Previously, we discussed how to avoid pesticides in your food.  I mentioned that while it didn’t matter for some foods, for others buying organic can really lower the amount of insecticide you intake.

People often have another question about organic food though:  Is it more nutritious?  Once again, new science is coming out all the time, changing our understanding of this question!  Recently, researchers have found that organic produce generally has more phenolic compounds.  These include anthocyanins, the red/blue compounds which give blueberries their “superfood” quality, and carotenoids, yellow/orange pigments that can be used as antioxidants and for eye health.  These compounds all have anti-aging and anti-cancer properties.

Organic foods also have more minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper.  Iron is essential for carrying oxygen throughout your body; that’s why anemia can cause you to be tired.  Magnesium is important to help your nervous system work properly.  Zinc and copper are “trace elements” that you only need a little of but are still essential to your well-being.

The bottom line is if you have access (physically and financially) to organic produce, it can be a more nutritious choice.  BUT, what I don’t want you to get from this information is a sense that if you can’t buy organic, you may as well just not bother.  Fruits and veggies are a very important part of our diet!  In fact, nutritionists say that the most important thing is to just eat plenty of plant-based foods.  Most of us don’t eat enough of them (hey, I had salad with my frozen pizza tonight!), so we’d be making a big leap forward, nutritionally speaking, if we increased our intake, even if it’s through conventional food.

And fruits and vegetables don’t always have to be fresh.  A mother wrote in to me worried about feeding her children canned vegetables, asking, “But they have to better than fast food, right? —I hope…

Yes momma, canned veggies are way better for your kids than fast food!  For example, canned beans are a fantastic form of quick, vegetarian protein that can be used in all types of meals.  And tomato nutrition is actually boosted by canning, because a compound called lycopene is released (anybody else remember ketchup bottles bragging that they’ll prevent prostate cancer years ago?)

Over the years, though, I’ve found that I like a lot of frozen vegetables even better.  Many canned vegetables have lowered vitamin content because the vitamins have leached out into the water they’re packed in.  On top of that, canned veggies also have much higher sodium content (unless you buy low/no sodium).  Frozen vegetables don’t have these problems.  And I personally like their taste and texture better too!

Maybe you’ve read all this and thought, “That’s all nice and fine, but my kid pretty much just eats chicken nuggets no matter what I do.”  If that’s you, I know it’s stressful!  We’ll make sure to talk about ways to encourage your kids to eat more veggies as we go.

Let me know what else you need to know about food choices and SHARE with your interested friends. Happy parenting!