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Organic foods: A healthier option to avoid cancer?

Focused on Health - August 2013

by Brittany Cordeiro

organic fruitsOrganic foods are a staple at most supermarkets. So, is eating organic better for you? When it comes to reducing your cancer risks, the answer is unclear. 

“Eating organics can reduce your risk of ingesting commercially produced pesticides and chemicals,” says Clare McKindley, clinical dietitian in MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center. “But  the evidence that exists to support or refute eating organic foods to prevent cancer is unclear.”

However, researchers have found that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables every day can reduce cancer risks. And the benefits far outweigh any risks related to pesticides.

READ ALSO: 7 cancer-fighting foods

If you’re still concerned about the safety of your food, follow these tips.

Wash and scrub fruits and vegetables

Washing your fruits and vegetables helps remove dirt, bacteria and any traces of chemicals from the surface. You also can peel fruits and vegetables, but you might lose some fiber and nutrients.

Keep an updated list of the “Dirty Dozen”

You can get information on the pesticide levels found in produce from the Environmental Working Group.  That way you can decide which organics to buy, and which non-organic fruits and vegetables are safer choices.  Here’s their shopping list of the “Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.”

 

DirtyClean
ApplesAsparagus
CeleryAvocados
Cherry tomatoesCabbage
CucumbersCantaloupe
GrapesSweet corn
Hot peppersEggplant
Nectarines (imported)Grapefruit
PeachesKiwi
PotatoesMangos
SpinachMushrooms
StrawberriesOnions
Sweet bell peppersPapayas
Kale/Collar greensPineapples
Summer squashSweet peas (frozen)
 Sweet potatoes

 

Read labels carefully

Labels tell you how a food is grown and processed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) created an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards. Look for the USDA seal.

You also can look for the following food claims on the packaging:

  • 100% organic: All ingredients are organic.
  • Organic: At least 95% of the ingredients are organic.
  • Made with organic ingredients: At least 70% of the ingredients are organic.

Be mindful – organic foods can still be high in calories, fat and sugar. Look at the nutrition label, and try to avoid corn syrups and artificial ingredients.

READ ALSO: Does cancer love sugar?

“If organics give you a sense of confidence in your personal food choices, buy them,” McKindley says. “If they help you keep a variety of produce in your diet, and excite you about eating vegetables and fruits, then organics are a good choice for you.”

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center