I’m a big fan of organic produce for many reasons, and now I can add one more to the list: It may enhance your immune system.
In a new study, mice fed organically grown carrots for 30 days experienced a boost in their T cells, which scientists say is a measure of intestinal and peripheral (artery, vein, lymphatic) immunity.
I look forward to seeing more studies of this nature because I believe there’s still a lot we don’t yet know about how organic foods may protect our health. And while there’s been a good deal of public debate lately about a Stanford study that questioned whether organic foods are more nutritious, other research has found that organic is superior. A 2009 report by the French Agency for Food Safety said that organically grown foods contain more minerals, antioxidants, and beneficial fats.
Plus the Stanford scientists reported that organic samples contained 30 percent less pesticide residue, a critical finding as emerging research indicates that this may be a factor in rising obesity rates.
While I can’t afford to eat organic exclusively, I have found plenty ways to prioritize, get the most for my dollar, and buy more organic foods without breaking the bank. Try my tips to keep your wallet from growing too thin:
- If you can only buy some organic foods, the most important are dairy and meat (if you eat them) and staples you consume every day or very often.
- In the produce section, check out this link for the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15, lists of fruits and veggies shown to have the most and least pesticide residues.
- Shop for in-season organic produce. Locally grown fruits and veggies are generally some of the best buys in your market, and in some cases organic versions can be the same price or less than their conventional counterparts.
- Look for organic store brands. Many stores now have their own organic products, including Whole Foods' 365 Organic, Safeway’s O line, and Kroger's Simple Truth Organic.
- Buy in bulk. These days it’s easy to find large quantities of oats, brown rice, quinoa, dried fruit, nuts, and spices, and the lack of packaging can greatly lower the per pound cost.
- Use coupons. You’ll find plenty of them on the websites of large organic food companies. All you have to do is print and take them with you to the market.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.