Organic food items were a huge deal in 2016. In comparison to a diverse list of countries, Canada (the province of Quebec in particular) is a great place to be when it comes to food quality and regulations. Certified organic foods have to conform to strict rules regarding agriculture, animal breeding and food transformation, before being titled as so. They also include regulating pesticide treatments, genetically modified organisms (GMO), the use of fertilizers, irradiation treatments, and many more. However, from all those characteristics, the main focus amongst the general population seems to be the use of pesticides and their effects on human and animal health. After all, what’s the point in eating fruits and vegetables if they’re covered in chemical pesticides that aren’t good for you, right? Wrong.
From a nutritional perspective, as in the quality and quantity of nutrients of foods that derive from traditional agriculture versus those that derive from organic agriculture, there isn’t much of a difference. The quality of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients stay intact. However, according to a study conducted in 2014 (Baranski & coll., 2014), there seem to be more of antioxydant components in organic foods than in traditionally-grown foods, even if the nature or benefits of those antioxydant components have yet to be proven significant on general health and wellbeing.
Fun fact: those antioxydants are called photochemical substances. They are originally released by fruits and vegetables in order to combat external factors that could ruin them, such as micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi, etc.)
Do not get me wrong, pesticides are absolutely bad for you, and cancerous when exposure is at high levels and frequencies. It is associated to health problems among farmers, such as respiratory conditions, neurological malfunction, memory loss, cancer and depression (Smith-Sangler et coll., 2012). These are the people who are around them all the time, and who basically breathe in more pesticides than they do oxygen (it is an exaggeration, but I hope you understand the point I’m trying to make) and does not refer to that one cherry tomato you had for lunch. Therefore, even if they do contain pesticides, they rarely pass the threshold of what is considered dangerous, especially in Quebec, where the quantity of pesticides used on our food is regulated by law. So, you should not feel bad about eating foods that are grown traditionally, and most importantly:
The benefits of including plenty of fruits and vegetables (whether they’re organic or not) in your diet certainly goes above and beyond any potential risks associated to having the baby dose of pesticide on that cherry tomato of yours. Don’t hold back from eating fruits and veggies because of it.
Lastly, if you’re still concerned about the baby-dose of pesticide, here are some tricks to reduce them to truly a minimal dose (a foetus-sized dose if you will):
- Rinsing fruits and veggies will remove the residual pesticides, more so if done with a sponge or a brush;
- Soaking in water and peeling fruits and vegetables will also do the job in certain cases (although the peel is where you get the most fibre from, depending on the fruit);
- Cooking fruits and veggies can also destroy part of the pesticide residue.
It’s important to relativise certain aspects of life and not be afraid of things without doing our own proper research. But, I understand that this is a touchy subject, and the same rules and laws on pesticides are not the same in every region or country.
Always open to discuss!
Have an amazing day.