Do You Know Nutrition: When is organic better?

By Phylis Canion
March 11, 2014 at midnight
Updated March 10, 2014 at 10:11 p.m.

Editor's note: This is Part II of a question from the previous column.

What foods are the most contaminated and should be switched to organic?

Part II discusses coffee, fruits and vegetable contaminates. Coffee beans are now grown all over the world and exported to the U.S. Coffee is the second most highly traded commodity in the world after oil.

Being a commercial crop means that it is mass produced by business conglomerates seeking aggressive ways to maximize output by using chemicals to ward off common pests. Unfortunately, many other countries do not have to regulate the use of toxic chemicals and pesticides of their coffee beans.

Coffee, therefore, is an unfortunate culprit in this viscous cycle of malevolent agriculture. It is important to look for a coffee with packaging that clearly states it is Fair Trade Certified. Fair Trade Certified is an assurance that the coffee beans are chemical- and pesticide-free and that fair prices were paid for the end product in support of the farming area that produced the bean and that all farm workers were treated fairly.

Aside from coffee, in the U.S., bananas, honey, oranges, cocoa, dried and fresh fruits, vegetables, juices, nuts and seed oils, quinoa, rice, spices, sugar, tea, herbs and wine can all be found Fair Trade Certified. Keep in mind that Fair Trade Certified does not guarantee that the product has been organically grown, although most farmers Fair Trade Certified are organic.

It is important to look at fruits and vegetables because of frequent contamination. According to the Food and Drug Administration, spinach is the vegetable most frequently contaminated, with 83 percent of the conventionally grown crop to be contaminated with 36 chemicals used to grow it.

Celery contains 29 different chemicals, which cannot be washed off because celery does not have a protective skin. Bell peppers have a protective skin; however, because the skin is so thin, 68 percent of bell peppers tested had chemical residue. The same goes for tomatoes.

Because of some fruits' thin skin, including peaches, nectarines and grapes, contaminates are more easily absorbed. Methyl bromide is used on strawberries, dieldrin is used on cantaloupe, and, well, you get the picture.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, dating back to 2007, more than 1 billion tons of pesticides are used in the U.S. every year. Agricultural use accounted for 80 percent of pesticide use in the U.S.

Part III will be baby food and fish.

Thought for the week: The first step toward getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.

The next free nutrition classes are 7 p.m. Monday at Organic Emporium and 6 p.m. March 20 at The Cuero Wellness Center.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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