Many consumers are confused about the nutritional quality of organics versus conventionally grown foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently weighed in on the importance of organic food for children, setting off a firestorm.
The AAP released a report in October stating that: “Current evidence does not support any meaningful nutritional benefits or deficits from eating organic compared with conventionally grown foods, and there are no well-powered human studies that directly demonstrate health benefits or disease protection as a result of consuming an organic diet.”
It appears that the confusion in the minds of many consumers about the nutritional benefits of organics is linked to the use, or lack thereof, of pesticides. Conventional food producers argue that pesticide residue is reduced substantially by routine and safe food handling practices such as washing, peeling and cooking, and that there is no significant difference in the nutritional quality of organic and conventionally grown foods.
The lower pesticide levels in organic foods do not impact the foods’ nutritional levels. In contrast, higher pesticide levels in conventional foods do not impact nutritional levels either. Even so, the amount of man-made pesticide residues found in conventional foods is still well below the level that the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed unsafe. The real issue is whether these small doses, multiplied over years and decades, might eventually add up to an increased health risk.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, a heart surgeon and television host, wrote about the subject in a recent Time magazine article entitled “What to Eat Now, The Anti-Food-Snob Diet.” Dr. Oz stated that “nutritionally speaking, there is little difference between the farmer’s market bounty and the humble brick (of frozen food) from the freezer case. It’s true for many other supermarket foods, too.”
Advances in the frozen-food industry — from packaging to techniques like high-pressure flash-freezing and freezing peeled, blanched and steamed foods — has improved the quality of frozen produce and products, and improved the retention of their vitamin content. Some food manufacturers freeze and package the harvested produce immediately and on-site, thereby increasing both quality and preservation of nutrients.
In a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in 2007, University of California-Davis researchers reviewed the variable nutrient content of fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruits. Frozen spinach goes through a flash-freezing process that preserves it within hours after it leaves the soil, so it retains more of its vitamin C content than fresh spinach. Both forms of spinach (fresh and frozen) retain their high vitamin A content as well.
The nutritional superiority of organic versus conventionally produced meats is another misconception. Researchers have found that there is not much difference in nutrient quality between grass-feed or cage-free animals and animals that are raised in feedlots or cages.
The quality and nutrient levels in modern canned vegetables and fruits and conventionally raised animals have improved over time and are a good choice for consumers. Best of all, conventional foods are far lower in price than organic products, making them affordable for most shoppers. Good food is available for consumers of all economic levels. Shop smart and try both organic and conventional canned and frozen products. This recipe for Easy Spinach Quiche is a delicious way to use frozen spinach.
Easy Spinach Quiche
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
6 large eggs
1/2 (8-ounce) package shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup small curd cottage cheese
1/2 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies
1/4 cup melted butter
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk flour, baking powder, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper and nutmeg together in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Beat eggs in a mixing bowl until smooth. Stir flour mixture into the eggs until no lumps remain. Stir in Colby-Monterey Jack cheese, cottage cheese, spinach, green chiles and melted butter until evenly blended.
3. Spray a 9-inch pie pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spread the quiche mixture evenly into pan. Bake quiche in preheated oven for 15 minutes at 400 F, then reduce temperature to 350 F. Continue baking until the quiche is lightly browned and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Makes one (9-inch) quiche. ••
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her Web site is www.divapro.com