Here’s a life lesson: sometimes the things you’re most reluctant to try can surprise you — maybe because they’re not as painful as you thought or not as expensive or not as uncomfortable — and before you know it, that thing you never wanted to try has become something you enjoy.
Much to my own surprise that has been the case with Mini-Resolution #19: Say Goodbye to the Dirty Dozen.
In Week 3 of his 8 Weeks to Optimal Health plan, Dr. Andrew Weil begins to tout the benefits of organics. This was where my eye-rolling began.
Sure, I’m as eco-friendly as the next British Columbian. I have some tree-hugger tendencies. And I like the idea of not ingesting mass quantities of chemicals whose harms have yet to be determined. Yet, I’ve always kinda viewed those people hanging out in the supermarket’s organic section as suckers.
Not very enlightened, I know, and I apologize for that.
It’s just hard to buy into the idea of paying as much as three times more for the organic version of a product which, on the surface, looks pretty much identical to the conventional variety.
Sure, studies suggest the benefits of going organic are plentiful, including:
- less ecological damage to the earth (less potentially harmful pesticides released into the soil and water, the support of better natural biodiversity — that is, a range of plant, animal and insect life instead of eliminating everything but the crop being produced — and lower energy use and waste production)
- better nutritional value (higher levels of nutritionally desirable compounds, such as vitamins and antioxidants, and lower levels of nutritionally undesirable compounds such as heavy metals and pesticide residues)
Which is all well and good, but also somewhat inconsequential if buying organic is simply out of your budget.
The selling point for me taking on this challenge was Dr. Weil’s recognition of cost as a potential barrier to buying more organic produce. With that in mind, he doesn’t ask us to go 100% organic right away. Rather, he eases us in by suggesting, at the very least, we avoid the dreaded Dirty Dozen — a list of the 12 most contaminated foods compiled by the Environmental Working Group. The list changes as the monitored levels of contamination in the produce change, but the Dirty Dozen currently includes:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Grapes (Imported)
I buy four of these on a regular basis (apples, bell peppers, celery and carrots) so while the process wasn’t completely life-altering it did require some thought at the grocery store. To shell out the extra coin to buy organic versions or avoid these types of produce altogether? That is the question.
For apples and carrots, we simply made the switch to organic. A two-pound bag of organic carrots set me back $3.49. The same quantity of my regular old non-organic bulk carrots cost $1.98. That’s a whopping 76 per cent increase in cost to make the switch to organic.
In my mind, I justify that price by considering how long the carrots last us. We’re still working on a bag we bought 20 days ago.
For apples, a three-pound bag of organic Granny Smiths cost $4.47. Compare that to about $3.42 for three pounds of the non-organic variety and you’re looking at about a 30 per cent increase in cost to go organic.
We consume a lot of apples. If the price increase was as steep as the carrots we’d probably have to look at some kind of apple substitute. A thirty per cent increase, however, is manageable. It works out to about an extra dollar a week.
Since taking on this Mini-Resolution, we haven’t had to buy celery and opted out of buying bell peppers when we saw how much the organic varieties cost. In fact, we changed our whole plan for what we would cook for supper based on that fact.
Which is, I think, part of the point.
The key word is flexibility. If you’re going to adopt a new behaviour, you need to make sure that it fits into your life. If it doesn’t, you won’t follow through. That’s just natural.
So while we are committed to no longer buying conventional varieties of the Dirty Dozen, we aren’t necessarily committed to buying their organic counterparts. If need be, we can be flexible and change our meal ideas to fit with both our health concerns and our budget.
I’d be remiss if I closed this entry without mentioning differences in taste between organic produce and their non-organic counterparts. In some cases, there aren’t any. The carrots still tasted like any other store-bought carrot. Being organic doesn’t make them any more flavourful but they work just as well in recipes.
(If you want an awesome-tasting carrot, by the way, you’ve got to go to your local farmer’s market; the fresher they are the better they taste).
Going organic with the apples, however, seemed to make a difference. The organic varieties were smaller and seemed more flavourful. I don’t usually enjoy Granny Smith apples. I find them more tart than tasty. But the organic ones? Yum! Sweet, juicy, with just a touch of tartness.
What can I say?
Dr. Weil, you’ve made me a believer.
Days to go: 314
Mini-Resolutions to go: 239