So far we’ve discussed many different foods that fight aging—foods that provide essential vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, calcium, quality protein, and good fats. But if you really want to reap the most benefits from these anti-aging food choices, you need to think clean—no pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics, artificial colorings, flavorings, or preservatives. On the surface that may sound like a big order, but if you take it one day at a time, even one food item at a time, before you know it you’ll dramatically reduce the amount of damaging toxins you consume through food and beverages.
Experts continue to debate about the benefits of eating organic food. Many studies show, for example, that produce grown under organic conditions have higher levels of nutrients than those grown conventionally. Not every study shows the same degree of benefit, nor that all nutrients are elevated. One recent study of organic and conventional tomatoes, for example, found that organic tomatoes had higher levels of vitamin C, carotenoids, and polyphenols, but when the tomatoes were made into puree, the carotenoid levels were similar between the organic and conventional tomatoes.
A review of 41 published studies in which the nutritional values of organically grown fruits, vegetables, and grains were compared with conventionally grown items found that overall, organic crops had 27% more vitamin C, 21% more iron, 29% more magnesium, and 14% more phosphorus. The review also stated that organic products had 15% fewer nitrates than their conventional counterparts.
Further proof comes from a study conducted by the Organic Materials Review Institute and Consumers Union, which used data from the US Department of Agriculture. The researchers found that 73% of conventionally grown foods sampled had pesticide residue compared with only 23% of organically grown samples of the same crops.
What Is Organic?
According to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, “organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality… . Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.” To meet the requirements to be certified organic, foods must be produced without using most conventional pesticides and fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge. Ionizing radiation and bioengineering are also prohibited. A certified inspector checks organic farms to ensure the food is grown to meet USDA organic standards, and all companies that handle organic food before it reaches the marketplace must be certified as well.
Organic labeling comes in three forms. The name of the certifying agent must appear on all packages:
“100% Organic”: must contain 100% organically produced ingredients, not counting added water and salt.
“Organic”: must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients, not counting added water and salt. Must not contain sulfites. May contain up to 5% non-organically produced agricultural ingredients.
“Made with Organic Ingredients”: must contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients, not counting added water and salt. Must not contain sulfites. May contain up to 30% non-organically produced agricultural ingredients.