Organic Food No More Nutritious than Conventionally Grown Food

To many of my friends, buying organic is more than a supermarket choice. It’s a badge of good parenting. They proclaim “I buy only organic” with the same flush of pride they assume when announcing their child has made the honor roll. As I guiltily follow their lead, I can’t help but wonder whether organic foods have as much of an impact on my family’s health as they do on my wallet.

Health experts and consumers have long debated whether organic foods are more nutritious—and safer—than conventional foods. “This is a controversy that’s been going on for a long time,” says Dr. Michelle Hauser, a certified chef, nutrition educator, and clinical fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

A study released this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine tried to get to the core of this food-fueled debate, but it ultimately may do little to end the controversy. While the study finds that organics do have some safety advantages over conventional foods, nutritionally speaking they have little extra to offer.

The organic rationale

People who buy organic usually cite these reasons for their decision:

  • They’re safer. Fruits and vegetables labeled as organic are generally grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Livestock raised under organic practices aren’t fed antibiotics or growth hormones.
  • They’re kinder to the environment. Organic farming practices are designed to be more sustainable, emphasizing conservation and reducing pollutants.
  • They’re healthier. A few studies have suggested organic foods might be higher in nutrients than their traditional counterparts.

Of these three reasons, the health claims for organic foods have been the most tenuous. To investigate these claims, researchers at Stanford University evaluated nearly 250 studies comparing the nutrients in organic vs. traditional foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, poultry, meat, and eggs), and the health outcomes of eating these foods.

The researchers discovered very little difference in nutritional content, aside from slightly higher phosphorous levels in many organic foods, and a higher omega-3 fatty acid content in organic milk and chicken.

Organic produce did have the slight edge in food safety, with 30% lower pesticide residues than conventional foods. In general, pesticide levels in both organic and non-organic foods were within allowable safety limits. It’s still not clear, though, just what that means to consumers’ health. “Just because these foods aren’t going over what they call an ‘acceptable limit’ doesn’t mean they’re safe for everyone,” Dr. Hauser says. There haven’t been enough studies evaluating pesticide exposure to confirm the health effects, particularly in children and pregnant women, she adds.

Organic chicken and pork were also about a third less likely to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria than conventionally raised chicken and pork. However, the bacteria that cause food poisoning were equally present in both types of foods.

Should you buy organic?

That’s a decision only you can make based on your family’s needs and wants, and your budget. If you’re buying organic solely for better nutrition, based on this review there’s no evidence you’re gaining any real advantages. But if you’re concerned about pesticides and you can afford organics, it might be worth it to buy them.

For many people, cost is the deciding factor. Organic foods are more expensive—and often significantly more so—than non-organic. A visit to my local supermarket revealed a huge price difference between a half-gallon of non-organic 1% milk ($3.25) and organic milk ($4.59). The same was true for just about every food I compared, from chicken stock ($2.59 vs. $3.59) to nectarines ($1.99 per pound vs. $3.99).

The Annals study won’t lay the “organic is better” argument to rest. However, it should at least relieve some of the guilt many of us feel whenever we steer our shopping cart around the organic produce case.

Organic alternatives

You can still buy organic without overspending by being choosier about the types of organic products you buy. Every year, the Environmental Working Group releases its “Dirty Dozen”—a list of 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest contamination levels. These foods might be worth buying organic, while the “Clean 15″—which are lowest in pesticides—might not justify the extra cost.

Purchasing food raised in farms in your area is another alternative to going organic. It ensures you’re getting the freshest foods at the peak of season. If your neighborhood supermarket doesn’t carry local produce, talk to the manager.

You may also be able to reduce your pesticide exposure from conventional fruits and vegetables by washing them with a mixture of water and mild dishwashing detergent before eating, and by peeling off the outer skin.

By: Stephanie Watson, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Orginal Article: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/organic-food-no-more-nutritious-than-conventionally-grown-food-201209055264

More Nutritional Health...

To many of my friends, buying organic is more than a supermarket choice. It’s a badge of good parenting. They proclaim “I buy only organic” with the same flush of pride they assume when announcing their child has made the honor roll. As I guiltily follow their lead, I can’t help but wonder whether organic foods have as much of an impact on my family’s health as they do on my wallet.

Health experts and consumers have long debated whether organic foods are more nutritious—and safer—than conventional foods. “This is a controversy that’s been going on for a long time,” says Dr. Michelle Hauser, a certified chef, nutrition educator, and clinical fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

A study released this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine tried to get to the core of this food-fueled debate, but it ultimately may do little to end the controversy. While the study finds that organics do have some safety advantages over conventional foods, nutritionally speaking they have little extra to offer.

The organic rationale

People who buy organic usually cite these reasons for their decision:

  • They’re safer. Fruits and vegetables labeled as organic are generally grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Livestock raised under organic practices aren’t fed antibiotics or growth hormones.
  • They’re kinder to the environment. Organic farming practices are designed to be more sustainable, emphasizing conservation and reducing pollutants.
  • They’re healthier. A few studies have suggested organic foods might be higher in nutrients than their traditional counterparts.

Of these three reasons, the health claims for organic foods have been the most tenuous. To investigate these claims, researchers at Stanford University evaluated nearly 250 studies comparing the nutrients in organic vs. traditional foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, poultry, meat, and eggs), and the health outcomes of eating these foods.

The researchers discovered very little difference in nutritional content, aside from slightly higher phosphorous levels in many organic foods, and a higher omega-3 fatty acid content in organic milk and chicken.

Organic produce did have the slight edge in food safety, with 30% lower pesticide residues than conventional foods. In general, pesticide levels in both organic and non-organic foods were within allowable safety limits. It’s still not clear, though, just what that means to consumers’ health. “Just because these foods aren’t going over what they call an ‘acceptable limit’ doesn’t mean they’re safe for everyone,” Dr. Hauser says. There haven’t been enough studies evaluating pesticide exposure to confirm the health effects, particularly in children and pregnant women, she adds.

Organic chicken and pork were also about a third less likely to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria than conventionally raised chicken and pork. However, the bacteria that cause food poisoning were equally present in both types of foods.

Should you buy organic?

That’s a decision only you can make based on your family’s needs and wants, and your budget. If you’re buying organic solely for better nutrition, based on this review there’s no evidence you’re gaining any real advantages. But if you’re concerned about pesticides and you can afford organics, it might be worth it to buy them.

For many people, cost is the deciding factor. Organic foods are more expensive—and often significantly more so—than non-organic. A visit to my local supermarket revealed a huge price difference between a half-gallon of non-organic 1% milk ($3.25) and organic milk ($4.59). The same was true for just about every food I compared, from chicken stock ($2.59 vs. $3.59) to nectarines ($1.99 per pound vs. $3.99).

The Annals study won’t lay the “organic is better” argument to rest. However, it should at least relieve some of the guilt many of us feel whenever we steer our shopping cart around the organic produce case.

Organic alternatives

You can still buy organic without overspending by being choosier about the types of organic products you buy. Every year, the Environmental Working Group releases its “Dirty Dozen”—a list of 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest contamination levels. These foods might be worth buying organic, while the “Clean 15″—which are lowest in pesticides—might not justify the extra cost.

Purchasing food raised in farms in your area is another alternative to going organic. It ensures you’re getting the freshest foods at the peak of season. If your neighborhood supermarket doesn’t carry local produce, talk to the manager.

You may also be able to reduce your pesticide exposure from conventional fruits and vegetables by washing them with a mixture of water and mild dishwashing detergent before eating, and by peeling off the outer skin.

By: Stephanie Watson, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Orginal Article: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/organic-food-no-more-nutritious-than-conventionally-grown-food-201209055264

In today’s day and age it is extremely important that you focus on ways to maintain a safe and healthy lifestyle and diet. The first step in this process is simple: don’t get caught up in diet fads. As fads come and go, it is important to guarantee that you’re adding easy components to your diet that will keep you healthy and fit.

Always make sure to keep your diet packed with a variety of foods: fruits, vegetables, dairy products, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats (such as avocados, nuts, fatty fish, and flaxseed). All of these components together can help you stay balanced.

Try to buy food that is grown locally within your community, and to always stay within the means of your lifestyle and budget. The purpose of maintaining a healthy diet is to work within the limits of your current lifestyle. This is the best possible way to ensure the endurance and overall success for the rest of your life.

For more information please check out this link: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/basics/healthy-diets/hlv-20049477

If you want to boost your heart health, start by changing what’s on your plate. Making simple tweaks could have big benefits.
  • Believe the hype. You've heard a lot about eating heart-healthy, but does it really matter? Yes. One study of more than 42,000 healthy women found that those who ate a healthy diet -- with an emphasis on vegetables, lean meats, grains, and low-fat dairy -- were 31% less likely to die in the next 6 years than women with unhealthy diets.
  • Don't diet. A crash diet may work if you're trying to fit into a dress by next month. But if you're trying to improve your heart health, cycling through different fad diets won't help. Diets that demonize one type of food -- whether it's carbs or fat -- don't work either. Instead, take a sensible approach. Focus on lean meats, vegetables, and whole grains to get long-term benefits for your heart and your waistline.   
  • Don't gorge yourself. Obviously, overeating will cause you to gain weight. That's not all. Studies have found that more people have heart attacks after big meals.
  • Sea salt is still salt. Most Americans think sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to regular table salt. Wrong. It has the same amount of sodium. Any type of salt increases your blood pressure. You probably need to eat less salt; most people do. The guideline is no more than a teaspoon a day. If you already have high blood pressure, you should eat even less. And, it doesn’t just come from the salt shaker. Up to 75% of the salt you consume comes from processed foods such as soups and frozen meals. If your food comes in a can or a box, check the sodium content. 
  • Avoid caffeine. If you have atrial fibrillation, caffeine and other stimulants can trigger symptoms.
  • A little wine may be good, but a lot is not. Yes, studies show that drinking modest amounts of alcohol -- not just wine -- has heart benefits. But don't assume that if a glass is good, a jug must be better. Excess alcohol -- more than one drink a day for women or two for men -- increases your risk for heart problems. It drives up blood pressure and can trigger irregular heartbeats in people with atrial fibrillation.
  • Choose meats wisely. Red meat is usually high in saturated fat, which is bad for your heart. That doesn't mean you have to banish meat from your diet. Just be savvy. Choose the leanest cuts and always cut off the fat. Look for cuts such as sirloin, flank, rump roast, and tenderloin. Or, choose pork tenderloin, turkey or chicken breast, as an alternative.
  • Add more fish to your diet. You probably know that fish is good for you -- but not all fish is equal. Deep-fried cod doesn't count. Instead, grill or roast fish that is high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, trout, and sardines.
  • Eat whole grains. What's so special about whole grains? They help control your blood sugar, reducing your risk of diabetes by 20% to 30%. People who eat a lot of whole grains tend to weigh less, too. Go for whole-wheat breads, brown rice, wild rice, oatmeal, cornmeal, barley, and rye.
  • Eat less deli. Think that a smoked turkey sandwich is a healthier choice than a burger? Don't be so sure. Deli meats are often packed with salts, nitrates, and preservatives that can be bad for your heart. Instead, go for whole chicken breasts or in-house roasted turkey.
  • Eat less when eating out. Experts say we're eating too many calories. Restaurant portion sizes may have a lot to do with it. According to the CDC, the amount of food in one average restaurant meal today is like four average restaurant meals from the 1950s. Studies have also found that the bigger the portion served, the more we'll eat. The solution? Get in the habit of only eating half of what's on your plate. You can take the rest home.
  • Fill up on fiber. Fiber absorbs fat during digestion and reduces swelling in your arteries. It also helps with weight control because it makes you feel full faster -- and improves your digestive health. What's not to like? Fruit, vegetables, nuts, and beans are all good sources of fiber.
  • Note: If you have atrial fibrillation or another condition treated with an anticoagulant like Coumadin (warfarin), be on the alert for vegetables with vitamin K. This vitamin can reduce the drug's effectiveness. Veggies with vitamin K include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach, and turnip greens. If you eat these foods, keep the amount you eat about the same from day to day. If you want to add any of these foods to your diet, talk to your doctor first. You may be able to introduce small amounts slowly.

The good news is that these actions help everyone -- whether you're trying to prevent heart problems in the future, are already living with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or have a problem like atrial fibrillation, which often results from a diet-related heart problem.

The best news is: It's never too early -- or too late -- to improve your diet and heart health.

Article by: WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on August 02, 2012

Original Source: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/atrial-fibrillation/afib-12/heart-diet?page=2

 

(CNN) -- Cholesterol has long been seen as a villain for heart health, but our understanding of this beast is changing. New recommendations suggest that risk factors should determine who should receive drugs called statins to lower cholesterol levels, and who should simply make lifestyle changes to combat the problem.

Anyone with diabetes, heart disease, "bad" cholesterol over 190 or a 10-year risk of heart attack above 7.5% should be taking a statin, the new guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology say. Everyone else with high cholesterol: Take matters into your own hands.

There's the caveat, too, that not all cholesterol is alike. There's "good" cholesterol -- high-density lipoprotein, or HDL -- that you want to maintain relatively high, and "bad" cholesterol -- low-density lipoprotein, or LDL -- that needs to be kept at bay.

Here are some lifestyle modifications you can try, with an eye toward pushing the bad cholesterol down and the good toward healthy levels. Keep in mind that, according to the American Heart Association, these strategies may not be enough, especially if you have a family history of high cholesterol. Talk to your doctor about what treatment plan is best for you.

1. Lose weight

You may be able to reduce cholesterol levels significantly by losing 5% to 10% of your body weight, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Accomplishing that isn't necessarily easy, but you can begin with small steps. Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine in simple ways, such as walking up and down stairs. Replace a fast-food lunch with a homemade, healthy meal and munch on carrot sticks instead of potato chips.

Slowly introducing more exercise and healthier foods can have a big impact on your weight and, by extension, lower your cholesterol.

I'm now a 175-pound 'ninja'

Healthy weight is so important for overall heart health, in fact, that the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology released a new report calling for physicians to create customized weight loss plans and recommend counseling with a dietitian or certified weight loss professional for at least six months. Doctors should also offer bariatric surgery as a potential option for some patients with high body mass index, the report said.

11 simple weight loss tips

2. Be a picky eater 

What you eat can make a big difference in cholesterol.

Watch out for saturated fats, which lurk in red meat and dairy products. The Mayo Clinic recommends that less than 7% of daily calories come from saturated fat. Alternatives include leaner meat cuts, low-fat dairy products and monounsaturated fats, which you can get from olive, peanut and canola oils.

But avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil -- an ingredient that signals the presence of trans fat, a feature of fried foods and many commercial baked products.

Even products that say "trans fat-free" may not be truly clean of these fats; in the United States, the "trans fat-free" label can be stuck on any food with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Such small quantities can add up, so check ingredients for partially hydrogenated oil.

Health.com: 20 low-cholesterol meals

In general, you should consume no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily, and if you have heart disease or diabetes, that number goes down to 200. Organ meats such as liver, egg yolks and whole milk products are full of cholesterol; you can replace them with lean meat cuts, egg substitutes and skim milk.

Whole grains, fruits and vegetables can all help lower cholesterol. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help lower bad cholesterol, too; these include certain fish -- salmon, mackerel and herring -- as well as walnuts, almonds and ground flaxseed.

Oatmeal is another fighter of bad cholesterol as it contains soluble fiber, which can reduce cholesterol's absorption into the bloodstream. Kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes are also good sources of soluble fiber.

Higher 'good' cholesterol linked to lower cancer risk

3. Get active

Aim to exercise 30 minutes per day, with your doctor's approval, and you can be on your way to reducing overall cholesterol and raising good cholesterol. Your weight loss journey can begin with 10-minute intervals of physical activity multiple times a day.

Look for opportunities to add exercise. Can you squeeze in a walk during your lunch hour? Can you ride your bike to work? Can you get a sports game going, or take an early-morning run? When you watch TV, can you do some situps?

Finding an exercise partner can help, too. You might also consider starting or joining a group that works out together.

4. No more cigarettes

Everyone knows smoking is bad for your health, so it will come as no surprise that smoking is harmful to the heart. If you quit smoking, you may improve your good cholesterol level.

What's more, your blood pressure decreases within 20 minutes after quitting,according to the Mayo Clinic. Risk of heart attack lowers within 24 hours of quitting smoking, and within a year the risk of heart disease is just half that of someone who smokes. Heart disease risk drops to levels similar to people who have never smoked within 15 years of quitting.

5. Lower alcohol consumption

Excessive drinking of alcohol may lead to high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke. That's why it's recommended that women of all ages and men older than 65 only drink up to one alcoholic beverage per day; for men 65 and under, stick to up to two drinks.

Interestingly, high levels of good cholesterol have been linked to moderate use of alcohol, but this connection hasn't been demonstrated strongly enough to recommend alcohol to nondrinkers.

While these lifestyle changes can be useful, sometimes doctors still need to prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications. If your cholesterol is high, talk to your health care provider and come up with an easy-to-manage plan of attack.

By: Elizabeth Landau

Orginal Article: http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/12/health/lower-cholesterol/index.html?hpt=he_t4