Is It Safe To Juice Non-Organic Produce?
In “Juicing 101: How to Get Started Without Going Broke,” I addressed a dilemma that most budget-conscious, green-juice swigging citizens have: what’s more important, that I get my green juice every day, or that I go broke to make sure it’s organic? While organics are obviously preferred, I argued that a budget-conscious person doesn't have to feel bad about juicing conventional produce. While several readers agreed, a handful strongly opposed.
Many researchers have attempted to analyze the differences between organic produce and conventionally grown (non-organic) fruits and veggies. Some studies claim there are minor differences in the nutritional content of both types; others give evidence that organic crops “contain significantly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus” than conventionally grown crops. The results are endless, contradictory, and even bizarre — one study even shows that organic produce consumers are less likely to wear seat belts while driving.
We know that it's beneficial and highly preferred to juice organic, raw veggies. But what about those of us who can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars each year to juice organically?
What’s better: to juice conventional produce or not juice at all? Here’s what I found out.
1. Oxidation is the enemy of pesticides and enzymes.
We know that a cut apple exposed to air turns brown. This is called oxidation, and it destroys the enzymes in juice. In terms of juicing with conventional produce, a 2007 study demonstrated that most pesticides are degraded when they go through the oxidation process. On one hand, that’s great! Bye bye, pesticides. On the other, the very process that kills the pesticides is the one that destroys the life-giving enzymes and nutrients in your juice.
It's important to note that some juicers enable more oxidation than others. Unfortunately, juicers that maintain more enzymes and prevent oxidation are very expensive. The choice seems to become “expensive juicer” versus “expensive produce.” Even if you do use organic produce, a juicer that promotes oxidation (namely centrifugal juicers) will leech enzymes and minerals from the produce. However, there is one caveat — if you consume the juice immediately after pressing, you can take advantage of nutrients before oxidative damage occurs.
2. Organic foods are treated with pesticides, too.
A 2012 study from Stanford found that while “organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional fruits and vegetables, organic foods are not necessarily 100 percent free of pesticides.” From the outset, this risk difference demonstrates that those able to afford organic produce are only slightly more protected from pesticides. In the interest of presenting a balanced view, this risk difference has been criticized, as it refers to risk of pesticide contamination, not health risk.
In terms of your organic produce not being entirely “pesticide-free,” research demonstrates that half of the “natural” chemicals studied are just as harmful as those found in conventional crops. Take a look at the list of pesticides approved for use in organic farming.
3. It's difficult to ignore (and to avoid) the Dirty Dozen list.
Some have proposed that a solution for the budget-savvy foodie is to buy organic only for produce on the “Dirty Dozen” list, which is the Environmental Working Group's assessment of the foods that are likely to contain the most pesticide. The issue is that the majority of produce that we use to juice — including apples, celery, cucumbers, and spinach — are actually on the Dirty Dozen list.
This research is fairly conflicting, and for me, it feels like I have to choose between being budget conscious and health conscious. Still, there has been minimal research conducted comparing the pesticide levels, enzyme count, and safety of drinking fresh-pressed juices, and most studies refer to the juice you find on the supermarket shelf, which we all know is high in sugar and low in nutrients. With that in mind, I choose to still juice produce even if it isn't organic. I will always choose organic over conventional, but the budget-conscious foodie should not forgo their green juice just because it is not organic.
What do you think? Is it OK to juice with conventional produce … or better to not juice at all?