tend
to carry more than bananas.
In the US, The nonprofit Environmental Working Group scours USDA
pesticide level reports to put together a yearly assessment of the most
polluted fruits and vegetables. Here is their 2010 review. I've listed
the ones likely to be included in a healthy raw food diet.
Most Polluted Produce
(Most Polluted To
Fairly Clean Produce
(Least Polluted To Most Polluted)
By simply avoiding the purchase of non-organic versions of the most
polluted types of produce you can dramatically cut down on the harm
you're likely to receive from buying nonorganic produce. The items on
the most polluted list should be purchased organic when possible.
If you're going to buy conventional, concentrate on the fairly clean
Organic Raw Food Diet: Scrubbing and Peeling?
Scrubbing a food with soap and water only removes minor
quantities of pesticides.
Scrubbing away pesticides is one of those
useless make-work-to-feel-better tasks people are assigned to make them
It's analogous to school children in the 1950s being told to
hide under their desks in the event of nuclear bombing. After all, if
water could wash away these chemicals, the farmers would have to
reapply them after every rain shower.
However, many of the chemicals stay on the outer skin, rind, or layer
of produce. Some fruit, like watermelon, have their rinds discarded so
there's nothing you have to do. However, peeling away the skins of
chemical-treated vegetables can remove significant quantities of
Whenever I eat nonorganic leaf vegetables I always discard the outer
leaves, which should theoretically remove the worst of the
contaminants. When possible, though, I always try to buy organic leaf
vegetables because they're generally far more polluted than
Organic Raw Food Diet: Complications
As I hope you've learned, an organic raw food diet isn't necessarily
the best. Organic is but one factor among many that we need to consider
when making food choices. This article does not even begin to delve
into the many ways we could approach this topic, such as the fact that
large-scale organic farms apply "organic" pesticides which may be
unsafe for human consumption.
If all things were equal, an organic raw food diet would be a must. Yet
we live in a world where organic sometimes means old, ratty,
prohibitively expensive, reduced-nutrient foods, and some other factors
sometimes take priority.
I urge you to select organic when you can, but only only after
considering these other factors.
National Report on Human Exposure to
Environmental Chemicals. Department of Health and Human Services 2) US Environmental
Protection Agency. Pesticide reregistration status for
organophosphates. Available at:
January 15, 201 3) Rauh VA,
Garfinkel R, Perera FP, et al. Impact of prenatal chlorpyrifos exposure
on neuro- development in the first 3 years of life among inner-city
children. Pediatrics. 2006; 118(6). Available at: www.pediatrics.org/
cgi/content/full/118/6/e1845 4) Eskenazi B,
Marks AR, Bradman A, et al. Or- ganophosphate pesticide exposure and
neurodevelopment in young Mexican- American children. Environ Health
Per- spect. 2007;115(5):792–798 5) Bouchard M,
Bellinger D, Wright R, Weisskopf M. 2010.
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Cockburn Myles, Bronstein Jeff, Zhang Xinbo, Ritz Beate Parkinson's
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