Want to Prevent Cancer? Splurge on Organic Foods

Last Updated May 14, 2010 3:58 PM EDT

When I first became a mother, I decided I would only feed my daughter organic products. I didn't want to poison her little body with harmful pesticides and hormones. Over time, however, I started to scale back the number of items that had to be "green". The main reason was price. I was tired of paying up to 50% more at the grocery store when all of my other expenses were also increasing. Thanks to President Obama and his administration's newest report on cancer, I've decided to recommit myself to buying certain organic foods regardless of price.

In case you didn't see the headlines, the President's advisory panel issued a report saying that cancers caused by the environment are grossly underestimated. Children, in particular, are vulnerable to toxins since they are small and growing quickly.

To be fair, it's important to mention that this report is somewhat controversial. Some very well respected experts, including folks at the American Cancer Society, disagree with the findings. Still, I'm not willing to take any chances with my children's health if there are some simple things I can do to reduce their risk of developing this dreadful disease. According to the panel, one of the easiest things I can do to cut back on my family's exposure to environmental toxins is buy green foods.

Having said that, I'm not going to go crazy and purchase any product just because it claims to be green. Sadly, there are plenty of companies that slap an earth friendly label on its packaging just so it can charge consumers more money. The only way to guarantee you're truly getting what you're paying for is to look for a "100% Organic" or the official "USDA Organic" label. Any other claims could mean up to 30% of the ingredients aren't organic.

Since I'm still trying to work within a reasonable budget, I'm going prioritize where I spend my dollars. First I'm going to focus on items that come directly from animals, including dairy, eggs and meat. According to Consumer Reports, these are the foods that are most likely to have potentially harmful hormones and antibiotics.

Next, I'm going to purchase organic produce if the conventional counterparts retain high levels of pesticides. The Environmental Working Group maintains a list of such fruits and vegetables. For the most part, the organization recommends you spend more on items you typically wouldn't peel.

Finally, I'm not going to bother with organic packaged foods. Again, according to Consumer Reports, the more an item is processed, the less difference there is between the green and the traditional version. My one exception is Macaroni and Cheese. I have no scientific evidence to back up my decision to pay more for this toddler staple. But since there is quite a bit of "cheese" I decided this kind of fits into the dairy category.

Eating organic isn't the only way families can work toward preventing cancer. The President's panel had a handful of recommendations including drinking filtered tap water and microwaving your food on ceramic or glass plates instead of in plastic containers. Here are some additional suggestions based on the report from The Environmental Working Group.

Organic Zucchini image by I Love Butter, courtesy of CC 2.0.
  • Stacey Bradford

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