Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Organic? Conventional? Which Is Better?

In a perfect world I would buy everything organic.  Of course, in a perfect world I would have enough money to do so.  In this imperfect world that isn't always the case, and sometimes when I do want to buy organic what I find simply isn't up to standard.  Sometimes the organic produce I find is less than fresh; it might be wilted, shriveled, overripe, or starting to rot.  It often travels long distances and sits in the market for days or even weeks.

I don't shop at the same market each week; sometimes I go to the local supermarket, sometimes the health food store, and sometimes Trader Joe's or Costco.  Even less frequently I make it to a store like Henry's or Whole Foods.  Lately I've been to a few specialty markets; a small Asian market, an Asian supermarket, and my local Latino market.

In general, the produce at the specialty markets isn't organic, but overall the prices beat out even the conventional produce at the chain supermarket.  While the tiny little Asian market doesn't carry much produce and as such the produce it does have doesn't appear to be very fresh, the Asian supermarket and the Mexican market and both full to bursting with great looking produce.

I looked for organic broccoli and cucumbers at the health food store yesterday, but the broccoli was limp and yellow and the cucumbers were dented and shriveled.  Conventional broccoli is fairly safe, but I do try to buy organic cucumbers whenever I can.  In the past we used to do without when I couldn't find them organic, but now we just peel the skins off and discard the seeds.  I finally decided that feeding my child conventionally grown cucumbers was better than him not eating salad at all (and cucumbers are an integral part of his daily salad).

Everyday there is something coming at us in terms of food and health.  Recently it was that children with ADHD have more pesticide residue in their urine.  The conclusion was that pesticides cause ADHD.  Now, it may be true that pesticides contribute to ADHD, but it might also be that children with ADHD don't process pesticides in the same way that neurotypical children do.  It could be that some children are susceptible to pesticide poisoning and develop ADHD because of it but that not all children are susceptible.  It could even be the different lifestyle that families who choose organic whole foods tend to live, with less stress and fewer synthetic food chemicals overall.

I'm trying to be smart about it.  I do choose organic when I can afford it and when it looks fresh.  I have a hard time believing that an ancient organic melon shipped a thousand miles is healthier for my child than one grown conventionally in my town and picked within the past day to two.  I believe that variety in produce is a good thing and would rather serve organic cabbage one night and conventional broccoli the next than organic cabbage night after night.

Before the economy faltered (Is that too nice?  Did it really tank?) I bought almost everything organic and I spent a heck of a lot of money on food.  It felt great and I'm glad I did it when my children were little, but what happened with the economy made me realize that I needed more money in my savings account even if it meant taking away from the grocery budget.  Even if it meant buying conventional broccoli and watermelon.  Even if it meant not traveling 50 miles to the closest Whole Foods Market so that I could find decent, fresh organic produce.

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