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Eating Raw Organic Produce Can Give Your Gut a Healthy Boost
By Gigen Mammoser
When choosing organic or conventional produce, there's no simple comparison, even if it's apples to apples.
However, in a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, researchers found that when comparing conventionally grown apples to their organic counterparts, organic apples harbored a significantly more diverse bacteria population.
Conventional apples and organic apples both contained about the same amount of total bacteria, about 100 million per apple. But, that's only if you eat the whole thing — stem, seeds and all.
The production method dictated the types and variety of bacterial colonies.
And that can mean good things for gut health.
Raw Organic Fruits and Vegetables May Be Better for Your Gut
"Vegetables and fruits, especially when consumed raw, represent the most important source for a diverse microbial community, which is mandatory for a healthy gut microbiome and our immune system," said Birgit Wassermann, a PhD student at the Graz University of Technology in Austria, and first author of the study.
Wassermann and her fellow researchers chose to look at apples because of their immense popularity throughout the world.
About 83 million apples were grown in 2018 and production continues to grow. Raw fruits and vegetables are an important source of gut bacteria — cooking tends to kill off all the bacteria.
In the comparison of organic and conventional apples, not only was bacteria more diverse in organic production, but it was also associated with the presence of so-called "good" bacteria Lactobacillus, a common probiotic.
Conversely, conventional apples were more likely to have potentially pathogenic bacteria like Escherichia and Shigella, which are known to cause food poisoning symptoms like diarrhea and cramps.
"The highly diverse microbiome of organically managed apples might limit or hamper the abundance of human pathogens, simply by outcompeting them," said Wassermann. "Probably, the microbial pool organic apple trees are exposed to is more diverse and more balanced and potentially supports the plant also in resistance during pathogen attack."
When it comes to gut health, however, Wassermann explained that it's not as simple as choosing organic over conventional apples.
Such a simple inference can't be drawn from her work alone. Instead, she emphasizes that diverse populations of bacteria — whether found in nature, apples, or the human gut — tend to be more beneficial no matter the environment where they are found.
And for most people, simply eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is a more important first step than discriminating between apples.
"Organic or conventional? Pretty irrelevant. The main thing is that people eat more fresh produce in general," said Wassermann.
With a focus on bacteria and by extension, gut health, the research adds yet another lens through which to view the ongoing debate for consumers on how they choose to buy produce.
And the organic versus conventional debate is far from settled.
But as questions about the benefits of either method have become more nuanced — it's not as simple as saying one is "better" than the other — consumers now have more awareness about what they want out of their produce.
The debate over organic and conventional fruits and vegetables has primarily focused on four aspects: nutrition, environmental impact, cost to consumers, and pesticides.
Depending on how important these factors are to you should inform your purchasing choice rather than strictly choosing one over the other.
What Do ‘Organic’ and ‘Conventional’ Even Mean?
Organic is a label conferred by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on foods that are grown in accordance with certain federal guidelines. These guidelines include things like what kinds of pesticides can be used, soil additives, and how animals are raised.
Conventional refers to modern, industrial agriculture which includes the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms.
Some studiesTrusted Source have found that organic produce likely isn't any more nutritious than conventional, but it will reduce exposure to pesticides and harmful bacteria.
However, that's not to say that organic produce is completely free of pesticides — it's not.
Your choice should also be impacted by other health factors as well, such as pregnancy or other chronic conditions.
Studies in recent years have looked at the prevalence of pesticide exposure among pregnant women via produce, as well as the potential for prenatal pesticideTrusted Source exposure to lead to intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder.
For most consumers, a practical place to start is identifying which fruits and vegetables are more prone to having exposure to high amounts or different varieties of pesticides.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an environmental and consumer advocacy group, annually publishes their list of the Dirty Dozen, which are the fruits and vegetables with the highest rates of pesticide contamination, and the Clean Fifteen, which are those with the lowest rates.
The worst offenders from 2019 include:
- strawberries (coming in at #1)
For the produce with the least amount of pesticide exposure, reach for:
- sweet corn
- frozen sweet peas
"I usually follow the EWG Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen designations," said Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, the manager of Wellness Nutrition Services at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.
"There are also certain things that I always recommend to purchase organic, like dairy productsTrusted Source and strawberries, as well as foods that I usually tell my clients to skip the cost and go with conventional, like produce with a significant outer layer such as pineapples or bananas," she said.
Organic foods may offer some health benefits, but they'll also cost more, and that's a major consideration for most families.
A 2015 study from Consumer Reports found that organic apples were anywhere from 20 to 60 percent more expensive than their conventional counterparts. Milk was similarly 20 to 64 percent and for things like organic strawberries and zucchinis, consumers could end up paying twice as much.
In short, choosing how and why to pick conventional or organic produce is a serious balancing act. But one thing is for certain: You should be eating more fruits and vegetables no matter how they are grown.
"The most important thing I tell my patients is this: Increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption is far more important than organic versus non-organic. If you choose not to eat fruits and vegetables because you can't afford organic, that's the wrong choice. Any fruits and vegetables are better than none," said Kirkpatrick.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jennifer Molidor, PhD
Climate change, habitat loss and pollution are overwhelming our planet. Thankfully, these enormous threats are being met by a bold new wave of environmental activism.
Trump Makes Strange Claim About Water Efficient Toilets: 'People Are Flushing Toilets 10 Times, 15 Times'
President Donald Trump mocked water-efficiency standards in new constructions last week. Trump said, "People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion." Trump asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a federal review of those standards since, he claimed with no evidence, that they are making bathrooms unusable and wasting water, as NBC News reported.
By Carey Gillam
Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company's Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.
A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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