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.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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