Linda Clayville is a certified nutritionist.

The popularity of organic produce has increased dramatically over the years and for good reasons. Organic produce has now been shown by a number of studies to be more nutritious than produce raised with chemicals.

A $25-million, four-year study of organically certified food, funded by the European Union, found that organic fruits and vegetables contain up to 40 percent more antioxidants; organic produce has higher levels of beneficial minerals like iron and zinc; and milk from organically raised cows contains 60 percent more antioxidants and essential fatty acids than conventional milk.

A doctoral dissertation by Virginia Worthington at John Hopkins University in 2001 revealed that organically grown vegetables have 27 percent more vitamin C, 21 percent more iron, 29 percent more magnesium, 13 percent more phosphorous and 15 percent fewer nitrates.

There should be no remaining doubt that buying organically grown produce is well worth the effort and additional cost. If you can’t buy organic, be sure to at least avoid the conventionally grown “dirty dozen,” which are listed below along with the “clean 15” (“The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides,” developed by the Environmental Working Group, see www.foodnews.org.)

Dirty Dozen (most chemicals used — buy only organic)

Peach

Apple

Bell pepper

Celery

Nectarine

Strawberry

Cherry

Kale

Lettuce

Grape (imported)

Carrot

Pear

Clean 15 (lower in pesticides)

Onion

Avocado

Sweet Corn

Pineapple

Mango

Asparagus

Sweet Pea

Kiwi

Cabbage

Eggplant

Papaya

Watermelon

Broccoli

Tomato

Sweet Potato

It is good to avoid the health-damaging pesticides and herbicides when at all possible. The chemicals are especially concentrated in vegetable or fruit juices, in dried fruits or vegetables and in animal products.

How your food is grown or raised can have an impact on your physical, mental and emotional health. Many people who have food allergies or food sensitivities find when they eat foods that are chemical free, preservative free or organically grown, their symptoms lessen or go away.

The information below gives a good idea of the health benefits of eating organically.

Organic produce

Grown with natural fertilizers (manure, compost).

Weeds are controlled naturally (crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching and tilling).

Pests are controlled using natural methods (birds, insects, traps) and naturally derived pesticides.

Conventionally grown produce:

Grown with synthetic or chemical fertilizers.

Weeds are controlled with chemical herbicides.

Pests are controlled with synthetic pesticides

Organic meat, dairy, eggs:

Livestock are given all organic, hormone- and GMO-free feed.

Disease is prevented with natural methods such as clean housing, rotational grazing and healthy diet.

Livestock must have access to the outdoors.

Conventionally raised meat, dairy, eggs:

Livestock are given growth hormones for faster growth, as well as non-organic, GMO feed.

Antibiotics and medications are used to prevent livestock disease.

Livestock may or may not have access to the outdoors.

I personally choose to buy organically grown or chemical-free food because I want to get the most nutrition, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in the food I eat. I like feeling good, having plenty of energy in my aging body and being in good health.

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