The Good Life – Getting the most benefit from your organic food dollar

The Good Life – Getting the most benefit from your organic food dollar

When I was a child, except for a few bouts of ideologically inspired vegetarianism in my teen years, I never gave too much thought to the food that I put in my stomach. Going to McDonald’s after swimming or basketball practice seemed like the ideal, tasty way to get my blood sugar levels back to normal. Those were more innocent times, food-wise, when questions relating to the nutritional value of what I was consuming, where the food was coming from, the environmental costs of filling my stomach, and ethical questions about the practices and processes that brought the food to me were secondary or non-existent.

These days, most of us are a whole lot more savvy about what we hold up on the ends of our forks. Many of us have read countless articles about the environmental costs of eating factory-produced Frankenfoods. We have absorbed endless dire warnings about the herbicide and pesticides toxins lurking on our tomatoes and lettuces and the effects they may be having on our bodies. Whenever possible, I try to buy organic pork, free-range, hormone-free chicken and organic ground beef. Almost invariably I buy organic or specialty locally grown fruits and vegetables (okay, I admit it, there have been the odd mid-winter packages of California asparagus).

Up until last week, I believed that I was using my food dollars in the most health-conscious way, putting the least harmful products I could find on my family’s table. Then, as I was browsing through the recycled magazine bin at my local library, I came across a thought-provoking article in a magazine called Whole Earth (Weed, 2002). The article was written by Susun Weed, an American herbalist and biodynamic farmer. What really caught my attention in the article was a section entitled “The Organic Pyramid,” in which she provides a description of a class of oil-based chemicals called “organochlorines” and another class of water-based chemicals known as “organophosphates”. The difference between the two, according Ms. Weed, is that the organophosphates, being water-based, are very easily eliminated from our systems. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the oil-based organochlorines, which have a tendency to be retained by our bodies, and the bodies of the animals we eat, and stored indefinitely in our fat cells. The upshot is that whenever we consume the fat cells of animals, by way of meat, eggs, or dairy products, we are absorbing these largely inexcretable products into our systems.

What this means, essentially, is that when it comes to buying the healthiest possible choices for our table, we may be investing some our money in the wrong places. “In a rough estimate”, the author argues, “you would have to eat nonorganic produce for ten years to get the amount of chemicals that you will get in one pound of nonorganic butter.” An eye-catching statement, no? So where should our organic food dollars be most profitably spent? On meat, of course, and dairy products. But also on grains and beans, all of which “have a germ which is fatty.” “If you have all the money in the world,” says Ms. Weed, “buy everything organic. If you don’t, fruits and vegetables come last.” Food for thought.

Weed, S. (2002). Spring “Organic:” Is it healthier? Soybeans pollute, tofu causes dementia, capsuled herbs are poisonous … comments on herbs, plants, and health. Whole Earth. Retrieved from