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Benefits of Eating Organic During Pregnancy

written by: Lindsay Evans • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 10/5/2010

Pregnancy is a crucial time to eat healthy, nourishing foods. To maximize nutrients and minimize potentially harmful additives, eating organic food during pregnancy is a wise choice.

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    Organically grown foods are now easy to find year-round regardless of your location. Including organic foods in your diet during pregnancy can help you to avoid chemicals such as pesticides and preservatives that may be harmful to your body and your baby. Even if organic foods are not part of your usual diet, consider choosing organic produce, grains, meat, and dairy products while pregnant and breastfeeding.

    Since pesticides have been shown to cross the placenta during pregnancy, your baby is exposed to the trace chemicals that enter your body when eating conventionally grown foods. No studies have been able to demonstrate a clear link between trace chemicals and fetus development problems but, considering the baby's tiny size and susceptibility, betting on the safe side of this argument is prudent.

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    The Best Organic Produce

    You don't have to switch to a completely organic diet to reap the benefits of eating organic during pregnancy. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), you can avoid most pesticides on produce by avoiding the "dirty dozen", 12 fruits and vegetables that have consistently shown the highest levels of pesticide residue. Whenever possible choose organic versions of the following items: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce, and potatoes. As the EWG points out, these foods all have a thin skin and are usually eaten skin-on. A downloadable shopping list including the EWG's "dirty dozen" and the "clean 15" is available here.

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    Organic Meat and Dairy

    Organic meat and dairy products come from animals raised on organic feed and free of artificial growth hormones or antibiotics. Some conventional meat and dairy producers are now choosing to avoid the growth hormone rGBH and unnecessary antibiotics to meet consumer demands for healthy food. Look carefully at the packaging on dairy products and meat before you make your purchase. According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, American dairy milk is genetically-modified unless it’s labeled “NO rBGH”, and genetically-engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in milk increases cancer risks. In light of this information, European nations and Canada have banned rGBH from use in their food supply.

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    Organic Grains

    Conventional grains and flours show little pesticide contamination. However, the organic versions of many grain products are not much more expensive, particularly when you buy in bulk. The next time you're shopping, examine prices per pound on organic bulk rice, wheat flour, cornmeal, and other staples. Compare the prices per pound to the pre-packaged conventional counterparts to see if the increase cost is worth it to you.

    Keep in mind that supporting organic agriculture not only helps you avoid ingesting trace chemicals, but is an eco-friendly choice in many ways. By eating organic during pregnancy, you will be giving your baby the healthiest food available while supporting the health of the earth.