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My Stance on Organic Food – Clarified

About a week ago I wrote an article called “Why I Don’t Eat Organic Food,” which turned out to be one of the most upsetting articles I ever put out on my website.

I got a wave of anger and negative comments like never before. I even received emails that read more like death threats.

I’m used to speaking my truth and expecting opinions to differ.

But in this particular case, I feel like I need to clarify something.

So here you go:

My Stance on Organic Food – Clarified

If you think that I’m against organic food, or that all I care about is my peaches not becoming moldy and for that reason I prefer conventional produce, you misunderstood my article.

If you think that I haven’t done my research on pesticides, GMOs, and the dangers of consuming certain foods that are conventionally grown and raised, you were also wrong.

Before I tell you what I believe in, let me talk about where I live.

I live in Montreal, Canada.

I live in a very central area of the city, close to one of the best produce markets I’ve ever seen in the world. I’ve been to many great markets, including the awesome markets of California. But when it comes to the variety of exotic, tropical fruits that is available year round, nothing beats the Jean-Talon market in Montreal (except, of course, living in those tropical locations!).

So, every week I go to the market and stop at this Italian shop.

It’s an amazing experience. The owners know me by name. I know everyone on the staff.

I can walk in and go directly to their warehouse. They let me walk around everywhere as if I’m part of the staff. I’ve been going to this store for over 10 years, so they really know me. I’m the guy who buys a ton of fruit!

So, I go there and I ask them the same question: “So, what’s good this week, Tony?”

And then Tony tells me about all the great produce that they’ve received.

“Oh, we’ve got mangoes from Israel that are absolutely amazing. We’ve got these unbelievable grapes from California. Try these fresh black mission figs.”

And then Tony just goes around and slices the produce and lets me try all of it.

And then I tell him, “Okay, I’ll take a case of this, a case of that.”

Now the quality of the fruit is absolutely amazing. It’s fresh. It’s tasty. It’s the best in town. But it’s not organic.

But I buy it because I love it. Because it makes me feel great when I eat it. And because it’s the best that’s available.

Most of the fruits I buy have peels. And when it’s something that can’t be peeled, like a peach, I wash it with a special soap to make sure to remove the pesticide residues, if there are any.

I also don’t buy certain fruits that I know to be heavily sprayed, like strawberries, apples, celery, and a few other items. Peaches are heavily sprayed, but I just can’t get good organic peaches in Montreal. So I buy them from the Italian shop.

My Organic Food

Let’s now visit my local health food store.

When I lived in Vancouver, I was close to a Whole Foods Market where I would buy a lot of great, fresh, organic produce.

But in Montreal, the organic market is not as developed.

I go to my health food store and I’ll buy some lettuce, bags of organic apples (I think organic apples taste better), bananas, and many other items.

But some organic fruits are just not worth talking about.

  • Pineapples are super acidic.
  • Mangoes just don’t ripen properly.
  • And peaches. Let’s just not talk about them. It’ll make me sad.

So if you look at all the calories I eat coming from fruits and vegetables, probably 75% of them come from the Italian market. But if you look at all the products in my house (beans, etc.), then my percentage of organic is higher.

However, here’s my point:

Organic food is great, but it’s not one of the most important factors in health.

I’ve been saying this for years.

People should first focus on:

1) Eating a plant-based diet
2) Eliminating added oils and excess fats
3) Eating most of their calories from fresh produce
4) Exercising on a regular basis
5) Getting enough quality sleep

Many people START with organic food.

They eat organic, but their diet is loaded with oil (organic olive oil!).

They eat organic, but they don’t exercise vigorously very much.

They eat organic, but they don’t get enough sleep.

What good is organic food in this context?

I say focus on the most important aspects of your health that account for 80% of your health results, and then you can think about the smaller aspects.

But, of course, if you live somewhere like California, where there’s plenty of awesome, organic produce, then by all means get it.

What will this Conventional Fruit do to my Health?

Here’s another interesting fact: Recent studies have shown that organic produce does not contain more nutrients, on average, than commercial produce.

But what about all the pesticides?

Organic produce is not free of pesticide, but it does contain fewer residues. Organic farmers often use natural pesticides.

Right now, no studies that I know of have ever shown that people consuming organic produce end up living longer and avoiding disease more than people consuming commercial produce.

We know that pesticides are bad, but the real question is: are the quantities ingested through food enough to make a difference in your health in the long term? The reality is that we don’t know for sure.

But one thing we know is that if you eat at the bottom of the food chain (i.e., plant foods) and not at the top of the food chain (i.e., animal foods), then your exposure to pesticides is very low.

Animals accumulate environmental toxins in their tissues. And that’s why animal products are the biggest source of pesticides in most people’s diets.

With produce, you can wash it away. You still might be exposed to some, but even with organic, you’re not necessarily 100% pure.

So in the end, I believe it’s best to make the right choice for you.

I haven’t changed my mind that eating organic food is not the most important thing you can do for your health. There are plenty of other factors that matter way more.

Depending on where you live, do the best you can.

Eat organic grains. They’re easy to find.

Organic apples, bananas and vegetables are generally great and easy to find.

When it comes to fruit, do the best you can.

I will keep going to my Italian market because it simply rocks. I love the shopping experience and I love the variety and quality that I get.

What choice will you make?

It’s entirely up to you, and your choice will be affected by a number of factors: your budget, your location, etc.

By the way, I’m writing this article from Berkeley, California, where I’ve been eating nothing but organic food since I arrived. Here, it’s everywhere. It’s a totally different scene than my hometown.

But what about you?

Did what I write make sense to you, or do you think I should be ostracized from the natural food world for never saying: “You should only consume organic produce and nothing else.”

Because, you see, this approach doesn’t work. If the cucumbers you can find are not organic, buy them, peel them, and enjoy them. Your health is not going to go down because of that.

Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.