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Here's Why Eating Organic During Pregnancy Is Better

Katlyn Joy |28, September 2014


When you are expecting, everything you eat is important. You want to get enough of the right vitamins and minerals, enough protein and fiber. You know you should get a balance of veggies and fruits and lean meats, with calcium and the right fats. But, what about where you get your food? Does it really matter?

It does matter a great deal, according to many experts. For instance, last December, the European Food Safety Authority or EFSA, raised a frightening alarm. EFSA researchers found that a particular pesticide, imidacloprid, reduced activity in nerve signals in newborn rats as well as leading to overall brain shrinkage. Another pesticide, acetamiprid, is associated with reduced weight and reaction times.

In April 2011, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, published a few studies looking at the results of pesticides on unborn children. The bottom line of all three studies was that women with the highest exposures to pesticides had babies who later showed lowered IQs at school age.

Dr. Philip Landrigan, a professor of pediatrics and director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai, stated, "I think these are shocking findings."

"Babies exposed to the highest levels had the most severe effects. It means these children are going to have problems as they go through life."

The studies were backed by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency. Schools involved in the research were Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Columbia University, the School of Public Health at University of California, Berkeley.

The studies followed pregnant women and then their children over a decade. They began by collecting blood and urine from the pregnant women to measure pesticide levels. The researchers then continued to collect urine samples to test for pesticide exposure and the overall health of the children.

In the Berkeley study, children with the highest levels of pesticide exposure scored 7 points lower in IQ testing than children with the lowest pesticide exposure levels.

Researchers recommended pregnant women limit their exposure to pesticides by purchasing organically grown foods when possible.

But consumers and pregnant women are getting mixed messages. For instance, on the Food and Drug Administration website, a FAQ section has the following question and answer:

"Are foods made with organic ingredients safer than those made with ingredients from other sources?"

"No. An ingredient's source does not determine its safety. For example, many plants, whether or not they are organically grown, contain substances that may be toxic."

The FDA regulates what foods may be labeled as organic, and what standards they must meet, but they have not stated that organic foods are better or safer for consumers. However, many environmental and health groups offer more grim warnings about what is wrong with pesticides in our foods.

What Should You Eat?

While organic foods may be more costly, the price may be well worth it if even a fraction of the groups sounding alarms about pesticides are correct. And of all people who should shop and eat with caution, pregnant women and parents of young children, top the list. Unborn children are the most vulnerable, of course.

What foods are most likely to have high pesticide levels?

Spinach, strawberries, peaches, apples, and celery top the high-level pesticide list, while avocados, onions, pineapple, and frozen corn typically have the lowest levels.

If you purchase non-organic commercial foods, you should take proper care when preparing the foods. Wash them thoroughly and peeling can do a lot to prevent exposure to potential toxins.

According to an article on CNN, a consumer group, the Environmental Working Group, lists a dirty dozen fruits and vegetables to avoid. They say by doing so you can reduce your pesticide exposure in foods by 80 percent by substituting organic.

Their list of the dirty dozen:

  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Celery
  • Apples
  • Nectarines
  • Domestic blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Spinach, kale and collard greens
  • Potatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Imported grapes

Here are the cleanest foods according to the EWG:

  • Avocados
  • Onions
  • Sweet onions
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Watermelon
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cabbage
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Sweet peas
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet corn
  • Mangos
  • Pineapples

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