Eat Strategically to Save the Planet

dr alan greeneby Dr. Alan Greene
More than four million acres of American farmland have already been dedicated to organic farming, helping our health and our future. That’s four million acres farmed without the use of toxic pesticides or other toxic chemicals; four million acres nurtured with both ancient and modern techniques that are in balance with nature, helping to reduce the production of greenhouse gasses and reduce the threat of global warming.
Growing our foods organically has proven to be one of the hottest, fastest-growing movements of the twenty-first century. When Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990, there were fewer than one million acres of organic farmland. In just twelve years, by 2002, that figure had doubled. Then the pace of progress picked up. Within just three more years, the amount of organic farmland doubled again. In 2005, we saw, for the first time, certified organic farmland in all fifty states. There has been exceptional progress, but we need to do more.
If organic cropland continues to double—and it can!—we can expect to see a revitalization and renewal of our streams and our soil as we build a smart, sustainable future. I can remember drinking stream water in our national parks when I was a child. I can remember catching and eating fish from our local streams. Today, all of the streams surveyed by the U.S. Geological Survey and more than 90 percent of fish tested in farming regions are polluted with pesticides.
By eating strategically we can reclaim our streams, our food, and our future. Here’s my take on the top five organic food choices a pregnant woman can make for the sake of her baby and the health of the planet:
Beef. If you eat beef during pregnancy, I strongly suggest choosing organic beef. The meat from grass-fed, organically raised cattle tends to be leaner overall and has about five times the omega-3s of its conventional counterpart. In contrast, a 2007 study published in the Oxford journal Human Reproduction linked mothers who ate beef from conventionally raised cattle during pregnancy with lower sperm counts years later in their adult sons. The men in the study whose mothers ate conventional beef most frequently had sperm counts that averaged 24 percent lower than their counterparts, and they were three times more likely to be infertile. The authors of the study believe the added hormones were the culprit.
Milk. If you drink milk, opt for organic. Milk from organic, pasturefed cows is produced without antibiotics, artificial hormones, and pesticides, and can also provide extra omega-3s and beta-carotene. I find that when women start making organic choices for themselves and for their families, they often intuitively start at the top of the food chain with organic milk. They understand that the foods they eat and the medicines they take will often get into their breast milk, so they easily make the connection that the medicines and foods given to dairy cows may affect their family’s health. They prefer avoiding the routine use of antibiotics, artificial hormones, pesticides, and genetically modified feed. And I agree. Recent USDA monitoring data found that 27 percent of the conventional milk samples contained synthetic pyrethroid pesticides. By contrast, lower levels of the pesticide showed up in just 5 percent of the organic samples. There will be much more about milk in Chapter Four: “The Kitchen.”
Potatoes. When making the switch to organic vegetables, be sure to put potatoes on your shopping list. As the number one consumed vegetable in the United States, conventionally farmed white potatoes also have one of the highest levels of pesticide contamination. So by switching to organic, you can make a big difference in two important ways: by lowering your own exposure to chemical pesticides and by using your consumer clout to create a bigger market for the organic version of this popular veggie. And be sure to eat the peels! That way you will get all the available nutrients, including high levels of potassium and Vitamin C.
Apples. Among fruits, I would start with apples. Based on head-to-head, controlled studies, organic apples tend to have higher nutrient levels and taste better than the conventional variety. And sadly, conventionally grown apples are one of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits tested by the USDA. They are a major source of exposure to organophosphate pesticide, a chemical linked to decreased intelligence and increased attention problems in kids and hormone problems in adults.
Soy. Products made from organic whole soy beans can be a wonderfully nutritious food. Unfortunately only a tiny fraction of the nation’s soy crop is currently organic. And to make matters worse, 87 percent of the conventionally grown soy I the United States is genetically modified-and most of the domestic crop. What’s more, in recent years, soy has been the domestic crop most contaminated with organophosphate pesticides. Yes it’s hard to avoid soy- it’s found in virtually any processed food you eat these days, from soup to nuts. The only way out of this situation is to make sure that the processed foods you purchase are organic. That way you’ll know that any soy you’re eating wasn’t genetically altered, and wasn’t grown with pesticides. So be sure to check the label before you buy.

raising baby greenAbout the author: Dr. Alan Greene, author of Raising Baby Green, is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of California San Francisco. In addition to being the founder of, he is the Chief Medical Officer of A.D.A.M. He is the Chair of The Organic Center and on the Advisory Board of Healthy Child Healthy World. Dr. Greene appears frequently on TV, radio, websites, and in print including appearances on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, The Wall Street Journal, Parents Magazine, and US Weekly.  Dr. Greene is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University's Packard Children's Hospital.