Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
12 Dec

7 Foods You Don’t Need to Buy Organic

coconut2A couple weeks ago, I gave you a list of the top 10 foods you should strive to buy organic. Some of you found the list useful, while others felt a bit overwhelmed and disheartened by the information, saying that it felt like they couldn’t eat anything that wasn’t organic. Today, I’ll try to make things a little better by giving you a list of the foods which are perfectly fine in their conventional form. However, even if the following conventional foods are relatively safe for your health, some would argue that you should still buy organic in order to support the workers and protect the environments exposed to agricultural chemicals. That’s totally valid, and it’s part of the reason why I try to buy organic, but it’s not what I’m discussing here. It’s a topic for another time. Today is about maximizing the health of you and your family while cutting costs when and where you can.

So, what common, Primal staples can you buy conventional?

Coconut

You won’t see coconut on any Clean 15 or Dirty Dozen lists anytime soon, because the general public has yet to catch on to its fatty, nutty delights. That said, we Primal people eat coconut. We sauté with coconut oil and slather it onto vegetables, sweet potatoes, hair, skin, and armpits. We drink and make curries with coconut milk and cream. We obsess over coconut butter, paying tribute to its glory with a greasy spoon. And when we’ve been running or training particularly hard – or it’s hot out – we often reach for the coconut water. We like our coconut, so it’s in our best interest to determine whether we should be buying organic or not.

Luckily for us, it doesn’t look like organic coconut makes a big difference. Several studies have looked for pesticide residues in coconut products and come up virtually empty handed. There’s this 2008 study, which was unable to detect any pesticide residues in crude coconut oil. Poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, which are generated during the coconut flesh quick drying process and are carcinogenic, were detected in crude coconut oil but were removed in the refining process. Virgin unrefined coconut oil, then, may still contain these hydrocarbons, unless it’s wet-milled and processed without quick-drying the flesh. That goes for both organic and conventional coconut oil, to be clear.

In another study, researchers examined 15 samples of coconut water using two different methods of pesticide detection and were unable to detect any of the 11 pesticides they were looking for.

Coconut milk is also going to be as free from pesticides as any other coconut product. Since it’s made from fresh flesh, not the dried, heat-treated stuff, coconut milk should also be free of poly-aromatic hydrocarbons.

Onions

Onions don’t just make you cry for cutting them, they make pests weep at the thought of eating them. Onions are naturally resistant to pests, which is probably why just 0.3% of onions tested for chemical residue came up positive. Big Agra may cut corners and prioritize profit over quality or consumer health, but that just means they won’t fork out the money for chemicals if they don’t have to; they’re not comic book villains, dumping drums of noxious endocrine disruptors and carcinogens onto their crops to punish us. Not onion farmers, at least.

So, feel free to go wild with conventional onions, because there is very little, if any, advantage to organic onions from a health perspective. Unlike many other fruits and vegetables, conventionally grown onions have the same level of polyphenols as organically grown onions.

Avocado

Avocados are another safe food that ends up with some of the lowest pesticide residues around. Maybe it’s the scaly skin and the way they just kinda “lurk” there up in tree tricking pests into thinking they’re up against alligators. Maybe it’s the fact that a bug got burned one too many times with a beautiful looking avocado that turned out to be stringy and brown on the inside. Maybe pests just hate waiting for an avocado to ripen (who doesn’t?) and give up. Actually, even though a somewhat significant amount of chemicals can be used on avocado orchards, they just don’t make it into the fatty, delicious flesh we crave and consume.

Avocado farmers, both organic and conventional, do use extensive amounts of copper as a fungicide. Copper is an essential nutrient, but too much can be harmful. A single Florida avocado contains 0.9 mg, which is about 100% of the RDI, so don’t go around eating several a day.

Honey

The idea of organic honey is fantastic – who wouldn’t want to eat honey produced by bees who dined exclusively on organic, wild, untouched, pure flowers? I sure would.

But the reality is that bees will be bees. They’re going to buzz around and get into trouble, and they’re not going to distinguish between organic and conventionally-grown plants. I suppose you could surround the bee with only organic plant life, but considering bees have an average range of five kilometers from the hive (and twice that when food is scarce), you’d have to control a lot of land to do it. Plus, you know how bees have those cute furry bodies? Yeah, that fur picks up all sorts of stuff from the air. Not only do you have to worry about non-organic pollen, you also have to contend with every non-organic airborne particle in the area.

Buy local honey. Buy raw honey. Buy honey from someone who raised the bees and (at least kinda sorta) knows where they spend their time. But don’t shell out extra money for organic honey unless you happen to really like that particular honey. Those first two characteristics – “local” and “raw” – should come before organic.

Asparagus

I love asparagus, but even I balk at the astronomical price of organic asparagus. Luckily, it’s one of the cleanest vegetables around. When you read that residues from nine different pesticides were found on it, though, you might get a little worried until you look a little closer and realize that the most prevalent of the chemicals – methomyl – was only detected on 3.3% of samples tested.

Organic might eliminate that small probability of pesticides showing up on your asparagus, but I don’t think it’s worth the price tag. Conventional should be just fine. If you’re really worried, domestic conventional (referring to the United States) is far better than imported conventional.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are a hardy bunch, and the hardy among us – the athletes, the lifters, the highly active – sometimes need a bit of dietary starch to fuel their efforts. Conventional sweet potatoes are a fine choice. Their leaves sometimes get eaten by bugs, but since that rarely affects the viability of the underground tubers that people actually eat, farmers generally don’t feel the need to protect the leaves with agrochemicals.

However, sweet potatoes do sometimes have a problem with fungal growth after harvesting, and the tubers have been known to receive a quick dunk in a dicloran bath before being packed and shipped to curtail this. Dicloran (not to be confused with the flame retardant known as dichloran) is a fungicide that gets a “possible carcinogen” rating from “What’s on my food?” It’s also the only chemical to show up consistently in conventional sweet potatoes. On average, a kilogram of sweet potatoes contains 1.69 mg of dicloran. Based on toxicology studies that suggest a dicloran upper limit of 0.14 mg per kg of bodyweight, a 60 kilogram human can easily get away with consuming up to 8.4 mg of dicloran. Peel your sweet potatoes and you’ll get rid of even more.

Farmed Bivalves

I’ve mentioned this before in a previous post on farmed seafood, but farmed oysters, clams, and mussels are essentially “wild.” They’re not kept in ponds, nor are they given pesticide-rich soy and corn topped off with unsustainable fishmeal. Instead, they sit there attached to their moorings in actual ocean water acting like the filter-feeders they are. For all intents and purposes, the farmed bivalves you eat are identical to wild ones. As such, there would be little point to eating “organic” shellfish.

In 2002 (PDF), Greenpeace did an exhaustive survey of all the chemicals used in aquaculture to find out whether consumers eating the end product had anything to worry about. And, while they found extensive usage of parasiticides, anaesthetics, spawning hormones, oxidants, disinfectants and herbicides in fish and shrimp farming, only one instance of chemical usage in bivalve farming was found: northwest US oyster farming sometimes used carbaryl, an organophosphate that inhibits acetylcholine esterase and increases the levels of acetylcholine in the brain (which kills parasites but can actually enhance human brain function, provided you eat or make enough choline).

Organic bivalve farming standards are being unveiled, but, since “conventional” bivalve farming doesn’t use chemicals, those new standards won’t affect the amount of chemical residues that end up on your plate. Instead, they’ll be focused on managing sediment buildup from bivalve farming, with no impact on the actual nutrition of the animals. Regular old farmed bivalves are perfectly fine – and I recommend you eat oysters, mussels, and clams regularly.

That’s what I’ve got, guys. I hope some of you are pleasantly surprised and feel a little more empowered to make educated decisions on whether to buy organic or not. Remember: you have to eat something, and conventional fruits, vegetables, and animals are way better than not eating fruits, vegetables and animals at all.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to let me know if I missed any foods in the comment section!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. My beloved coconut is SAFE? WOW, is that going to start saving me money! No more rationing the coconut flakes! Oh, happy day!

    Nikki wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • I’ve found that organic dried coconut (dessicated/shredded/flakes/chips etc) is often the only choice if I want to avoid preservatives.

      Helen wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Agreed. I bought conventional, flaked coconut from the bulk foods section of my grocery store for “snow” for our gingerbread house decorating and was silently outraged to see the third ingredients was propylene glycol.

        Mmmmm. Lighter fluid. Awesome.

        Alison wrote on December 13th, 2013
        • Propylene glycol is most commonly known as anti-freeze, not lighter fluid. It’s added to food for its property to keep things from drying out completely. It will not ignite.

          Jason wrote on December 31st, 2013
        • Lighter fluid, anti-freeze, potato, potato. I don’t want to eat it!

          Alison wrote on January 16th, 2014
        • Thanks for clarifying though, I did think proylene glycol was lighter fluid… I’ve also heard people say it’s “the stuff they use to de-ice planes!” so anti-freeze makes sense.

          Alison wrote on January 16th, 2014
    • Also, Yippee for local honey. I often wondered how a grocery store honey could get an organic label. Common sense tells me that bees do what bees do! How does honey get an organic label?

      Michelle wrote on December 13th, 2012
      • It occurs to me that organic when applied to honey probably refers to the practices of the bee keeper with respect to the HIVE — pesticides can be used on the hive to control parasites (mites, etc.)

        Jane Doe wrote on December 14th, 2012
        • I am a beekeeper. Organic not only refers to how you keep your hives but to where they get the nectar. Bees do what bees do, but it is the same way you get clover honey, orange honey, etc.

          Bees go to the easy abundant source for nectar. When they find it, they tell their hive-mates and pretty soon almost the entire hive is in the same flowers – if the source is large enough, more than 95% of the hive will be in the same patch of flowers.

          My honey is not organic for the same reason my free range chickens are not organic – I’d have to certify my pasture as organic and that costs too much.

          Mike H wrote on December 15th, 2012
      • Honey is labeled organic becouse after their baby food (honey) is stolen they need to replace it with sugar water as bees producing only so much honey as needed, in ths case sugar is from organic source.

        ariosto wrote on January 27th, 2014
    • I’ve rarely found non-organic coconut flakes. I buy mine at the co-op in bulk since they are unsweetened, preservative free and cheaper than buying them in the package.

      Carla wrote on December 14th, 2012
    • Look for a store that sells shredded coconut in bulk, scooped out of a bin. I’m currently paying $3/pound!

      Dana wrote on January 5th, 2013
    • you’re silly. love that coconut:)

      Bruce wrote on May 5th, 2014
  2. Lately I have been buying mostly organic produce, especially for spinach. Two things I’d like to add to the list that don’t need to be organic are pineapples and bananas. They both have a hard outer shell that are peeled/cut away, so I don’t bother going organic with either of those fruits.

    Wayne Atwell wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • It may depend on where it is that my bananas are coming from, but there are a few things that I buy organic and/or fair trade simply because they legitimately taste better. Bananas are one of them. I think organic ones actually do just taste better than non-organic.
      Grapefruit is another must-be organic food for me. Those two are simply based on taste for me. That’s it. Otherwise I buy organic, just to be on the safe side.

      Liz wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • I find that organic onions are MUCH stronger in flavor than conventional. I can hardly cut a single one without having to take a break for the sake of my eyes.

        Abby J. wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • I have found this to be true of organic onions, too.

          Alice wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • Totally agree with you. They are much stronger and noticed it as soon as we switched over to organic. Had to take a few breaks to avoid my eyes from burning.

          Ryan wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • There is another potential problem with some onions – they can be irradiated.

          anna wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • I love the organic onions we buy, so I think I’ll keep doing it. I can taste a difference, even if it is just my mind playing tricks on me. Onions are one of the cheaper vegetables to begin with, so organic isn’t that much more.

          Joseph S. wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • Try organic shallots.

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • do you mean one cut to the onion or one whole onion? the onions we have make me cry after cutting about half an onion

          Sarah wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • I just put on my swim goggles while cutting onions. Works like a charm, though it makes one look rather ridiculous…

          Darcie wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • To prevent eyeball irritation, put your onions in the fridge before cutting them.

          My wife thought I was crazy for doing it, until Alton Brown proved me right, so she realized I’m crazy for other reasons!

          (She also thought “Primal” was crazy. Past tense – she’s coming around!)

          Tom wrote on December 13th, 2012
        • I work on an organic farm. The reason organic onions are stronger is because they are fresh. Non organic onions are usually older and can even be from the year before. Most organic growers don’t grow or store mass quantities of veggies. And if you buy local organic you probably getting the freshest veggies possible after your own garden. Also onion harvest time is fall so you may find your onions more potent then.

          Nicole wrote on December 13th, 2012
      • I agree Liz, many of the products that I purchase as organic is because the superior taste has ruined me and I can’t go back to conventionally grown. Bananas and grapefruit being on that list.

        Michelle wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Irradiated bananas are a pain.

        Madama Butterfry wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Yes, bananas are definitely one to buy organic! (or at least the waxed, eco ones). They taste creamier, softer, sweeter, and don’t leave that weird waxey feeling on your tongue like pesticide ones. A friend of mine worked at a banana farm and won’t eat them since then, as she couldn’t believe the amount of chemicals they put on them. This is because, through the power of natural selection, bananas should have died off a long time ago. 1. they are asexual, so they are artificially reproduced, and 2. they are attacked ravenously by a particular bug or fungus (can’t remember which) so they have to drench them in more and more chemicals as the bugs become tolerant. Give it another 10-20 years and they’ll be extinct. I read this in an environmental book a borrowed from the library last year. I can try and source it and give you details if you want :)

        Riki wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • Last century (the mid-90’s) I read that the pesticides sprayed on bananas were making the male workers sterile. That’s enough to make me buy organic.
          Now, that is just the most popular variety of bananas. I’ve recently started buying plantains and I love the flavor. Traditionally they are used while still green but I buy the ones that are starting to turn color. I peel them and put the peels in the trash because I assume they are covered with pesticides. I cut them in half both lengthwise and crosswise and lay them on the griddle beside the eggs I’m cooking in ghee or coconut oil. I mash them a little with the spatula so that when I turn them they won’t roll over. I don’t know that they have pesticides, I just assume that they do.

          Also, my brother in College Station, TX grows a variety of bananas for ornamental purposes. They produce small bananas that they eat and they don’t spray them with anything. If you live far enough south you can find a variety to grow in your yard – and plant them close to the house on the south side or in a greenhouse if you live farther north.

          I find the finger size bananas in the grocery store here in town that caters to the Hispanic community (which is where I get a lot of my produce, like tuna [Spanish for prickly pear], jicama and other exotic produce). I wonder if all varieties of banana need pesticides to survive or at least to produce pleasing looking fruits – my brother doesn’t use them and they look just like the ones at the market.

          W.J. Purifoy wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • I have read however, they spray bananas when they are first developing and continue to spray them intil they are full grown. this is in one of the Latin American countries. I think I will stick to organic bananas.

      Laurel wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Hi There, while I agree with Mark’s post and already practice this with certain foods as listed here, Coconuts are probably the most organic of all as no one really needs or wants to spray them with anything LOL. They just are. I would like to say, however, there is another reason to buy organic Pineapple and Bananas. Having lived in Costa Rica for over a decade, one of the largest industrial pollutants we face here is the Pineapple and Banana crops. These industrial chemicals wash into the ecosystems and pollute everything downstream. There are many banana workers who have serious health problems from being in these sprayed fields for years and if you do have a choice, purchasing the organic Pineapple and Bananas goes a long way to keeping the tropical areas of the world where they come from a lot more healthy, not only for the workers, but for all of us. Just a thought.

      Marco wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • +1

        My mom visited the banana farms in Costa Rica and has NEVER eaten a banana again. She saw children with horrible birth defects and heard stories of chemicals spraying the areas where workers live. Buying organic can show these companies that we don’t accept this!

        Ashley wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Well said. Organic is soooooo much better for the planet
        ,

        Anne Wayman wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • I guess that’s true if your only concern is your own health, but conventional bananas are sprayed with a host of chemicals that are extremely damaging to the folks who farm them, as well as the surrounding ecosystems. Organic bananas don’t cost all that much more. I would say it’s pretty irresponsible to buy conventional bananas. Just sayin’! :) I don’t have the scoop on pineapple production. Anyone else?

      D'Arcy wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • I’m sorry but I find this statement and the others about how they’re not much more so put out that extra. It’d be nice if we could all buy organic. But as a young single mother in college it’s not that easy. If I can save as much as one penny it’s a victory walking out of that store. I live on a food budget of only 150 dollars a month with a very hungry 3 year old. And because I get student aid for my tuition. That one check off sets me for months on weather or not I can even get food stamps. Working at a job only paying 8 dollars an hour and being the only place I’ve found that I can still go to school and work and pay for daycare food rent gas car insurance. So yes if you have that extra 3 cents to spend it’s better for you. But don’t just assume everyone has it. It’s insulting to people like me who literally scrape my pocket book for food until I get out of college and can provide my family with options. But quit assuming everyone has that little extra.

        chrystal wrote on August 27th, 2014
        • Chrystal, and anyone else who is quite poor and really wants health:

          You might consider volunteering at a CSA (community shared agriculture) co-op, or any other organic foods co-op… or look into “WWOOF”-ing.

          You may be able to trade/barter hours and labor for fresh organic produce.

          There are also folks who have land but no time to garden it and would love to give you some of the share of the harvest if you help (similar to WWOOF-ing on, say, weekends.)

          If you develop a good relationship with farmers, many are willing to trade labor for their organic produce.

          This is what I would do if I were very very poor and trying to be healthy.

          I have considered it many a time and – as I grow healthier – have slowly been building relationships up with my local farmers.

          These relationships are good, anyway, because there is a LOT of misinformation put out there by farmers about how “organic” or “grass-fed” their stuff is — I have been very disappointed and suffered days upon days of pain because of careless belief in a label or ad’s “grass-fed”.

          Really, such things should say, if accurate:

          *fed grass most of the time. Fed grain or other “crushed vegetable matter” (which can be full of grains, husks, and odd things which can cause noticeable nutritional deficiencies in animals). If we feed non-organic feed, it is exceptionally likely to contain the very common allergens and chronic-disease contributors: soy, corn, wheat. These are cheap and often have many byproducts left over from processing for human food, so they go into animal feed. If we feed organic feed, it may still contain: wheat, soy, corn. If we feed our animals “primarily” on pasture, we may feed our animals feed up to every day.

          (As you may already be aware, those who have chronic health problems can often not tolerate things which have been fed any amount of soy, corn, wheat, or grain. For those who can tolerate it, it can still aggravate health problems or contribute to them.

          Also, the composition and toxin vs. nutritional composition of animals fully, completely grass/pasture-fed (even in winter — if the grass is bad, and it is too cold then hay from the pasture has been dried, baled, and stored in warmer months for use) … vs. animals who have been fed even a bit of feed for, say, a week after being pasture-fed lots… is vastly different.

          So, small bits of feed make large differences.

          Also, many “grass/pasture-fed” farms I have visited do not give their animals enough space. Some do not give their animals enough access to sun.

          It is REALLY important to really understand the places your food comes from and not just trust the claims of labels.

          They are surprisingly often disingenuous.

          The same sort of stuff goes for organic farming, although I am less familiar with the salient differences to watch for.

          Each farm will use different composting (do they compost?) methods… fertilizer (bull dung from grass-fed cows? :) Lamb and goat poo? :))… water quality, soil quality, etc.

          So, I recommend getting involved in some sort of trade of a few hours of work for some organic produce.

          You will likely learn a TON if you pick the right people (don’t be afraid to realize that certain eager farmers are not, in fact, using the best practices.

          Happens all the time; people often just assume because they don’t want to offend the nice organic farmer. Every farmer, rancher, etc. is different and does well to differing degrees.

          You really have to learn to judge for yourself, just like you do with reading about nutrition.)

          You’ll also become a lot closer to really being able to judge for yourself what is or isn’t healthy.

          And, there are many places in many areas of pretty much all countries that will give you a great exchange on labor or cost for buying or working directly from the farmer.

          You would be surprised at how much you can make work with little money and a lot of determination.

          Xin wrote on August 28th, 2014
        • Oh, regarding the disingenuous claims of labels, I find that in-depth research and contacting of companies/farms I’m going to rely on for my food can often lead to a lot more detail as to how that food was raised/nutured ’till it got to your table.

          As others in this thread have noted, there is a noticeable difference in freshness and quality of all sorts of produce — even among batches, and among different organic farms.

          For instance, I now buy my herbs and spices (like rosemary, or true cinnamon) from a group of dedicated herbalists, rather than the organic stuff in glass bottles on the shelves of supermarkets.

          And they are NOTICEABLY more flavorful (and thus full of all of whatever chemical constituents contribute to that flavor… which are usually the beneficial ones you’re wanting) than “Frontier” or “Simply Organic” or such. It’s also often much cheaper. :) And, since I consume these herbs and spices for health benefits, it matters that they also tend to make me feel better after eating.

          I have not checked with them, but given that they are herbalists and emphasize light-sensitive compounds and proper storage of herbs for preservation, I would not be surprised if their bulk spices are fresher and stored in much better ways than constant light-exposure through a clear glass bottle on a Whole Foods shelf.

          P.S. I understand the concerns and problems with being poor, and you make a good point about it. There are many of them.

          It is sometimes difficult to speak to any audience when one writes comments, and it is also difficult to be in an excluded audience while reading comments.

          There are many assumptions in writing all over the place. :-)

          That said, $150/month for food for two is certainly incredibly rough for eating healthily.

          Creative use of time and outside-the-box interactions can help a lot with that (there is always a bit of free time somewhere; if there is not, and it’s negatively impacting your ability to support your health, it may provide an interesting lens into one’s priorities).

          But, there are always dilemmas like not having those extra 3 cents to be more “responsible” when you choose a path with a really limited budget. If that’s your choice, and you weigh all the global and personal cost-benefits to your satisfaction, then you simply must make the best choice you can see, given your limitations.

          There are surprisingly many effective changes one can make which either cost less or don’t necessarily cost much more and are much better for you and the environment.

          But, there are also many, more expensive ventures moderately well-off folks cannot support which would support important shifts for the better in the world.

          So, in a really meta-way, though things like grass-fed ruminant raising and organic farming do have MASSIVE impacts, and I really think they’re really important for the human race due to their cumulative impacts… that sort of dilemma’s always an issue in some way.

          Xin wrote on August 28th, 2014
        • Xin I thank you for this response. I never have thought of that before mostly because my nights and weekends are literally filled with homework. But if I can find one of those options and literally make the time your right its something to look into. Thank you.

          chrystal wrote on August 28th, 2014
    • I can’t do conventional bananas- I don’t know what they use, but I’ve had my lips go numb from brushing against the outside of a banana. Not doing that again.

      jfreaksho wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • I have found that there is a world of difference in taste between organic bananas and conventionally grown. Apart from the taste, the ….cides used on conventional bananas are a major health hazzard to anyone who comes in contact with them.
      A biologist friend visited a banana plantation in Spain and did the tour. At the end, everyone got a banana to taste. He, being the biologist, threw his banana skin at the base of the tree thinking the nutrients should go back to the earth/tree. The guide had a fit, and rushed to retrieve the peel, and into the garbage it went. The reason? There are so many …cides of all descriptions sprayed on the bananas that they poison the earth.
      I’m not lucky enough to have regular access to organic fresh food, but I do without bananas unless I can get them organic – plus they taste and smell fantastic!

      Mary wrote on December 13th, 2013
      • l’ve found that there is a world of difference between organic and “conventional” produce in general in terms of freshness and flavor.

        Strong flavor will generally mean that the chemicals, vitamins, etc. producing that particular flavor are far more present and undegraded.

        I wonder if this has to do with freshness.

        I almost always buy locally now (Whole Foods is the exception; not always local) for vegetables, and from what I know of, many chemical constituents of plants (vegetables) degrade quickly.

        This is why herbalists and exceptional foodies often preserve their spices in special tinted jars these days.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the same applies to the plants which we call vegetables and fruits. :)

        Xin wrote on August 28th, 2014
    • It’s a good point that it may not benefit us, the end consumer. However, there are good reasons why organic bananas are better – better for the workers (exposed to dangerous chemicals in conventional banana production) and better for the environment. For these reasons, I pay the extra (~$0.20-$0.30/day) amount per day to have organic bananas.

      owen wrote on January 15th, 2014
  3. Coconut oil for skin and hair care, fine. But armpits? As in deodorant? Please enlighten me.

    Claire wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • This recipe really truly works! I also add a bit of lavender essential oil.

      http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2010/02/homemade-all-natural-deodorant.html

      Kim wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • I use a similar recipe and I cannot believe how well it works. I made my first recipe in the summer and no problems with perspiration, odor, etc. I works much better than conventional antipersperants or any I have tried from the health food store. In the summer (we don’t have AC) it will melt, so I kept a tablespoon (a soup-type spoon, not a measuring spoon) next to it, would give it a quick stir around and then would apply whatever was left on the spoon to my underarms, used the rounded side; very easy and efficient. Amazing stuff and costs pennies to make! Joyce

        Joyce wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Take a look here for the “enlightenment” you seek!
      http://www.primalpitpaste.com

      Merry wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Smear armpit with Coconut Oil, then dust with Baking Soda using a powder puff. Works awesome. No yucky Aluminum seeping in through your skin.

      TriCiCi wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • some people get irritated by baking soda, in that case you can use arrowroot instead. that’s what i’ve been doing for nearly a year – no stinky pits :-)

        Lynsey wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • Arrowroot has high nitrate levels and can be used in curing meats by replacing pink salt. I’m not sure what the nitrate effect, if any, would be through human skin absorption. Nitrates are used to breakdown proteins and keep the meats more pink. Pinker armpits?

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • I have not used any deodorant iin probably two years now. When I did use a deodorant, it seemed that I did have body odor. Go figure…

          Cate wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • Cate,
          the people around you might have a different perspective about your statement.

          Joshua wrote on December 13th, 2012
    • OIL PULLING

      Per Dr. Mercola’s article:

      “Coconut oil is a powerful inhibitor of a large variety of pathogenic organisms, from viruses to bacteria to protozoa, largely due to its naturally high lauric acid content…

      The second technique I’ve been using for the past year is called “oil pulling” with coconut oil, which has reduced my plaque by another 50 percent, allowing me to go two months between visits to the hygienist, instead of one. Oil pulling is a practice dating back thousands of years, having originated with Ayurvedic medicine. When oil pulling is combined with the antimicrobial power of coconut oil, you have one very powerful health tool…

      I am going to do it.

      See the full article:

      http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/12/08/coconut-oil-combats-tooth-decay.aspx?e_cid=20121208_DNL_art_1

      Eva in Colorado

      Eva Putnam wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • I do it and it works. It somehow makes your teeth look whiter, too.

        Laura wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Ayurvedic oil pulling is done with sesame oil, which is considered very healing and penetrates into the tissue, loosening toxins so that they can be expelled by the body. So, if you use 1/2 coconut oil and 1/2 sesame oil, you will be getting the benefit of both oils. Joyce

        Joyce wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Yep, my parents use it for their armpits and have no complaints. They were both having trouble with itchy pits and found that the coconut oil works quite well. I’ve tried it and on my pits and face and have been pleased with the results. It took a while to get past the ooie phase; you know cooking with it and then slathering it on your body. I discovered putting it in a different container mad the difference, mentally. I also use it on my hair (once a week) and leave it on while I work out in the morning (2 hours or so). My adult children tease me about the coconut oil is my new apple cider vinegar (so many uses). :)

      Dawn wrote on December 12th, 2012
  4. Wait, I eat coconut oil, but what is coconut butter?

    Alice wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • An addiction waiting to happen

      Brad wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • +1

        mars wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • +1 The best brand, in my opinion (and the only one I know of, go figure) is Artisana coconut butter. google it, and be warned.

          Z.E.S.T. wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • The chocolate stuff is pretty amazing, but it has added sugar. I eat too much of both. :-D

          Darcie wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • haha!

        Cheryl wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Coconut butter is heaven on a spoon

      Michelle wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • pulverized dry un-sweetened coconut flakes. Like making peanut butter but with flakes.

      Annie Sires wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Good reply to Alice’s question.

        I am from the UK and when one of the success stories mentioned coconut butter, I went shopping. I found ‘coconut butter’ by a company called Tiana at my local Holland and Barrett. It’s organic coconut oil for cooking and baking – firmer than coconut oil and without a coconut flavour. I think it’s great. (And will take a spoonful of it just to eat, as well as cooking with it. I also like coconut oil, but this makes for a change.)

        So, imagine my surprise when I went to the US and bought some Artisiana coconut butter. It’s completely different and as Dawn says, is like peanut butter, but much stiffer (you have to warm it to get it to spread or even to get it onto a spoon, if your cupboard is cool) and is ground coconut flesh. My favourite way to eat it is to flake it up and toss it on salads. (I brought some back with me; not available here, to my knowledge.)

        Violet wrote on December 13th, 2012
        • Easy to make your own coconut butter in a food processor. Add a little coconut oil to help it break down. Lots of instructions on the web, just google “homemade coconut butter”. And it’s MUCH cheaper if you make your own!

          Janknitz wrote on December 13th, 2012
  5. Woot so my bulk onions from BJ’s wholesale are good to go!

    Kent McCann wrote on December 12th, 2012
  6. Good stuff as usual, Mark! Thanks for the info!

    Joe wrote on December 12th, 2012
  7. In all fairness very little of the food NEEDS to be organic, if it is just good whole food.

    Yes, it *MIGHT* taste better (placebo, anyone?) or *MIGHT* have a bit less of the not quite so good stuff (e.g. antibiotics), but I think that the Paleo movement is doing itself a great disservice to preach the party line of “grass-fed beef only” in a world where the great majority consider wheat products food…

    pi314 wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Which is why Mark’s flexible, reasonable approach will win out over rigid paleo.

      Harry Mossman wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • +1

        Joe wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • +1

          Madama Butterfry wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • the grass-fed part has nothing to do with organic. It just means the cow is eating what it’s evolved to eat. Just like when paleo/primal folks skip the grains. It’s because that’s how we have evolved.

      But as others have mentioned, Mark has continuously said – and reiterated in today’s blog – that balancing health benefits and budget are important considerations.

      Mark A wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Grass fed animals have room to move and pick and choose their diet just like we humans insist it is our right to do. Grain fed animals are kept like factory chickens except without the roof!!!!

        go organic it's better for the planet wrote on December 17th, 2012
    • I disagree. We eat grass-fed and organic not just because they *might* be more nutritious or . We eat that way in part because organic also has no pesticides, herbicides or any other chemicals grown on them. We get enough of a toxic load just from breathing and drinking. I’ll stick with my organinc and grass-fed foods, thanks.
      Besides, I don’t particularly care what others think of as food. For me, grains don’t cut it and I’m FAR better off without them in my diet.

      Doug D wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • do some research there I think pi314. it’s for your and the planet’s benefit. But if you can’t afford it, it’s better than packaged foods (which is why I’m guessing you’re on here?)

      Riki wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Exactly what I’ve always thought. Would it be nice to eat grass fed beef consistently? Sure, but it’s completely unaffordable and impractical here and for much of the world not living somewhere ideal in the U.S.A.

      JohnC wrote on December 12th, 2012
  8. There are a lot of reasons to buy organic that have nothing to do with pesticide residue. The most important is the difference between growing food in live soil, fertilized with manure and compost and growing it in a dead soil-like medium dependent on petroleum-based chemicals. In the end, the land is all we have. We need to take care of it. Please buy organic.

    lethargist wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • +1

      Harry Mossman wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • +1

      Krys wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Yes, to this. A lack of pesticide residue is important, but not if the “food” is essentially empty calories in the shape of a vegetable.

      I buy organic avocadoes because the others more often than not, rot before, or concurrently with ripening. I can open a wrinkly, completely black organic one and it is ripe and delicious, and keeps for a few days like that (placed into the refrigerator once ripe), before beginning to rot, which is a much slower process with the organic ones. We eat avocadoes a lot and this has been my consistent experience for the past decade or so. I think this difference has more to do with the nutrient content of the fruit than the lack of pesticide residues.

      To be fair, though, “organic” definitely does not mean “grown in live soil”. Know your source, above all else.

      Imogen wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Like others have commented, one of the things I love about MDA is that it’s sane. Not over-the-top-be-absolutely-100%-optimized-every-second.

      With that said, I agree that pesticide residue isn’t everything. I’ve read that non-organic onions are (often? usually?) irradiated to improve shelf life. I’d rather not be the human test subject for that.

      There’s the GMO issue. I don’t think any of the items in Mark’s post have been gen modded (so far) but that’s hard to keep track of so buying organic erases the issue.

      I’ve also read that thick skins (citrus/bananas etc) can mean pesticides aren’t ON the fruit (after it’s peeled) but that pesticides are still sucked up inside the fruit/vege from the soil as it grows.

      Are the pesticide test results just what’s ON produce or do they ever test what’s IN the produce?

      Cynthia wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • They test the part that you eat.

        Mark A wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • +1

      In addition to “organic” I’ve also seen and heard the term “biodynamic agriculture”. I have yet to look into the specifics. Anyone care to chime in?

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Biodynamic is like Organic Plus. It goes a bit too far for me – it’s about planting, treating and harvesting in line with the cycles of the moon and energies (so you harvest roots when energy is flowing towards the earth, but harvest leaves when the energy is flowing to the sky). There are also herbal preparations, which may or may not be buried in cow horns.

        See http://demeter-usa.org/downloads/Demeter-Farm-Standard.pdf too :)

        NorthernMonkeyGirl wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Biodynamic is even more rigorous than organic. It involves using specific kinds of organic fertilizers and pesticides, timing of the agricultural cycle to a lunar calendar, integrating animals and plants on a farm to ensure a balanced agricultural environment (in terms of the manure, soil, microflora, etc.).

        Some of it sounds a little hokey to me, but most of it is just farming at it’s most basic. The animals eat the grasses and other naturally occurring plants, produce manure, and the farmed plants get nutrients and pesticides from the manure and other fermented by-products of farming.

        There’s currently no government regulations for biodynamic labeling, just certification through private organizations.

        Mark A wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • Thank you for your post, I now will add biodynamics to my “things that make me go hmmmm” list.

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • Most of what you describe comes from “Permaculture” practices, the “biodynamic” part is all the mysticism and “woo” that was tacked on to standard permacultural practices which are based on observation and science and practicality above all.

          JohnC wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Biodynamics has a lot of standard organic / permaculture ideas mixed in with a lot of counterfactual mysticism that I would charitably call “woo”.

        JohnC wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • +2!!!

      Opera wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • +1 Totally agree!

      Doug D wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • +1

      go organic it's better for the planet wrote on December 17th, 2012
  9. My husband and I keep bees and sell honey. In small operations like ours, honey extracted and put into a container for sale is typically STRAINED by purely mechanical methods (ie. stainless steel screening of progressively fine degree) using GRAVITY. This keeps dead bees and wax chunks out of the finished product. Ultra-filtration involves heating the honey and pushing it using high pressure through filters that screen out all pollen. Pollen is what’s used to identify a honey’s provenance–pollen has DNA. Ultra-filtration is what makes honey “UN-RAW” (and untraceable!). It’s necessary when you’re processing hundreds of thousands of gallons from multiple sources, and that’s what the big processors do.
    When you see a beekeeper at a farmer’s market, your question, as an informed consumer, is: “Do you keep the bees and extract the honey yourself?” For a beekeeper to market their honey as “raw” is true, but in my philosophy the statement smacks of greenwashing.
    For a more “paleo” honey-eating experience, get comb honey–the actual wax comb that’s been cut and packaged with the honey unextracted.

    Chicken Lady wrote on December 12th, 2012
  10. Proposed wew word “Organimacal”

    Groktimus Primal wrote on December 12th, 2012
  11. Thanks Mark. Reasonable posts like this are part of the reason Primal can become the mainstream standard, whereas rigid approaches like strict paleo can never be anything but a fringe movement.

    Luckily, I am able to get every kind of organic produce at the Sacramento Natural Foods co-op at reasonable prices. (At least every kind of produce that is produced on the west coast, plus a few exotics like bananas.)

    I do try to always buy organic for the environment and the workers, but I understand that not everyone can.

    Harry Mossman wrote on December 12th, 2012
  12. But who would want to contribute to conventional farming unless its the only thing available…. just sayin

    Ben wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • I’m with you it’ll be a cold day in hell before I support those parasites, just the thought of it makes my blood boil.

      rob wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Well, I don’t like conventional farming any more than anyone else. BUT – without it, how will the roiling masses of people going to eat? I can’t imagine all the city dwellers growing a garden, keeping a couple of pigs, chicken, milk cow etc in their back yards – thats even if they have a back yard. I grow a lot of my food, but we get frost 9 months of the year, live remotely and do not have access to a whole lot of organic food… so contributing to conventional farming just happens. Just saying, conventional farming is here to stay as long as people keep procreating. Sucks, but its life.

      mamab wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Even if it’s not ideal, conventional farming *is* feeding the masses. It’s a miracle in it’s own right.

        Our next step is taking conventional far along the organic route as possible. :)

        Amy wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • For the record, organic production has been shown to produce similar or higher yields as conventional. It’ll do better as the climate gets crazier.

          “The researchers found that yields in developed countries were almost equal between organic and conventional farms, while food production in developing countries could double or triple by going organic.”

          http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2007/07/organic-farming-can-feed-world

          Kat wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • I agree about the next step.

          Feeding the masses using modern agriculture techniques is also highly subsidized through legislation. That is the seen. But lets put on our “Bastiat Hat” and think about the unseen, such as an increase need for health care due to the masses having poor diet. Healthcare is also subsidized and driven by more legislation than true market forces. Subsidization can take the form of lower taxes to niche producers to the outright transfer of money to specific sectors. Either way both are wealth transfers that distort market signals that negatively affects the end customer.

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • “For the record, organic production has been shown to produce similar or higher yields as conventional. ”

          To be complete skeptical, I doubt it. Conventional farmers are into yields as a marker for profitability. Agricultural colleges and private research firms work on yields full time time. If organic was really capable of those same low cost high yields, I tend to think they’d be all over it.

          But hopefully I’m wrong. If you are correct, then pulling conventional towards organic should be an easier task then I’m thinking it is right now.

          Amy wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • This brings up a conversation I would love to see on MDA. It’s clear that without cheap carbs, without cheap oil, the current population of 7 billion would be impossible. Just how many people living primally could this planet support? What are the implications of this uncomfortable question to those of us who believe we are eating and living as we were designed to live?

        lethargist wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • demand created supply. don’t buy something, and people will stop making it. create a need, people will supply it. plain and simple.

        Riki wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • Rut roh, the Say’s Law debate continues…

          The reader’s digest version.

          Say: If individuals wish to procure a good they must give something in return that is also desirable to individuals. Therefore in order for one to be a consumer one must first be a producer of a good in which others find utility.

          This is like the chicken vs egg debate of economics. I for one am still reading and thinking on the matter.

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • True but if people practiced restraint then the thousands of tons of food sent to land fill every year would probably go a long way to feeding the masses

        Trish wrote on December 13th, 2012
        • So you’re telling me starving kids in Uganda would gladly have my lima beans? Even granting your dubious assertion, the question is why do people overbuy? For purveyors of food, when they toss perfectly good product, the reason is always some arbitrary nanny-state reg. By the time I buy it, it is already too late to change the buying pattern. I certainly don’t throw out very much food if any but when i do, I’ve overestimated how much the 3, 2, and 1 year old will eat. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am pretty loathe to throw away food, but we aren’t talking about radios. I can’t put that back into the product stream. Who is purposely buying too much food. Who is accidentally constantly buying too much food and not evaluating the money in the trash? No, restraint has nothing to do with it. Besides, lower demand equals lower supply. If we all agree to eat one less cow per week, the rancher simply produces one less cow per week.
          So many things wrong with that statement.

          Joshua wrote on December 13th, 2012
    • Those of us who are on a budget. And the “but think of the healthcare costs down the road” line of thought is nice, but not feasible for us living week-to-week where every dollar is accounted for before it’s in the bank account. I can buy a dozen small organic pastured eggs for $3.49, or I can buy two dozen extra-large regular eggs for $2.49. Yeah, they were from unhappy chickens, but how unhappy is my family going to be when it’s still 3 days til payday and we’re out of our food staples?

      J wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • +1

        HopelessDreamer wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Good point. Not to mention that going from potato chips to strawberries is a far bigger leap towards the healthy than going from organic strawberries to conventional ones. You don’t have to buy organic to eat healthy.

        Nathan wrote on December 12th, 2012
  13. I suspect that Maple Syrup is another that you don’t need to worry about.

    CrazyCatLady wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Yes – the organic standards are mostly about keeping the trees healthy. There’s very little in maple syrup production that needs the use of pesticides.(I had a website client who was a maple producer going organic and she gave me an overview of the standards.)

      Amy wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Birch syrup probably belongs on this list too.

      Charlayna wrote on December 12th, 2012
  14. I love my cheese burgers far to much to do any of this stuff. It is interesting to read about though.

    lisa m wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Ahh-haa! Proof to the half full/half empty debate. 1) Not full 2) Not empty 3) Not the undecisive ping-ponger, but 4) The “hey! I thought I ordered a cheeseburger!”.

      Validation.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 12th, 2012
  15. I live in the Pacific Northwest and we have oyster and mussle farming all around. I stay away from all of that. Our waters are polluted! We have big signs everywhere to not ingest anything in these water and yet we sell all of those things mentioned in your article. Buyer BEWARE!

    Stacey wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Interesting. I eat raw bar once a week and often see shellfish from Olympic Pennisula area. I stick with seafood from the Prince Edward Sound.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 12th, 2012
  16. Mark – Thanks for this post on what’s okay to eat conventional – that’s why I enjoy this blog so much. :) Lots of flexibility while still pursuing the ideal.

    Amy wrote on December 12th, 2012
  17. I really like the ideas and nutrition philosophy supported by MDA and its followers, but I find it hard to believe that Mark, and others, are comfortable eating conventionally grown food. I think the amount of pesticides used on any specific crop is a moot point. Just the fact that we have become accustomed to accept the ingestion of ANY toxic/carcinogenic chemicals is just a measure of how far our culture has strayed away from a healthy and sustainable existence. It is the internalization of economics over health and people. I no doubt consume conventionally grown produce and foods from time to time, especially when I am a guest at the table. But I would never choose to eat a conventionally grown crop over an organic one. I’ll pass on the Diclaran bath, thanks.

    Patrick wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • It’s not a matter of being ‘comfortable’ with conventional food. It’s a matter of addressing the harsh realities that sometimes, people are just lucky they can afford more than Ramen. I am thankful that I personally am not in that position, but there are plenty of people who are, and I think it’s important to try and see things from their perspective.

      Alyssa wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • arent you lucky that you clearly dont have to worry about money? buy what you want, and there is still money left at the end of the month! just seems to me, people with this attitude never needed to “budget” b/c money was never a problem…

      HopelessDreamer wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Actually, I have a pretty strict budget and have been on foods stamps for years. Money has been a problem for a long time. With the state’s assistance, buying organic has become easier, no doubt. I realize there are economic barriers that need to be addressed, but I think even people on a budget can do a lot to incorporate more organic/pastured foods into their diets. I didn’t mean to trivialize this…..

        Patrick wrote on December 13th, 2012
    • Some organic compounds can be toxic as well. As I stated in previous comment. I’d rather see people eating conventional fruits than potato chips. After all, switching from junk food to fruit is a huge leap compared to switching from conventional fruit to organic fruit.

      Nathan wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • On such a large scale, the choice is either ingest tiny amounts of unfriendly chemicals or ingest large amounts of unfriendly bugs. Let’s not pretend all that is natural is healthful.

      Joshua wrote on December 13th, 2012
      • “…ingest large amounts of unfriendly bugs. Let’s not pretend all that is natural is healthful.”

        Humans have been consuming bugs for a very long time.

        Though modern-day bugs, or the specific bugs which get into our produce, may not necessarily have only eaten extremely cleanly, given the current state of global, ubiquitous pollution.

        (I would not eat a cockroach in a modern-day city. If I were alive 10,000 years ago and encountered a cockroach, I likely would. The same goes for the common “fried crickets”.)

        Regardless, there are standards for both organic and non-organic produce regarding the allowable amount of “bug parts,” so to speak. :-)

        Be assured that we consistently consume bits of bugs.

        Xin wrote on August 28th, 2014
      • There are, for instance, stories of Native American chiefs who would pick the bugs off of their bodies and eat with relish as they sat and talked, noted by the white men who conversed with them at the time.

        Bugs are also (still) commonly eaten in parts of Asia, especially southeast Asia.

        I’d imagine they’re eaten in Africa as well, along with frogs, etc.

        (Perhaps I am missing a deeper, unstated argument you have as to why ingesting large amounts of bugs is “unfriendly,” though?

        It certainly does not seem inherently so.)

        Xin wrote on August 28th, 2014
    • Kudos for speaking from a perspective that actually strives towards objectivity, regardless of whether you’re always able to “choose to eat” an organically grown crop over an organic one”.

      What is common is rarely objectively… healthy these days, and I seem to find that treating “convenience” and “availability” as equivalent to “fine” promotes an inertia and incorrect approach to the chemicalling of the earth.

      …while the solution is likely MUCH more complex than “just don’t use those chemicals, ever”… simply accepting more or less unnecessary chemicals in our foods and environments in a “set amount” — which has in many cases been shown to be pretty strongly influenced by however much happens to generally show up as residue — seems a very incorrect approach.

      Have you looked into the ubiquitous chemical constituents of all the products you own, and the cleaning, beauty, scent, etc. products used in buildings, homes, stores, and on others’ bodies?

      Petroleum byproducts in non-ingested products are like the soy and wheat byproducts of the food industry.

      Estrogenic compounds, things that cross the blood-brain-barrier… regardless of whether or not you live someplace which is supersaturated in all these products (most cities are), it is still objectively unhealthy for humans.

      And, a lot of it – just as with food – is unnecessary.

      Anyone with severe environmental and chemical sensitivities would relate the MASSIVE web of chemicals used everywhere – including all the newfangled walls, paints, sealants, and caulks in your house.

      There are myriad better, less toxic options for these chemicals, too. Magnesium-based cements… natural flame-retardants for bedding, rather than the standard antimony… removal of formalin/formaldehyde from clothing (most non-organic clothing is treated with it to make it hold crisp lines when it is made…

      Those with mild chemical sensitivities will relate the fatigue, nausea, brain fog, constricted breathing (like asthma), and many other health issues caused by common perfumes, colognes, deodorants, and other scented products — “fabric softener” and soaps, as well.

      I’ve encountered these folks in the Primal-sphere and larger health-sphere from time to time.

      It may not be convienient or simple, or even accessible to fix, but the perspective of what is a normal baseline and what does or does not constitute “healthy” is utterly swayed by what is “typical” these days.

      In otherwords, I would not be surprised if heavier pesticide use led to inching up in “safe ppm” amounts in governmental recommendations.

      …heck, that’s already happened.

      And, “scooting” these “safe amount” numbers around has certainly happened with things like LDL cholesterol standards.

      …so, I have been poor and had swinging troubles with finances, too, and I would never choose nor view it normal to the human body to live in such a polluted surrounding environment, nor to consume such poorly cared-for, chemicalled food.

      The overwhelming burden of proof for long-term effects on human health should be placed upon the novel substances we have developed within the last one and a half centuries.

      They certainly haven’t been _extricated_ from the web of increasing health problems and abnormalities.

      It seems far more likely that these many novel environmental toxin exposures in food, air, and water are causing noticeable quality of life shifts that have appeared in the last 1-2 centuries than not.

      So, uncertainty about whether they’re problematic in the short term (which is the time period for most studies) seems to be something which should leave more chance of problem, rather than promoting inaction.

      If one does not know whether these novel, potentially problematic substances are *really* problematic, it seems that caution is vastly warranted over indifference, or the assumption that they perhaps are fine.

      Especially given a noticeable and growing subset of the population which has acute, visible problems with such things.

      (There are most certainly folks who experience physiological, acute reactions to the consumption of non-organic foods and organic foods containing problematic “organic” pesticides.)

      Xin wrote on August 28th, 2014
  18. Keep forgetting to buy sweet potatoes, guess I think of them as being a bit too “starchy” but I’ll do some research on them, have heard they are really good for you, and I’ll probably buy some this weekend. Honey has a lot of (natural) sugar, so a little goes a long way but has all kinds of great properties, think I’ll pick up some raw, local produced honey for a change of pace. Thanks Mark!

    George wrote on December 12th, 2012
  19. Sweet, I eat a lot of these vegetables already (non-organically) so this makes me feel a bit better about my food choices!!

    Lauren wrote on December 12th, 2012
  20. One thing I worry about with non-organic coconut oil is chemical extraction and deoderizing processes that can be used. Maybe I am just paranoid?

    Michelle wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • No, you are not paranoid; I agree with you. There is nothing wrong the coconut itself-it’s the chemicals/deoderizing agents that are used that are bad for you. I think organic is still best for Coconut oil.

      Joyce wrote on December 12th, 2012
  21. Mark: What about yams? Same as sweet potatoes. I much prefer yams.

    Sterling wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Yams are not the same as sweet potatoes. Careful, if Chris Kimball reads or hears this talk he may slap you.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Although in American grocery stores, yam and sweet potato are used interchangeably. You almost never see true yams except in specialty etchnic markets.

        I think Mark has a post about this too.

        Mark A wrote on December 12th, 2012
  22. Yeah I dont agree with this at all. I think organic over conventional any day is better.

    Alexis wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • He’s not arguing that conventional is better. He’s giving the ‘lesser of the evils’ for people who simply cannot afford organic.

      Alyssa wrote on December 12th, 2012
  23. I use an app called “seafood watch””. I believe the Monterey Bay Aquarium participates. Anyway, if you type in the seafood you’d like to eat, It will let you know whether farmed or wild or any other restrictions are better or worse for you. For instance fish from Vietnam is a no-no.

    AC wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • There are pilot programs that track fresh seafood to where the seafood is caught. A few restaurants by me have 2D barcodes that provides the catch date, the boat name, the destributor (if any). Neat stuff.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 12th, 2012
  24. What about fresh coconuts? I had heard the were dunked in some chemical to preserve them which leeches through the shell. I buy two a week and they are only 69p in Uk supermarkets but this has put me off a bit.

    Tracy wrote on December 12th, 2012
  25. I have heard young Thai coconuts are shipped in formaldehyde to preserve them and keep them “fresh”. Apparently, one of the tell-tale signs is any coconut water drawn from Thai coconuts have a bluish tint to them. I’ve tried looking for a reliable source on the web to confirm or deny this but haven’t found one. Anyone else heard of this? I’ve stuck to organic coconut just to be safe.

    Emily wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • I wonder if it would be possible for some knowledgeable person(s) to set up a fact finding website for food. Ya know, like the political ones or the other ones that sort through all the weird things passed around the internet.

      Probably impossible or it would have been done by now. I can only dream.

      Sharon wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Yeah, I’ve sadly always heard that too. There are people importing organic young coconuts but you have to buy WAY more than what I could use, especially as they go bad quickly without the chemicals.

      Denise wrote on December 12th, 2012
  26. @michelle@primalsmoke:

    Coconut oil is either refined or unrefined. The refined is the stuff that gets processed (sometimes chemically) to deoderize, etc.

    The best way to be safe with coconut oil is to always buy unrefined.

    French wrote on December 12th, 2012
  27. Great post. Would like to see something similar about fish, re mercury levels etc.

    Greg wrote on December 12th, 2012
  28. Regarding honey, I also keep my own beehives and sell my excess honey. In addition to buying raw, I also feel it is crucial to seek out wild and/or treatment-free honey.

    Virtually all beekeepers (organic or conventional) use treatments in their hives in an attempt to control outcomes and kill non-bee organisms such as mites, fungi, and bacteria. They also give the bees supplemental feed in an attempt to boost productivity.

    Conventional beekeepers are known to use toxic chemicals to treat their hives. These chemicals are so dangerous, the beekeepers must wear hazmat suits, respirators, and chemical resistant gloves when applying the treatments. Of course, any chemicals put into the hive will be moved around by the bees and will likely contaminate the honeycomb.

    Contaminants also come from the supplemental feed. Instead of relying on the bees’ ability to collect natural nectar and pollen, most beekeepers feed their bees syrups and protein patties. The syrups are made from whatever cheap sugars are available, and many times are based on High Fructose Corn Syrup. The protein patties are usually soy-based. This is why there is so much controversy over cheap, highly processed, ultra-filtered honey – since there is no pollen, enzymes, or probiotics left, there is no chemical fingerprint and therefore no way to tell whether bees were ever involved in its production.

    So, find your local beekeepers, ask them about their management practices, and enjoy your real, raw, treatment-honey!

    Warren wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • My husband has been keeping bees for several years. There is absolutely nothing on earth quite like homegrown honey still in the waxy comb. Occasionally having to scoop out bits of bees is a small price to pay to enjoy this delicacy (though not, of course, for the bees)!

      Helga wrote on December 12th, 2012
      • Even though I read the thread about bee keeping, it wasn’t until your post that the SNL skit with Conan Obrian dressed as a bee keeper claiming he was a member of the Village People came to mind. Thank you!

        Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 12th, 2012
        • I’ll have to look that one up on YouTube!

          Helga wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • I read about rooftop beekeepers in NYC who were baffled that the honey was so dark brown and odd tasting. It turned out that the bees were drinking a lot of cola from discarded cans, cups,and bottles. Things started to improve when other rooftop gardeners started putting in flowering plants that gave the bees a better food source.

      Mark A wrote on December 12th, 2012
  29. what about the chemical fertilizers? that’s one reason why i try to eat everything organically grown.

    jackie wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • I’ve heard this too, and also that there is often spraying of an entire shipment in transit…particularly avocados, coconuts and bananas.

      LisaLisa wrote on December 12th, 2012
  30. When buying honey, be sure to ask the beekeeper if he uses miticides on the bees. Some beekeepers do this and all honey should be removed before it’s applied. Best is to find a beekeeper who doesn’t use them at all.

    Clint wrote on December 12th, 2012
  31. Great article, but what about buying organic to do our part for soil and water health as well as for the workers who are picking, harvesting and handling the food? I think buying organic is more than just what’s getting through the plant skin or in our own body.

    jaime wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • “However, even if the following conventional foods are relatively safe for your health, some would argue that you should still buy organic in order to support the workers and protect the environments exposed to agricultural chemicals. That’s totally valid, and it’s part of the reason why I try to buy organic, but it’s not what I’m discussing here. It’s a topic for another time. Today is about maximizing the health of you and your family while cutting costs when and where you can.”

      Alyssa wrote on December 12th, 2012
  32. Don’t like the idea of beekeeping and like even less, the selling of “excess” honey. You should allow the bees to keep any “excess” honey. After all they made it for themselves, not humans.

    Nick wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Fair enough, but everything you eat is food taken from the maw of some other creature. The key is BALANCE.

      And in defense of backyard beekeepers, those of us trying to raise bees with a hands-off, chemical-free approach, we are now being seen as bee guardians. When Monsanto takes an interest in the “health and welfare” of honeybee populations –and they have–watch out!

      Helga wrote on December 12th, 2012
  33. “domestic conventional (referring to the United States) is far better than *domestic imported.”

    Don’t you mean “conventional imported”?

    Keenan wrote on December 12th, 2012
  34. I have always wondered about leg of lamb from New Zealand. I Think they are pasture raised and not fed GMO grains. Any thoughts on this?

    Kurt wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • When I grew up in NZ back in the 70’s, we drove to the mountain (to ski) 4 hrs away most w/ends and holidays in autumn, winter and spring and my main memory was seeing paddock after field after land mass sprinkled liberally with sheep. They were EVERYwhere. White fluff against mid-dark green. All the time, for most of the drive, standard sight, ad nauseum. Sometimes cows, mostly sheep. We saw it, ate it, yum, mutton..

      I didn’t really notice how few there were as I started making the drive myself in the mid- late 1990’s. I was sort-of a vegetarian but not by choice, just didn’t eat much meat then- once a month.
      Then I bailed the country altogether.

      I took my husband back with baby in 2010. The South Island is known to be a great deal more agricultural than the north, which is where I chose to take us, thinking whole foods should be MUCH easier to come by. I was doing the WAPF diet back then, and heaps of bone broth. Bones? From all the millions of sheep? What a joke. The only meat and fish came fatless and mostly boneless, frozen in plastic, driven for miles to one central processing plant- the fish all the way to the frikkin North Island for petes sake, in spite of having been caught locally. It’s insane. It’s madness now. Out of control.
      Driving around noticing the lack of sheep after a lifetime of Kiwi sheep jokes my husband asked one day, ‘Where are all these supposed sheep?’
      It seems deserted. Apart from rows and rows and rows and rows of GM horticulture, and a couple of giant, industrial monsters of bad architecture with the names ‘Syn-Lait’ (poison milk) and Syn-Grow’ (Monsanto et al.) or something. And don’t forget salmon farming.

      Please believe that whatever New Zealand was, (a genuine paradise) it no longer is (though parts are still so beautiful, will blow your mind and reboot yer soul..). The entire country is being decimated, from the soil, to the wild game (1080 anyone?) to the overseas landgrabs. Like everywhere else, farmers and countryfolk are being herded in to the cities, and the people from small cities are being herded into larger ones, or over here to Oz. (Guilty as charged.)

      Come on Maori kids, take your land and your health back. It was the very best in the world once. The absolute best. White men are sick as dogs in every respect (apart from us primals).

      Madama Butterfry wrote on December 13th, 2012
      • Im glad you left NZ! We have always and still are GM\GE FREE!…. Where are these rows and rows and rows of GM Horticulture that you speak of?
        Although not a fan of 1080, how else do you save our Kiwi’s? 10820 is generally only dropped in deep bush Inaccessible for preditor control, not where Veges are grown.

        I have absolutly no problem finding Organic food in Auckland, from local Farmers markets to NZ owned and operated New World supermarkets who sell plenty of Organic certified produce, and continue to increase their range, and some even getting RATA certification (RATA = Sustainable Business Practices)…… if there are no Sheep, where are all the people on this blog buying their NZ Lamb from?
        Most of the Eggs now in Supermarkets are cirtified Free Range as more and more people move to Free Range.

        So I dont know where you went but please dont come backl!

        Neo wrote on April 22nd, 2014
  35. Luckily where we live (Belize), everything we get is local, fresh, free-range, grass-fed and organic. They don’t use any chemicals around here. And cows, chickens and whatnot just graze on the land. Got to love it. :)

    Karma wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • That was once true of Ireland, but now I’m told they’re importing chickens from Asia.

      Helga wrote on December 12th, 2012
  36. Mark
    interesting list
    thanks for the details
    is important to have distinctions
    and choice

    icitizen wrote on December 12th, 2012
  37. Hey guys. I may have just not noticed if someone has brought this up, but does anyone know how this non-organic produce would tie into GMOs? I know I try and buy organic (local, when possible) not only because of the pesticide usage, but because the seeds of organic produce are not allowed to be genetically modified. Anyone have any other info on this? Thanks in advance!!

    Jennifer wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Read “Seeds of Deception” and watch “Genetic Roulette”, both by Jeffrey M. Smith, the leading US activist against GMOs.

      Helga wrote on December 12th, 2012
  38. Artisana Coconut Butter is the bomb! Heaven on a spoon! Warning: It is addicting! Yum to the O!

    Shelley wrote on December 12th, 2012
  39. As a small time beekeeper, I must say thanks! I can’t tell you how many times people try my raw, local (my hives are 100% untreated and organic as well but I’m just within 5 miles of non-organic farmers so I can’t get the distinction)honey for the first time and literally can’t stop from smiling because they can’t believe the flavor explosion. Especially when compared to supermarket honey, raw, local honey is, well….special.

    Scott wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • Too right! Our first year, the honey tasted like mint, because we had some mint plants that had found their way into our yard from our neighbour’s yard. The bees couldn’t get enough of it. That was truly the most amazing honey I’ve ever tasted.

      We are admittedly a bit stingy with our honey, and only share it with family and friends.

      Helga wrote on December 12th, 2012
  40. Parmigiano Reggiano is organic by law in Italy.

    Don’t spend twice for one just because it proudly exhibit the “I’m organic” label.

    Just my two cents.

    primal_alex wrote on December 12th, 2012
    • I always have two pots of honey on my table: one very local and one organic, from Italy (I live in Southern France). I like to change kind often, different tastes, different textures…
      I read that when it comes to organic honeys, the beekeepers are not allowed to use paints or plastics in the hives and that the hives must be set up in areas far away from highways, industrial areas, etc. I guess there are quite a few controls to get and keep the organic label (called AB in France), so I think that might be safer to buy organic honey anyway… At least it can’t hurt.
      It’s not so much about how the bees behave, it’s about how men behave…
      Thank you for your blog.

      Pam wrote on November 25th, 2013

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