Should you go organic?

Published: 7/25/17

Organic foods

Organically grown fruits and vegetables are becoming more and more popular and available – at the grocery store, through farmers’ markets, food buying clubs and co-ops, and in restaurants.  The term organic assures that food was produced by methods that don’t use artificial pesticides, artificial fertilizers or genetically modified seed, and in ways that that help protect the environment.  To be labeled as organic, foods must be certified by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).  In addition to fruits and vegetables, meat and processed products like bread or soup can also be certified as organic.

Many people prefer to buy organic food, although there have not yet been any comprehensive research studies to show that organic food is safer or more healthful than conventionally grown food, or that it is better at preventing cancer or cancer recurrence. So, should eating organic be important for you as a cancer survivor?

Stephanie Meyers, a senior clinical nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, tells her clients to buy any type of produce they like, and to rinse all fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water. She says that whether cancer survivors go organic or not, it’s most important to eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables – at least 5 servings a day.

That said, some fruits and veggies carry a higher pesticide load than others. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit organization that specializes in research on toxic chemicals. They’ve created a pair of guides – the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen – that list the types of produce with the most and least pesticide exposure: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/index.php

Organic produce can be more expensive than non-organic, and the EWG also offers a shopping guide to “good food on a tight budget:” http://www.ewg.org/goodfood/

Eating organic is a personal choice that might (or might not) be right for you. The more important choice, though, is to eat healthy – low fat, lots of fiber, and a wide variety of different foods.

Additional information on nutrition for cancer survivors can be found at the following site, hosted by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network: https://www.nccn.org/patients/resources/life_after_cancer/nutrition.aspx