Ottawa Naturopath Dr Joel’s Tips on Organic ” Dirty Dozen”

Organic or Non Organic ?


You’re in a bit of a dilemma standing in front of the produce section of your local supermarket. In one hand, you’re holding a conventionally grown carrot . In your other hand, you have one that’s labeled organically grown. Both appear nutritious . Both provide vitamins and fiber, and both are free of fat, sodium and cholesterol.
The conventionally grown carrot costs less and is a proven family favorite. But the organic carrot has a label that says “USDA Organic.” Does that mean it’s better? Safer? More nutritious?

Organic food sales have more than quadrupled in the last 10 years, according to a report released by the USDA in 2007.
Several differences between organic and nonorganic foods exist. Become a better informed consumer for your next trip to the supermarket.

What is the determines if a food is organic?

The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution for the environment. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don’t use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. For example, rather than using chemical weedkillers, organic farmers may conduct sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay.

The differences between conventional farming and organic farming


Conventional farmers Organic farmers
Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth. Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.
Spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease. Use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.
Use chemical herbicides to manage weeds. Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.
Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth. Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Canadian Department of Agriculture has established an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards. These standards regulate how such foods are grown, handled and processed. Any farmer or food manufacturer who labels and sells a product as organic must be USDA certified as meeting these standards. Only producers who sell less than $5,000 a year in organic foods are exempt from this certification; however, they must follow the same government standards to label their foods as organic.
If a food bears a USDA Organic label, it means it’s produced and processed according to the USDA standards and that at least 95 percent of the food’s ingredients are organically produced. The seal is voluntary, but many organic producers use it.

Products certified 95 percent or more organic display this USDA seal.
What does some of the labelling mean?

Foods containing less than 70 percent organic ingredients can’t use the organic seal or the word “organic” on their product label. They can include the organic items in their ingredient list, however.
You may see other terms on food labels, such as “all-natural,” “free-range” or “hormone-free.” These descriptions may be important to you, but don’t confuse them with the term “organic.” Only those foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled organic.
USDA organic” or “ Certified Organic it has been third party independently tested standards in.
“Organically grown” means that the food has been produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.
Pesticide free” no pesticides where added to the growing period of this food
To Note: There is still a risk of cross contamination from non organic farms in organic produce but research does show that organic foods had about one-third as many pesticides as the conventionally grown versions and were also far less likely to contain residues of more than one pesticide.

Products that are completely organic — such as fruits, vegetables, eggs or other single-ingredient foods — are labelled 100 percent organic and can carry a small USDA seal. Foods that have more than one ingredient, such as breakfast cereal, can use the USDA organic seal or the following wording on their package labels, depending on the number of organic ingredients:
? 100 percent organic. Products that are completely organic or made of all organic ingredients.
? Organic. Products that are at least 95 percent organic.
? Made with organic ingredients. These are products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. The organic seal can’t be used on these packages.

Will eating organic make a difference in our quality or longevity of life? Research exists for both sides and there is no conclusive evidence either way. To reduce “Leaky Bowl Syndrome” and the impact of chemicals in our system consider organic foods.

What we do know is:

Organic Foods Reduce Exposure to :

Pesticides, which is especially important in children. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has concluded that some substances used in pesticides are known, probable or possible carcinogens. Studies have found that people who work with pesticides as part of their job are at higher risk than the average person of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia as well as prostate, kidney, brain and lung cancers. (1).

Heavy Metals, such as arsenic, lead & mercury An accumulation of heavy metals is associated with many diseases such as allergic reactions, nerve disorders and cancer. (2)
• Solvents such as benzene & toluene-(3)
Antibiotics-The reduction of can reduce the number of antibiotic resistant diseases (4)

Organic Foods May be more Nutritious than Non Organic Foods

The results of numerous studies found that on average organic foods can be higher in nutrients including the following:

  • • Vitamin C- Average of 27% higher
    • Iron-29% higher
    • Phosphorus-14% higher

A study by Globe and Mail and CTV news, found that today’s potatoes, compared with those from 50 years ago, contain 57% less vitamin C, 57% less iron, and 50% less riboflavin. Modern industrial broccoli has 63% less calcium, 34% less iron, and a decrease in seven other vital other nutrients.(5)

What about meats such as Organic Chicken?

Why eat organic chicken?

Organic chicken allowed access to the outdoors has 21% less total fat, 30% less saturated fat, 28% fewer calories, 50% more vitamin A, and 100% more omega-3 fatty acid than poultry not allowed outdoor access (6). . Richer sources of niacin and selenium found in organic chicken also provides great antioxidant support.
Chicken is a very good source of the cancer-protective B vitamin, niacin. Components of DNA require niacin, and a deficiency of niacin (as well as other B-complex vitamins) has been directly linked to genetic (DNA) damage. A four-ounce serving of chicken provides 72.0% of the daily value for niacin.
Chicken is also a good source of the trace mineral, selenium. Selenium is of fundamental importance to human health. It is an essential component of several major metabolic pathways, including thyroid hormone metabolism, antioxidant defense systems, and immune function. Accumulated evidence from prospective studies, intervention trials and studies on animal models of cancer have suggested a strong inverse correlation between selenium intake and cancer incidence.

Research published in the August 2004 issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry indicates regular consumption of niacin-rich foods like chicken provides protection against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.

For optimal efficiency , if you are going to choose to eat organic consider “ The Dirty Dozen”

A simulation of thousands of consumers eating high and low pesticide diets shows that people can lower their pesticide exposure by 90 percent by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables ( “Dirty Dozen”) (See addendum 1) and eating the least contaminated instead

Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to nearly 20 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to a fraction over 2 pesticides per day.

With that in mind, the Environmental Working Group brings us their list of the most contaminated (the dirty dozen!) and least contaminated fruits and vegetables out there.

  • • For a wallet size downloadable guide visit
    • For more input on is organic better for you?


Addendum 1- Dirty Dozen List and Best Dozen List

12 Most Contaminated – Buy These Organic

• Apples
• Bell Peppers
• Celery
• Cherries
• Imported Grapes
• Nectarines
• Peaches
• Pears
• Potatoes
• Red Raspberries
• Spinach
• Strawberries 

12 Least Contaminated

• Asparagus
• Avocados
• Bananas
• Broccoli
• Cauliflower
• Corn (sweet)
• Kiwi
• Mangos
• Onions
• Papaya
• Pineapples
• Peas (sweet)

Organic Animal Products ( to reduce exposure to hormones and antibiotics especially for women)

• Dairy
• Eggs
• Meat


(1)Cancer health effects of pesticides;Systematic review;K.L. Bassil MSc C. Vakil MD CCFP FCFP M. Sanborn MD CCFP FCFPD.C. Cole MD MSc FRCPC J.S. Kaur MD K.J. Kerr MD DIP ENV HEALTH ABSTRACTVol 53: october • octobre 2007 Canadian Family Physician • Le Médecin de famille canadien
(2) Goyer, R. A. (1996). “Toxic Effects of Metals.” In Casarett & Doull’s Toxicology: Basic Science of Poisons, ed. C. D. Klaassen. New York: McGraw-Hill

(3)Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 104, Supplement 6, December 1996
(4) The World Health Organization report“ WHO Global Strategy for Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance, 2007.
(5)Organic Foods vs Supermarket Foods: Element Levels by Bob L. Smith; Doctor’s Data Inc., PO Box 111, West Chicago, IL 60185. Published in the JOURNAL OF APPLIED NUTRITION, VOL 45-
1, 1993. Copyright © International Academy of Nutrition and Preventive Medicine

(6)USDA Sustainable Agriculture & Research Education Program, 2006.

(7)Good Morning America, ELISABETH LEAMY and SHEILA EVANS
Published August 13, 2009

(8)FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Pesticide Program: Residue Monitoring 1999, August 2000.
(9)Organic produce. Consumer Reports 63(1):12-18, 1998.

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