With so many products out there with the Organic stamp, from an apple to an apple cereal, and so much research pointing to the health dangers of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), consumers still aren’t sure if the organic stamp is worth the money and the health benefits that the label claims.

First of all, let’s examine what Organic means. The term refers not only to the food itself, but also to how it was produced. Foods labeled organic must meet or exceed the regulations of the National Organic Program (NOP). They must be grown and processed using organic farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity.

Sounds great, especially when we compare organic to standard regulations or other labels such as super-food. However, what started to be good health advice, organic has now been manipulated into a marketing tag that makes consumers believe that everything organic is healthy.

In fact, people who ate cookies labeled as organic believed that their snack contained 40% fewer calories than the same cookies that had no label in a finding presented in the Experimental Biology Conference.

Being healthier = Priceless

However, for Lisa Roberts-Lehan, Certified Health and Nutritional Consultant, and Holistic Chef, www.lisarobertslehan.com, organic foods are worth the money.

“100% organic foods are free from harmful pesticides, chemical sprays and genetically modified organisms,” she said. “All of which are denatured and unidentifiable substances to our bodies and, ultimately, contribute to poor health.”

More research is shedding light into the relationship between food and chronic diseases such as diabetes, immune disorders, depression and even cancer. Roberts-Lehan explains that when man-made ingredients enter our system, the body has to work much harder to digest and synthesize these substances. Over time, the buildup of pesticides and other chemicals in our body can lead to certain diseases.

The Organic Center, in conjunction with professors from the University of Florida and Washington State University, found that organic food can have up to a 25% higher concentration of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. Another study from New Castle University showed higher beneficial fatty acids, such as linoleic acid and Omega 3 fatty acids, in organic, fresh-grass-produced milk.

Roberts-Lehan points out that “a typical non-organic apple often has as many as 20 to 30 artificial chemicals on its skin, even after rinsing with water.”

Where to put the extra penny

Every year, the Environmental Working Group, a not-for-profit environmental research organization dedicated to improving public health and protecting the environment, issues the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. This year’s guide recommends that we should buy the following organic produce: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes (imported), sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries (domestic), lettuce, kale, and collard greens.

Enough evidence supports the extra dollars that some organic foods cost. Nevertheless, nutritionists advise that you should not skip out on fruits and vegetables because they’re not organically grown produce. As for packaged food such as organic chips, be mindful that these items are still processed foods. Whole foods will always nutritionally win out.

Spicy Kale Salad with Lemon Dressing

Take advantage of all the benefits of the organic food recommended for the season with this healthy recipe from our Holistic Chef, Lisa Roberts-Lehan.

Yields: 2 servings

Ingredients:    

1 bunch organic curly kale, tough stems removed.  Tear leaves into bite-size pieces.

12 organic cherry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise

1 organic sweet red, orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and julienned

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons organic tahini

1 tablespoon organic olive oil

2 tablespoons water

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Bragg Liquid Aminos, to taste

3 tablespoons organic sesame seeds or hemp seeds

Directions:

1. Place kale, tomatoes and bell peppers in a large bowl.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, water, tahini, Bragg’s and cayenne together.  Drizzle over the greens and toss to combine.  Sprinkle with the sesame or hemp seeds.  The left over dressing will stay fresh for 3 to 4 days in a sealed container in the fridge.

Marta Montenegro inspires people to live healthy lives by giving them the tools and strength to find one’s inner athlete through her personal website MartaMontenegro.com. She created SOBeFiT, a national fitness magazine for men and women, and the Montenegro Method DVD workout series – a program she designed for getting results in just 21 days by exercising 21 minutes a day . Marta is a strength and conditioning coach and serves as an adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University.

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Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website, martamontenegro.com, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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