Eat Like This and End Obesity

Foods grown without chemical pesticides can reverse trends in obesity and diabetes, according to a new report.

June 4, 2009

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Most of us are exposed to pesticides several times a day. Even if you live far away from chemically treated farm fields, the toxins still find you—because they often hitch a ride on your food. And new research shows that over half of the most commonly used pesticides are known endocrine disruptors. That means our food can be contaminated with 180 chemicals that mess with hormone function, and ultimately, our health. The good news: Organic food is more available than ever and, according to research highlighted in a new report from The Organic Center, there are six ways in which organic food and farming can slow or reverse the epidemic of obesity and diabetes that’s putting so many people at risk.

THE DETAILS: Each day, the average American ingests 10 to 13 different pesticides or pesticide metabolites through food, beverages, and drinking water. According to USDA sampling, 75 percent of fruit and 60 percent of vegetables tested contained at least one type of pesticide residue. Because they avoid these chemicals and contain greater nutrient content, organic foods can affect the obesity epidemic in these ways, the report states:


In infants and children:
• Promote healthy development of the endocrine system, which regulates blood sugar and calorie intake.
• Establish taste-based preferences in children for nutrient-dense, flavorful foods.
• Eliminate exposure to 180 pesticides that can disrupt the endocrine system.

In adults:
• Help reinforce a sense of fullness and reduce the intake of unneeded calories.
• Lessen damage done by free radicals, lowering risk of inflammation-related diseases like diabetes.
• Protect the brain from neurological damage that occurs with aging, preserving memory and cognitive skills.

WHAT IT MEANS: As the report itself states, eating organic food doesn’t mean you don’t have to exercise or consume fewer calories if you want to lose weight. But choosing organic can be a step towards forging a new relationship with food, which doctors and nutritionists say is a critical move for anyone struggling with obesity or diabetes.

Here are some suggestions for taking your first organic steps:

• Pregnant? Eat organic. A child’s tendency to become obese or develop diabetes could start with changes that occur in the womb, so it’s important to keep hormone-disrupting chemicals out of Mommy’s system. Find local farms and farmer’s markets at Local Harvest. Buying directly from an organic farmer will also cut your costs.

• Don’t be the first in line. If you’re keeping a close eye on your food budget—and who isn’t these days—find some organic bargains by timing your purchase of produce so you buy towards the end of the harvest. The first week those succulent local tomatoes find their way to store shelves and farm stands, it’s very tempting to load up. But if you wait a week or two, the prices will drop drastically.

• Spend less on the stuff that doesn’t help your body. If you stop buying processed foods (which aren’t good for you, are more expensive, and produce a lot of waste with the packaging), and put your savings into buying organic produce and cheaper sources of protein, such as beans and lentils, you can spend the same amount and cook meals seeping with nutrients.

• Try SNAP for CSAs. Many organic farmers are starting to accept SNAP, aka food stamps, at farmer’s markets and for community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares. CSAs usually charge an upfront fee, and then shareholders receive a box of in-season produce each week. Some CSA programs are also offering payment plans to help people in low income brackets afford healthy food. You can also find a friend or two to split the cost if your CSA doesn’t offer alternate payment options. (Check Local Harvest for a CSA in your area.)