Weaning and Organic Foods

While you breastfeed and then wean your baby, there’s good reason to select organic and certified organic foods. Why does this matter? What’s the difference between natural, organic and certified organic?

Most of the pesticide residue we absorb comes from the produce we eat. Pesticides are known to affect the lungs, skin, nervous system and to disrupt our hormone balance. Foods with less pesticide residue will provide cleaner nutrition. For little bodies that are still growing, this wholesome nutrition is essential to a robust immune system and overall well being.

Simply eating organic produce does make a difference. In a study done by the Environmental Working Group, pesticide residue was measured in the urine of children who ate conventional produce. After eating only organic produce for five days, the amount of pesticide residue in their urine was greatly reduced, to almost nothing. That’s motivating!

What is the difference in these labels? Natural is a general term for anything that comes from Nature. The food may or may not have been sprayed with pesticides, treated with growth hormones or genetically modified. Natural signifies very little in terms of chemical free food. Natural food can be ‘conventional’ because it is grown by conventional methods (using pesticides, herbicides, chemicals). Organic is a little better though it’s not a guarantee. Foods grown nearby may have been sprayed with chemicals or perhaps the soil still retains some residues.

Your best bet is certified organic produce. Growers who meet the standards set by the National Organic Program are allowed to label their products as “USDA Certified Organic.” That is a specific and important distinction.

The USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) defines certified organic as this: “Every ingredient within a certified organic product must be grown, processed, produced and stored without the use of pesticides, fertilizers and synthetic chemicals. Certified organic products must be completely free from genetically modified ingredients, petrochemicals, sulphates and parabens. The production process is strictly audited by an independent third party to ensure the products conform to the most stringent of international standards.” *   (the italics are mine).

If you can’t easily get certified organic food, choose produce you can peel. That way, you can remove the outer layer where residue sticks. As always, it’s necessary to wash fruit and veggies with soap then rinse, whether or not it’s organic.

Conventional apples, peaches, pears, strawberries, and green beans usually have the highest levels of pesticides. On the other hand, bananas, oranges, pineapples, most melons, and broccoli are generally lower in pesticides. (Notice those are fruits you peel.) Download a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides (as a pdf or an app) from the Environmental Working Group. You’ll learn which foods are higher, or lower, in pesticides.

Fewer pesticide exposure is good for your baby’s body and your whole family. Fewer chemicals in the soil and water supports the planet’s health. Certified organic produce also tastes delicious, especially when it’s local and freshly picked.  Taste testing different fruits would be a fun project for you and your family to enjoy this Summer.

•USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) April 1