Celebrate Summer Organically

Written by Nüket
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Summer harvest Summer harvest Elle-Epp on flickr!

Summer is the season of abundance. We are spoilt for choice with wonderful fruits and vegetables full of juicy goodness. Now is a great time to head out to the local farmers markets and really experience the variety of the season with delicious, fresh local produce. For those who have yet to take the step to organic produce, summer is a great time to get healthy and start your adventures.

Organic produce is typically available at an upfront premium compared to standard veggies and fruits. I intentionally write "upfront" premium because as you will soon taste, feel and experience, the difference is more than made up for in the impact organic produce has on our bodies, the people who grow our food, and the earth.

There is a lot of evidence that shows organic fruits and vegetables are far more nutritious than ordinary produce and can improve your overall health. In general, organic produce contains more vitamins and beneficial minerals than standard produce and contain up to 40% mor antioxidants. When we eat food that is more vitamin and mineral-rich, your body need less food to maintain the nutrition levels it requires. Once you become more attuned to your body, you will realize that eating healthier also reduces cravings and overeating.

Exploding watermelons

Meanwhile, if nothing else convinces you to try organic, think about the exploding watermelons! Yes, just recently, watermelon fields in eastern China were covered in exploded fruit. Farmers used growth chemicals to make their crops bigger, but ended up destroying them instead. The growth accelerator was something called forchlorfenuron.

One of the signs of produce grown with growth accelerating chemicals is their lack of flavor. You know, those pale, unjuicy tomatoes, or any of the other produce that you eat thinking "I know this is supposed to taste like something!" Flavor is a sign of ripeness, so many unripe fruits and vegetables are virtually tasteless. The lack of flavor is also a common problem with produce that travels large distances – the produce is picked before it is ripe so it can survive the journey. The fresher the food, the more nutritious it will be.

Organic vs. conventional produce

Organic produce is grown in healthy soil without synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. However, organics can be harder to find and sometimes expensive. If you are concerned about consuming herbicide and pesticide residues, the latest dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in the US can help you make safer and more affordable choices. Certain fruits and vegetables are subjected to far heavier pesticide use than others so it's good to be aware of them. I haven't yet found a similar ranking for Europe or Belgium, but you get the picture.

Dirty Dozen 2011

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported)
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries (domestic)
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/collard greens

Clean Fifteen 2011 (fruits and veggies with the lowest levels of pesticides - just make sure they are not GMO varieties!)

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplants
  9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms

Pesticides and herbicides used in conventional farming practices contaminate groundwater, ruin soil structure and promote erosion. They've also been linked to the "colony collapse disorder" that threatens pollinating honeybees around the world. Let's not forget the effect of all these chemicals on the people who grow and harvest the produce.

Upgrade your animal proteins

You might also want to look at your meat and dairy consumption. Non-organic meats have far higher concentrations of pesticides than all fruits and vegetables. Purchase hormone and anti-biotic-free meat at the minimum, and look for local or grass-fed or organic. Purchase organic milk, cheese and butter as often as possible. Be aware that if you eat non-organic dairy, you are consuming antibiotics and hormones. Interestingly, the highest concentration of pesticides of all foods is actually in non-organic butter. Since organic animal proteins are more expensive, consider this to be an invitation to enjoy them in moderation – again better for your health and the planet.

Locally-grown organics are your best choice. But what do you do when they are not available? Keep in mind that while buying conventionally-grown local produce may be better in terms of reducing carbon footprint (compared to imported organic produce), you should weigh your choice against the health and other environmental costs that conventional farming brings. Better yet, avoid the dilemma altogether by eating seasonal produce.

Organic farming has positive effects on growers, consumers and the planet. And if you need a reminder, think of this saying: the best reason to eat organic is that pesticides don't know when to stop killing.

I leave you with a few excerpts from Chief Seattle's 1854 speech on the environment. The speech is a beautiful reminder of how humans are a part of the earth and the earth is part of us.

"How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of the Earth is sacred to my people. We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses though our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family... The rivers of our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes and feed our children... The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath - the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath... the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh.

What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of the spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the Earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children that the Earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.

This we know - the Earth does not belong to man - man belongs to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the Earth - befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life - he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

Chief Seattle, 1854

Nüket is a coach and a holistic health counselor with an approach to healthy living and disease prevention. She lives in Brussels and works with individuals and companies, supporting them in making positive changes to create lifestyles and environments that are more balanced, healthy and fulfilling. You can This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

This article was originally published in the June 2011 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

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