Bringing You the Science Behind Organic
Here are some recipes that highlight research on particular food types. We’ll cover nutritional benefits of organic ingredients, the importance of avoiding pesticides, and environmental impacts of different food types. We’ll post new recipes every month, so keep an eye out for the latest on food-centric science!
Here’s a refreshing chopped salad that can be served as a side to any meal or can hold its own as an easy and delicious main course. When choosing lettuce for your salad, it’s important to make sure you choose organic. A recent study found that conventional head lettuce has higher levels of commonly used insecticide residues than other vegetables. Insecticides are regularly used on leafy vegetables including lettuce, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and broccoli to combat common pests such as aphids and moths. When cabbage, head lettuce and Chinese broccoli were treated with the same combination and quantity of insecticides, researchers found that the chemicals applied to head lettuce dissipated slower than they did from the other vegetables. This phenomenon was explained by the difference in leaf shape and size. Even more startling is that in a second trial, researchers applied a lower dose of insecticides to head lettuce and a higher dose to Chinese broccoli, and, they continued to find more chemical residues on the head lettuce. Avoid unnecessary exposure to pesticides. When you think leafy greens, think organic!
Looking for a quick, easy, and healthy appetizer to bring to a potluck? Try endive boats. These perfect little salad bites are sure to be a big hit and break up the mix of all of those heavy dips and nachos at the party. Make sure to use organic when it comes to the cheddar included in this recipe, because recent research shows that organic milk has a healthier nutritional profile than conventional milk. Specifically, a recent study showed that organic milk contains 25 percent less omega-6 fatty acids and 62 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk, yielding a 2.5-fold higher omega-6: omega-3 ratio in conventional compared to organic milk. This is important for your health, because current Western diets are notoriously unbalanced when it comes to omega fatty acid profiles, providing unhealthily high omega-6 levels and low omega-3 levels. High omega-6 and low omega-3 levels are associated with many diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Low omega-6:omega-3 ratios, on the other hand, suppress these conditions. In addition to being more nutritious, organic dairy avoids the use of chemicals that you might not want to ingest on a daily basis such as pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones!
For those of you (over 21 years old) looking for the perfect organic summer cocktail – look no further! This recipe for The Silver Jubilee from Choice Organic Teas and Bluewater Organic Distilling is a fresh take on using ice tea to mix fantastic cocktails that will help you withstand the heat of summer. It is especially important to choose organic when you are buying tea, because pesticides used on tea leaves can be extracted into your beverage during the steeping process. One study found that pesticide residue transfer rates from dried tea leaves to brewed tea were up to 92.4%. Also worrisome are the high levels of pesticides that have been found on conventional tea samples. For example, a recent test of pesticide levels on dried teas by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation showed that some teas on the market contain levels of pesticides that exceed standards. To ensure that you are avoiding a high dose of pesticide along with your iced or hot tea always choose organic!
Several studies have shown that using antibiotics in poultry rearing can increase the number of antibiotic resistant bacteria on eggs. Researchers swabbed the outside of conventional and organic egg shells to test for bacterial antibiotic resistance, and found that bacteria on the conventional eggs was less susceptible to antibiotics than bacteria on the organic egg shells. One study concluded that their results “show that organic livestock farming plays a part in contributing to reduced antibiotic resistance”, while another states “organic livestock farming with its restrictions and additional requirements contributes to further effectiveness of antibiotics.”
Quinoa is one of the most healthy grains out there (or pseudo-grains, anyway – it’s not actually related to most other grains!). In addition to having high protein content it also can have beneficial effects on blood pressure and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. One research study found that eating quinoa lowered overall cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL levels in research participants. The authors state that “it can be concluded that the use of quinoa in diet can be considered beneficial in the prevention and treatment of risk factors related to cardiovascular diseases that are among the leading causes of death in today’s globalized world.”
Kamut khorasan wheat is an ancient grain that is full of protein and nutrients, not to mention delicious! Several studies have come out recently comparing kamut to durum wheat, consistently finding that the kamut had health benefits over durum wheat. For example, one study that compared kamut to durum wheat found that kamut had higher protein content, antioxidants, and several other health benefits when compared to durum wheat. Another paper reported that study participants who ate kamut had lower inflammatory profiles and improved blood variables such as lower cholesterol and higher levels of potassium and magnesium.
It’s especially important to buy organic for children, because they are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of exposure to synthetic pesticides. A few years ago a report was issued by the President’s Cancer Panel on ways to entitled “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What we can Do Now”, going over ways to reduce environmental exposure to carcinogens to decrease the risk of cancer. The report detailed how eating organic can reduce one’s risk of developing cancer, especially in infants and children. For example, in the executive summary they cover pesticide contribution to chronic diseases and cancer, concluding that “Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers and washing conventionally grown produce to remove residues”. Also, on there is a section about how animals raised on non-organic farms add to the runoff of medications (such as antibiotics, growth hormones, etc.), and there is speculation that these chemicals can disrupt the human endocrine systems. Because children are especially sensitive to environmental toxins, make sure to choose organic when you stock your child’s lunchbox.
One reason to choose organic salmon is that it’s a sure fire way to avoid genetically modified (GM) fish. A recent study found that GM salmon could be posing a threat to native fish through hybridization with common trout. The research shows that the offspring of genetically modified (GM) salmon and wild brown trout could pose a risk to wild fish species, because hybrids formed between the two species can out-compete both parent species for food, suppressing the growth of GM salmon by 82%, and suppressing the growth of wild populations of fish by 54%.
“These findings suggest that complex competitive interactions associated with transgenesis and hybridisation could have substantial ecological consequences for wild Atlantic salmon should they ever come into contact [with GM salmon] in nature,” wrote the study authors. Unfortunately, the contact between GM salmon and wild fish may become more frequent in the future, as fisheries farming GM fish continue to expand. The researchers warn that “escapes and introductions of domesticated salmon can increase rates to as much as 41%,” which could result in the slow spread of GM genes.
When you make this recipe be sure to use organic salmon, and help contribute to native fish health and population strength!
Professor John Reganold teamed up with eight other researchers to examine the differences in fruit quality between organic and conventional strawberry production. Their research showed that strawberries that are grown organically have longer shelf lives, higher antioxidant levels, and higher concentrations of ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds than conventional berries. They also found that organic strawberries taste better than conventional ones! If nutrition and taste weren’t enough to convince you, they also showed that the organic farms that grew strawberries had higher soil health than conventional strawberry farms. You can learn more about the study here.