While we often talk about the importance of “eating right,” this can be easier said than done for bariatric patients who may have a limited understanding of nutrition. Organic foods are one common area of confusion. Read on for a closer look at five myths and misconceptions about organics.
Scientists have long wrestled with the question of whether organic foods are healthier than their conventional counterparts. A growing body of evidence, however, suggests that they do offer greater nutritional benefits. In fact, according to a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition, organic foods may contain more key nutrients, including as much as 50 percent more omega-3 fatty acids.
Writes study co-author and food and human nutrition professor Chris Seal: “Omega-3s are linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease, improved neurological development and function, and better immune function. So we think it’s important for nutrition.”
Earlier research, meanwhile, determined that organic fruit and vegetable crops contained high concentrations of disease-fighting anthocyanins, flavonoids, and other beneficial antioxidant compounds.
According to a report from Time magazine: “‘Organic’ is more straightforward, from a legal perspective, but most consumers likely do not know that. To be labeled organic, a producer must abide by a stringent set of government standards.”
The magazine continues: “The USDA qualifies produce as organic if no synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers or genetically modified organisms (GMO) are used. Pest control and crop nutrients must be managed through natural physical, mechanical and biological controls. And when producing organic meat, eggs and dairy, for instance, farmers must provide non-GMO livestock with year-round outdoor access. They are also prohibited from using growth hormones or antibiotics.”
Terms like local, natural, and free-range, meanwhile, are more slippery. So while choosing foods that fall into these categories may have advantages, they ultimately fail to provide — with good reason — the consumer confidence associated with organic foods. Look for the USDA Organic Logo:
Pesticides help farmers optimize their yields by keeping pests and weeds away. However, when pesticides seep into soil and water, they present potentially serious health risks to humans and the environment.
The problem: Pesticides are extremely prevalent in conventionally grown produce with 70 percent of all samples contaminated with pesticide residue — even after washing and/or peeling. This number spikes to a staggering 98 percent with certain fruits and vegetables.
Because of this, the Environmental Working Group identifies 12 types of produce most likely to be contaminated with pesticides. Dubbed “the Dirty Dozen,” these include apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, imported nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, domestic blueberries and potatoes. The takeaway: Choosing organic fruits and vegetables is a simple yet significant way to reduce your exposure to disease-causing pesticides.
Explains the EWG: “People who eat organic produce eat fewer pesticides. A 2015 study by scientists at the University of Washington found that people who report they often or always buy organic produce had significantly lower quantities of organophosphate insecticides in their urine samples. This was true even though they reported eating 70 percent more servings of fruits and vegetables per day than adults who reported they rarely or never purchase organic produce.”
It’s true that organic foods can be expensive, but there are plenty of affordable options. Not only that, but conventionally grown foods come with hidden financial and physical costs. For people who simply don’t have the funds to make the upfront investment involved with a unilateral switch to organic foods, however, experts say some is better than none.
As registered dietitian Cynthia Sass told Time: “If you can afford all organic, that’s fantastic, but it’s not feasible for most people. If it’s not, the most important groups to buy organic, in my opinion, include foods you eat daily and produce on the Dirty Dozen list — those with the highest pesticide residues.” Organic meat, dairy, and eggs are also often recommended by authorities in the field.
For starters, organic food is often fresher than preservative-containing non-organic food. And we can all agree that fresh food tastes better. But some research suggests that organic foods do taste better — although perhaps not for the reasons we might think.
According to researchers at Abertay University, organic foods perform better than factory-farmed meats and chemically-treated fruits and vegetables for one reason above all else: the “moral satisfaction” that goes with eating them.
In other words, the mere act of choosing organic food makes it taste better! In recommending organic foods for bariatric patients, therefore, registered dietitians are helping them to learn that they really do taste better.
The hype surrounding organic food is big, and consumers are right to question whether it’s all it’s cracked up to be. The good news is that a growing body of evidence tells us that eating organic has profound benefits. Educating your bariatric patients about the upsides of organic eating can help them succeed in reaching their goals.
This is also what makes organic ingredients a perfect fit for Achieve from Rational Foods. Ultimately, bariatric surgery isn’t just about losing weight; it’s also about taking a journey in the direction of lifelong wellness. A convenient, flavorful and organic real food option, Achieve is an invaluable tool for supporting the overall health of today’s bariatric patients.