Is Organic All That?

Recently, I read an article that talked about how studies found that “high organic food scores were inversely associated with the overall risk of cancer.” This made me curious because I had been reading in various respectable publications that organic might not be worth it. So I did a little digging and it turns out that the answer is “it depends.” And what it depends on is which part of the elephant you are trying to identify, trunk, tail or tusks. So here are three ways of looking at organic foods and their benefits or non-benefits.


Eating fully organic foods means that you will ingest fewer health damaging pesticides. There is no doubt about that, as the earlier mentioned studies found. However, not all foods need to be organic to be healthy and that is where all the confusion starts. Let’s focus on healthfulness first.

The Environmental Working Group published the 2021 Dirty Dozen and there is no surprise about what is on the list. Try to choose organic versions of these foods.

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Kale/Collard/Mustard Greens
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Bell Peppers and Hot Peppers
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes

Then there are the Clean Fifteen. These are foods that either don’t have much pesticide residue or that are peeled before eating. You can get these conventional or organic when measured by healthfulness:

  • Avocados
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Sweet Peas (frozen)
  • Eggplant
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Kiwi
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
  • Honeydew
  • Cantaloup

Bottom line, it is still better to eat even conventional versions of these fruits and vegetables than to subsist on processed foods. I’m working on getting more fruits and vegetables of all kinds in my diet.

Impact: High

Impact to the environment

This is debatable and gets mixed into the healthfulness category but is really a completely different subject. In the US organic fields tend to have lower yields and thus less food per acre gets produced. Growers might also use manure or large growers use other questionable fertilizers so it is critical that you clean organic produce before consuming. Farming methods need to evolve to ensure important quantities of food are produced per acre. One way that is gaining traction is to create integrated environments that grow food mixed with other things such as raising chickens. Also crop rotations alternating with plantings of legumes and then plowing them in. Interestingly, organic farming in places such as India seems to have higher yields.

Impact: Depends

Economic impact

Yes purchasing organic foods is more expensive. Not because it has to be but because it can be. No matter what we do, our environment will continue to degrade and climate change will keep damaging our crops and forests. So choosing to eat smarter and make better choices if we can afford them is critical. If only as small percentage of well off individuals chose to buy organic and local we could make a difference.

Impact: Depends

What a Year

It’s been a year since I last posted and what a year it has been. Of course we’ve all dealt with the Covid excitement. Knock on wood that no one in my immediate family caught it; do I want to say that without getting jinxed? Several friends have had it over the past year but all are recovered, though some are still struggling with long hauler syndrome. I’ve tried to be careful and do my part to mask up, purchase groceries online, and stay home as much as possible.

I finally got my first vaccination a week ago and will get my second on May 14th. I’m very excited that soon I will be able to see people again. My niece and her partner had a baby boy in January who I still haven’t met yet; though we do zoom every week and get frequent photos and videos.

When I last posted I was having odd medical issues. Turns out the blood clots were caused by ovarian cancer. I was scheduled to have surgery in July and at the last minute – literally as I was getting ready to drive to the hospital for check-in – the doctor called it off because I had a reaction to the blood thinner. So they put me on a different blood thinner and I spent the summer waiting until that problem cleared. At which point I started on chemo. Yes, all my hair fell out including eye brows and lashes. I got a port installed in my chest, which I still have even though I’m cured now. And I got very familiar with the chemo floor. Half-way through I was well enough for surgery and I got many of my internal organs removed. That was followed by three more rounds of chemo and I was officially done by end of January.

Enough whining. Now, I’m well and walking every day to get back into shape. I plan to do some hiking this summer. And I’m unemployed but taking entrepreneurship classes to start my own business. Also I’m finally writing again and working on getting my book finished. I’ll be writing here in my blog at least once a week and perhaps I’ll even publish in Medium.

Dispatches from the Pandemic – Day 43

The shelter at home order has been extended and this new way of living will continue for at least another month. I’ve become regular at writing. But my writing lacks soul. I’m not sharing any really insightful or entertaining updates. Editing removes spontaneity. But pushing to publish removes thought.

On the other hand I feel better. And I’m excited to start new things. So. It’s time to continue journaling privately and wrap up the pandemic blog and switch back to longer and better posts. So long for now. Back soon with more.

Dispatches from the Pandemic – Day 42

So even during normal times I sink into what I can only describe as anxious sensitivity. It’s not really depression or darkness or the blues. Though I’ve used those words before. It’s more like a heightened sensitivity. It feels chemical, as if something is acting inside me that makes me more reactive, more sensitive to things that normally wouldn’t bother me. I sink into a pit of malaise. My physical environment deteriorates. Putting a towel back on the rack seems like pointless effort. I become upset over little things and every issue becomes an insurmountable hurdle. I care about everything and everything is overwhelming.

As a child, when I got this way I would get butterflies in my stomach. I wouldn’t be able to eat. I would complain of stomach aches. I would be afraid of activities and people.  As I got older I learned to cope. Sometimes I would hole up with a blanket and a book. When I discovered alcohol I found that it would cut me off from the feeling. Not really solve it, the feeling was still there, but I stopped caring and it didn’t matter. Then eventually I found that if I made myself take one little step out and do something fun with people or outdoors the feeling really did go away. But it had to be something that didn’t require thinking. Hiking was great. Or going to dinner. Or a concert. But light not serious. Comedy clubs were best. Or a massage. Or sitting in the park and looking at water.

So now I have to find new ways of coping…perhaps go back to crafts and puzzles. But I’m realizing now as part of the pandemic “aha’s” that the only thing that makes me better is getting out and moving. Whether it’s going to get coffee and meeting a friend or hiking to a mountain lake, I need to get out to reset. Alcohol doesn’t work.

Dispatches from the Pandemic – Days 37 to 41

So what a week. I haven’t been posting all week. My job got reorganized and I have an exciting new role doing work that I love – starting a whole new business. So I’ve had a lot of early morning meetings. And separately from that my leg was still hurting but then it moved into my foot and my leg stopped hurting. It’s some kind of weird moving pain/inflammation. One ibuprofen seems to calm it down so I can function. But walking or exercise is out of the question. Which is really depressing. And I had a birthday and my wonderful friends and family all reached out which made me very happy. But sad too because I wasn’t able to go out and celebrate. When this is all done I’m going to host one hell of a giant party.

Dispatches from the Pandemic – Day 36

I had a great day today. First we went to visit my mom – it was Sunday so I wasn’t working. Lots of hand washing and maintaining distance. I even did some tuning work her laptop while wearing a mask. She made me my favorite birthday cake! It was a strange birthday because normally birthdays and holidays are an reason for the whole family to gather. So this time we did it on Zoom.

Then after we got home I took a cooking class on Zoom. It was so much fun. A guy in India teaching us how to make Vegetable Korma. I am delighted because I’ve made Indian food before and it never tasted like in the restaurants. But he taught us technique and so now magically it tasted “right”. I’m ready to make more.

Dispatches from the Pandemic – Day 35

I can’t believe that this is my 35th post of this online Journal. It just seems surreal that we are sheltering at home hiding from an invisible enemy. 

Humans over millennia have evolved to fight against various scourges and enemies. The raiders are coming, quick, hide the children. A flood wipes out the crop. Bombs drop from the air. All of these are terrible things and we are tuned to responding to them. We rail against the villains from across the sea or the other valley. We curse God or Gods that didn’t protect us from the catastrophe. When times are good we root for our local teams and “fight” the other school. And when things happen that we can’t explain we invent an enemy – burn the witches, cast out the Jews, throw the Christians to the lions. 

So now here we are with an invisible enemy that might strike at any time without a warning. We look out our window and everything looks normal. The sun is shining. Birds are singing. Days are getting longer and warmer. There isn’t poison dropping on us from the sky. And yet we are trapped at home knowing in our brains that there is a risk. But in our hearts and subconscious it just doesn’t make sense. There are no lions prowling the parking lot. No distant airplanes ready to swoop down and get us. We can walk out and meet our friends. Hug them. Hang out. And then maybe two to 14 days later we might all get sick and die. Or not. But we’ve been home. And they’ve been home. So some little voice inside says – wait, we should be ok then right? 

And slowly we take more and more risks. And the curve starts to creep up again. Because we just don’t know. And it’s that not knowing that is the real danger. Every day scientists are discovering new thing about this virus. That possibly many more people had it in January than we thought. That many more people have no symptoms but are still carriers. That they are finding that young people with mild or no symptoms are getting sudden massive strokes. It’s scary and until we know, we need take precautions. But that dichotomy is messing with our brains – everything looks normal but it isn’t. The hidden monster that could be lurking anywhere, in any of us. And that is why people are feeling so “off” – I don’t even know what word to use. Unsettled? Uncertainty creates anxiety. And with anxiety comes the need to find scapegoats.

Scapegoats are one of the biggest problems that will come out of this. You see it already with all the conspiracy theories. And the blame throwing. It’s human nature and we all are trying to do better and not succumb to it. But it’s hard for many people because every day on the news they hear our leadership finding new people to vilify. It won’t take much and just like throwing a match onto a dry field of grass we will end up with a new crisis – this time of violence. 

We all need to keep thinking and being aware when our thoughts go that way. And stop finding scapegoats. We are all in this together.

Dispatches from the Pandemic – Day 34

Part of staying home is discovering new experiences. Today I had a Telehealth session with my physical therapist. I’ve been having a pain in my leg so of course I was imagining all kinds of mysterious diseases. But it turns out to be a soleus muscle strain. She walked me through some exercises and recommended special socks (which of course are not available to ship for another two weeks -sigh). Oh and tape so now I’ll look like total jock! 

Dispatches from the Pandemic – Day 33

My writing isn’t all that exciting but it is important that I stick to this Journal. The everyday experience of living under a stay at home order will be interesting to look at in the future and reminisce at how naive we once were. I keep picturing that dystopian world a year from now. Will we even have computers? Will the internet still exist? Part of me says of course, what a silly thing to imagine. But another part says – summer heatwaves, famine, crop failures, locusts, supply chain disruptions, hurricanes, all of those will pile on top of an already fragile world and cause much more harm. No one can predict what can happen. Am I providing value? Am I providing words of wisdom? No. But I am trying to get myself and you to think about resiliency and being prepared for whatever might come.

Dispatches from the Pandemic – Day 32

I need to get out more to exercise but my leg keeps hurting and I don’t know what is doing it. Walking makes it worse. I think it might be sitting on a hard dining chair day after day. It’s not terrible but it is incredibly distracting and that makes it annoying. I tried to stand up and walk around during meetings today but it didn’t help. Finally I grabbed my stuff and went to sit on the daybed. And that made the pain go away. So it probably is the hard surfaced chair. I’ll try a few days of couching it and see how it holds.

Last night I made a Vegan Pate and it was superb. I ate it with some Carr’s water crackers for breakfast. And then an afternoon snack too. I took a break from cooking for the past couple of weeks and just made frozen and simple things. But I’m ready to make more experiments again soon. I’ll keep you posted.