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Why Organic?

                                                                 Questions and Answers about

Organic Vegetables and Organic Foods


Organic vegetables offer great benefits for the human body and the environment. This Q&A is to help you learn more about organic vegetables and organic farming. Organic foods are known to contain 50% more nutrients, minerals and vitamins than produce that has been intensively farmed.

1.   What is the difference between organic and conventional produce?

Fewer chemicals are used in small-scale organic farming than conventionally grown alternatives. The chemicals used in conventional food also contribute heavily to the accumulation of fatty tissue.

Organic food regulations prohibit hydrogenated fat, phosphoric acid, preservatives, coloring, hormones, antibiotics, and 7,000 other artificial flavorings that are permitted in conventional food.

2.   Is organic food more expensive than conventional food?

Organic food is typically 20% more expensive than conventional food. Conventional food, however, can contain up to 26% more water than organic food so you could actually be buying less food if you buy conventional over organic products.

3.   Can organic food help you lose weight?

While organic butter can contribute to weight gain and organic candy can still ruin your teeth, there are certain kinds of organic foods that contain nutrients also found in vegetable broth that act as appetite suppressants. Organic food does not contain taste enhancing additives like MSG, yeast extract or hydrolyzed vegetable protein.

4.   Does organic farming increases the risk of food poisoning?

No. Those that do not know much about organic farming may spread false rumors about the use of manure as a fertilizer in organic farming by saying that the produce can cause contamination with bacteria such as E. coli, then lead to food poisoning. Contrary to this notion, it has been shown that by composting the manure for a precise time at an exact temperature, the amount of bacteria present in manure is greatly reduced. As long as these conditions are adhered to, the risk of food poisoning is kept to a minimum.

Furthermore, our farms are as professional as organic production gets. Organic farms operate under the NOP program, a USDA classification. To ensure the safe and top quality raw material all growers, who have various raw vegetable planting contracts with Season Harvest Foods, must participate in our farm management programs and implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) & National Organic Program (NOP) standards. Season Harvest Foods has two farm development models: Company-owned and Certified Grower, and two regular in-house training programs: The Good Agricultural Practices Training Program and Integrated Crop & Pest Management Training Program. Our farm management program has two inter-related parts: Grower Certification Program and Grower Training Program. These programs are supplemented by frequent seminars taught by outside consultants and experts.

The soil does not contain any residual chemical composition and neither pesticides nor are chemical reagents used in farming. Lastly there is no direct or indirect pollution within 30 kilometers of the farm so the chance of food poisoning is actually dramatically less.

5.  What are organic vegetables?

Organic vegetables are vegetables grown in an organic agricultural production system according to international standards. They are certified by an independent organic food certification organization and are granted an organic food permit.

The National Organic Program administers the Organic Seal to products that meet the requirements. The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances that identifies synthetic substances that may be used, as well as the nonsynthetic substances that cannot be used in organic production and handling operations." The Secretary of Agriculture promulgated regulations establishing the NOP in 2000. It restricts the use of the term "organic" to certified organic producers. Growers selling under $5,000 a year are the exception, yet they must still comply and submit to a records audit if requested but do not have to formally apply. This reinforces the fact that large-scale growers like us at Season Harvest need to be legitimate in order to run our production the way we do.

Official seal of the U.S. National Organic Program

In the United States, the National Organic Program (NOP) is the federal regulatory framework governing organic food. It is also the name of the organization in the Department of Agriculture (USDA) responsible for administering and enforcing the regulatory framework. The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 required that the USDA develop national standards for organic products, and the final rule establishing the NOP was first published in the Federal Register in 2000[1] and is codified in the Code of Federal Regulations at 7 C.F.R. 205.

6. What are major entities pertaining to organic vegetable certification?

The intricacies of organic certification, coupled with the dynamics of international trade, make for a complex system. The Organic Certification Program is designed to certify every step of the organic chain: the land on which the product is grown, the producers growing the product, the post-harvest facilities preparing the product, and the processing and handling facilities transporting the product. Certification programs verify that organic integrity is maintained. Certification involves all aspects of the food production and distribution chain. NOP (National Organic Program) is widely applied in the organic industry.

There are currently 56 U.S. domestic certification agencies accredited by the USDA, including Organic Crop Improvement Association, California Certified Organic Farmers, Oregon Tilth, Quality Assurance International (QAI), and Indian Certified Organic. There are also 41 accredited foreign agencies that offer organic certification services, such as ECOCERT, JAS, and so on.

7. What criteria must be met to meet the standards for Organic vegetables?

Raw materials are from organic agricultural production systems or from wild natural products.

Certified foods must follow organic vegetable production, collection, processing, packaging, storage, and transportation standards. Chemical complex pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, and food additives are forbidden, as well as the use of genetic engineering technology and genetically modified products or derivatives.

A strict quality management system, production process controlling system, and tracing system must be established for the production and processing of organic vegetables. This usually requires a conversion period, and it usually takes 2-3 years until the product can meet all standards and be certified as organic.

Organic vegetables mush be certified by a legal organic food certification organization.

8. How are organic foods classified in the United States?

In the United States, the agricultural products are classified into five different levels (stars):

★Conventional Level
The U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Administration (FDA) strictly regulates the amounts of pesticides, agricultural chemicals (fertilizers, herbicides, growth hormones, pesticides). For general agricultural farming, if amounts are within the published standards, the rating is one star.

★ ★100% All Natural Level

These are vegetables, juices, and other products which are minimally processed with no additives, except, in some cases, sugar may be added. This receives a two-star rating.

★★★Three-Year Transitional Stage

Producers should apply with their State Agricultural Department if they intend to start organic cultivation. The state government will later arrange to test pesticides and the chemical composition of the soil. Application of prohibited materials must stop, and none may be applied for three years. Crops harvested in this fallow period without the use of any pesticides or fertilizers receive a rating of three stars.

★★★★Ecological Level

If after three years of lying fallow the soil does not contain any residual chemical composition, and pesticides and/or chemical reagents are not used in the farming, yet there appears to be indirect pollution within 30 kilometers of the farm (such as dust from a factory, or an adjacent farm spraying pesticides) -- this type of product is rated with four stars.


★ ★ ★ ★ ★Organic Level

If after three years of lying fallow there is no pollution within 30 kilometers, the grower does not use pesticides or any agricultural chemicals at all, and transportation and handling facilities meet current organic standards, these agricultural products can then receive a rating of five stars.

9. Basic requirements for an organic farming field:

There are a few basic requirements for an organic farming field.

Integrity of the field
The field parcel should be a complete, continuous block. A plot that is used for conventional production is not allowed to exist on the same block, but organic conversion plots are allowed. There must be a significant feature or mark, such as a river, hill, artificial isolation belt etc., between an organic vegetable production base and a conventional block for it to be considered valid.

Must have a conversion period
It usually takes about 2 years to convert from a conventional production system to organic production; thereafter, the vegetables planted and harvested on the base are deemed an organic product. It will take perennial vegetables 3 years until the crop can be harvested as organic. The conversion period starts upon application with the certifying organization. The producers must operate completely according to organic production requirements during the conversion period. The produce grown on the field after one year’s organic conversion can be sold as an organic conversion crop.

Setting up buffer zones
If some blocks of the organic vegetable production field may be polluted by a neighboring conventional block, a buffer zone or physical obstruction must be set up. The width of an isolation belt varies with each certification organization, e.g. OFDC of China requires 8 meters, while Germany's BCS requires 10 meters.

10. How to select organic vegetables?

Taste - The organic vegetables come with a crisp, refreshing taste. This taste will be kept even after cooking. This cannot be duplicated by processed vegetables.

Buy from a trusted supermarket or organic food store. Sources for vegetables vary because supplies are limited. If you have little knowledge about selecting organic vegetables, you should buy from a reputable organic food store. Supermarkets can be another good option. They may purchase organic vegetables in bulk quantities, which lowers the price compared to organic food stores.

Pay attention to the organic certification mark on the packaging.

Look to see if the package is clearly marked with relevant information about the producer and the verifying organization -- such as name, address, telephone etc. You can double-check on the Internet.

11. How to choose organic seeds.

Vegetable seeds and seedlings should be organic. When organic vegetable seeds and seedlings passing organic certification either cannot be found or have not yet been in production long enough to gain certification (e.g, In the initial period of organic planting), conventional seeds that are not treated with forbidden substances can be used. Seed varieties chosen should be suitable to local soil and climate characteristics and resistant to pests and diseases. Consider the source properly, respecting the diversity of crop genetics. Organic rules prohibit the use of any genetically modified seeds.

12. What measures are used to prevent and control pests and disease in organic vegetables?

Agricultural measures:

1) Selection of pest and disease-resistant vegetables ultimately leads to prevention of these things. Some vegetables have special odors that naturally repel pests. These include leeks, garlic, onions, lettuce, celery, carrots, etc. Soy beans are also a common choice.

2) Reasonable rotation. Continuous production of the same crop will lead to an increase in pests and disease. Crop rotation can be implemented during organic vegetable production; this will keep diseases and pest from gaining a foothold from year to year.

3) Scientific management. In an area with a lot of rain or a high level of ground water, implementing deep groove and high bed plots help irrigation and drainage. Maintaining appropriate soil and air moisture helps prevent fungal infestation. Disease spore growth depends primarily on moisture conditions. Ventilation in the planting facility, controlling moisture within the facility, and establishing a wet temperature environment not conductive to pests and diseases helps to prevent and reduce disease. In addition, it is key to eliminate intermediate host and infectious sources of pest and disease. This means cleaning up fallen buds, flowers, fruit, stubble and weeds.

Biology, Physical Prevention and Treatment:

We use a variety of innovative bio-dynamic and earth-friendly techniques to control pests while promoting a balanced and harmonious ecosystem. Environmental changes can also affect pests when they are phototoxic or chemotoxic. Among these, the most common are: using pheromone sex-attractants, black lights to kill moth pests, and yellow plates to kill aphids. Protecting beneficial insects is also important.

Using approved minerals and plant agents certified for organic vegetables:

A sulfur, lime, calcium polysulfide Bordeaux mixture, etc. can be used to prevent and treat pests because these materials are naturally occurring. The plants that can be used for their protective properties include pyrethrum, houttuynia, garlic, mint, and neem. Using chinaberry oil can, for example, control leaf miners. Tansy is used to control aphids and mites.

13. What Organic Measures are usually taken to control weeds?

  • Adopting cultivation techniques that can restrict the growth and development of weeds, such as crop rotation, planting green manure, fallowing and so on;
  • Covering open spaces (where weeds can grow) with straw and black plastic film;
  • Mechanical and electrical weeding;
  • Prohibiting the use of genetically engineered products and chemical herbicide, and replacing these with manual weeding;

When using organic fertilizer that contains weed seeds, the organic fertilizer should be fully mature in order to kill any viable weed seeds.

14.  What kinds of fertilizer can be used for organic vegetables?

  • Organic fertilizers, including animal droppings and debris, plant retting fertilizer, green manure, plant ash, oil cake, etc.
  • Minerals, including potassium slag, rock phosphate, calcium chloride etc.
  • Organic fertilizers certified by an organic certification organization.
  • Microbial fertilizers.

15.  What factors need attention when using Organic vegetable fertilizers?

  • Quantity to be used:
    When using fertilizer on the field, what is planted should match the degree of soil fertility. The ratio of animal fertilizer to plant fertilizer is best set at 1:1. Generally organic fertilizer is applied at 3000-4000 kgs per mu with a top dressing of organic special fertilizer at 100kgs per mu.
  • Abundant field fertilizer: This is to achieved by taking 80% of the total amount of fertilizer as a base fertilizer and mixing it into the furrow for better root absorption.
  • Top dressing: The top dressing can be used for vegetables that use dense seed planting and also for those with a shallow root system. When the vegetables have grown 3-4 leaves spray small, dry fertilizer particles in the field and follow with irrigation. For vegetables with wide row spacing and a large inter-plant spacing, the open-hole, top-dressing method can be used.

16.        What requires attention when planting organic vegetables?

  • Choose suitable planting sites
    Care should be taken in selecting a planting site. Ideally it should be one away from urban, industrial, and mining areas and there should be no air, water or soil  pollution. The area should have rich soil, the stickiness of the sand should be moderate, it should have good irrigation and drainage, a convenient form of transportation should be taken into account, and an abundant source of organic fertilizer should be available.
  • Choose suitable crops and varieties
    Use crops with fewer pests and diseases and ones that grow quickly such as spinach, carrots, radishes, garlic sprouts, soybeans, burdock, or taro. Also in  selecting varieties keep disease resistance, high quality and strong growth in mind.
  • Apply organic fertilizer reasonably
    Apply organic fertilizer that is fully mature and without any pollutants. It can include human and animal feces, plant stems and leaves, legume green manure,  plant ash, soybean cake, castor cake and so on. After full fermentation, use as base fertilizer or top dressing.
  • Enhance pest and disease control, strengthen field management, promote vegetable growth, and improve disease resistance. Use high bed planting, inter-cultivation weeding, timely draining after summer rains, and cool with well water and drip irrigation to reduce humidity. Control can be improved by lowering planting density, increasing ventilation and air flow, and paying attention to crop rotation. Other approved methods include using trichogramma to control pests, orange plates to combat whitefly, and black lights against all armyworms, mole crickets and beetles. Hanging silver gray film against aphids is also effective along with fly net isolation.  Cutworms are repelled by a mixture of sweet and sour liquids, all liquids non-toxic and the ratio of young seedlings lost reduces  from 1% to 3% this way.

17.  What are the advantages of organic vegetables?

  • Vitamin and mineral content of organic vegetables is much higher than in conventional vegetables.
  • Moisture content of organic vegetables is much lower than that of conventional vegetables, but sweeter, so organic vegetables often taste better.
  • Organically grown foods are natural and without any chemicals.

18.  What are the basic requirements for Organic Vegetable Production?

       Any forbidden substance, such as pesticides, fertilizers, etc., cannot have been       used in the production base for three years. The production base has an        established, long-term plan including field fertilization, plant protection, crop rotation and livestock poultry breeding. The production base does not have any     environmental problems, such as soil erosion, wind erosion etc. It takes at least 12    months to get the certification for both newly cultivated and abandoned land, and    in the process of production and circulation there must be sound quality control and a tracking system with intact production and sales records.

19.  What is an organic life style?

  • Living in harmony with nature and eating organic food without any pollution
  • Driving un-polluted water
  • Keeping a positive attitude an avoiding mental stress
  • Getting proper exercise as it is essential to health, in addition to accessing sources of active power like sun and fresh air
  • Limiting alcohol and quitting smoking
  • Maintaining good rest and sleep habits
  • Avoiding toxicity and the side effects from drugs

20.  Is Organic food absolutely pollution-free?

       Organic food is not completely pollution-free. Whether or not the food is polluted is a relative concept. There is no food entirely without contaminants. Because chemical substances are not used in the production of organic food, the contamination in organic food is much lower than in ordinary foods. Too much emphasis on the ideal of ‘pollution-free’ leads people into focusing on the analysis and testing of the finished product. This ignores the purpose of acknowledging the whole quality control process of organic food.

21.  Are Organic foods healthier than non-organic foods?

       <Sunday Times> claims that an organic research project which lasted 4 years and cost 12 million pounds should end all dispute about organic foods, and may subvert the wording of government claims that eating organic food is just a way of life. The research found the antioxidant content of organic vegetables and fruits is 40% higher than conventionally grown products. Scientists also claim that antioxidants can lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. In addition to this,  organic vegetables and fruits also contain higher amounts of beneficial minerals such as iron and zinc.

       Professor Carlo Leifert is a partner with the European Union Investment Project. He says organic products help improve the ability to absorb nutrients. The researchers plant fruit and vegetables in a farm located in Northumberland County of England which covers an area of 725 acres. They bred cows in both organic and non-organic fields and also have cows in other places in Europe. They found the antioxidant content of organic milk is 50%-80% higher than in conventional milk. And the nutritional content of organic wheat, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, onions and lettuce is 20%-40% higher when compared with non-organic products.

22. What kind of relationship do organic vegetables have with human health?

In a word, organic vegetables are healthier.

The journal of which is sponsored by the American Chemical Society (ACS) published up-to-date research results: the falconoid level of vegetables which are grown in an organic field doubled. Falconoid is a kind of natural organic compound which exists widely in plants. It is also an active ingredient in many Chinese herbal medicines. It has benefits such as lowering blood pressure, lowering blood fat, reducing thrombosis, reducing cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, enhancing immunity, reducing brittleness of blood vessels, improving both cardiovascular and cerebrovascular blood circulation and so on. The up-to-date scientific research suggests that falconoid may be effective in helping to prevent cancer, heart disease and other age-related diseases.


After more than ten years of research, Allison Mitchell along with Allison's colleagues compared the falconoid level of tomatoes which were grown in two different experimental fields. The result was the falconoid level of tomatoes grown in an experimental organic field was significantly higher, but the falconoid level of samples from a traditional field did not show any significant change. Moreover, the data indicated that the level of falconoid was directly proportional to the accumulation of organic matter in the soil, but was inversely proportional to the level of fertilizer that had been used.


Scientists believe that falconoid is a newly discovered natural nutrient which is necessary for the human body. It has broad effects on human health because it has a small molecular weight, and can be easily absorbed, though falconoid cannot be made by the human body itself. It must be absorbed from food and the food sources mainly include grains, vegetables, fruits, fruit juices, tea and so on. All this makes falconoid-rich organic tomatoes a popular choice for consumption.

In the U.S., the number of tomatoes consumed per capita ranks second only to potatoes. This is the first report about how the nutrition of the tomato varies in the organic soil system.

Organic vegetables are known as "pure" food. From field to production and processing to the market, all of the steps have very strict requirements. Synthetic materials such as pesticides, fertilizer, hormones, genetic modifications etc., cannot be used. A strict production, quality control and management system must be established and followed during the production and processing of organic vegetables. There is more emphasis on environmental safety during the whole production, processing and consumption process. This highlights continuous coordinated development for humans, nature, and society.

Benefits of Using Frozen Produc

In an age of local and cooked food, many health cooks are confused about how to utilize frozen fruits and vegetables, overlooking these as options since the days when only sliced carrots and peas were available. Today, there is a significantly increased variety with many organic and even local frozen winter CSA options, not to mention a health crisis demanding we eat more fruit and vegetables. This makes frozen fruits and vegetables an attractive option.


  • Comparable to fresh and potentially higher in nutrition: Depending on storage conditions of fresh (including how long and at what temp you stored it at home), frozen produce can retain more vitamins than fresh produce.
  • Phytonutrients are largely more susceptible to heat than to cold: Even the 1-3 minute blanching that is used in processing frozen vegetables causes only minimal loss. In fact, blanching reduces total cooking times of things like soup further protecting nutrients.
  • Real vs. ideal: In the end, the only nutritional consideration is what gets you to eat more produce. The ideal side of the spectrum is eating that piece of broccoli raw within an hour of picking, but we live in real world. And if organic frozen broccoli allows you to eat it 3 times per week versus the 1 time per month (or year) you can ensure it’s been picked within 1 hour – buy the frozen. It’s assumed that you will still eat fresh foods, too, for variety.


  • Frozen organic vegetables are less expensive than "fresh" ones that are out-of-season: Frozen berries in January are less expensive than imported fresh ones and will taste better.
  • Even less expensive in bulk: Wholesale stores like Costco are increasing their offering of organic frozen produce.
  • Less waste: Increased flexibility of when to use them; decreased spoilage and waste.
  • Conducive to bulk cooking: Total money spent on food decreases with bulk cooking. The produce being frozen reduces prep time, encouraging you to do more bulk cooking.
  • Utilize the opportunity cost of household tasks better: Have you ever calculated the interesting theory of opportunity cost for household tasks? Ask yourself things like, "What price would I pay for an extra hour of free time with my kids?," or, "If I saved an hour in the kitchen, what bigger project could I put that hour towards?". One possible answer could be your own business that serves as another great source of income. These concepts start to become more possible the more seriously we take bulk cooking.


  • Significantly reduce prep time: No stalks to peel, onions to dice, pods to remove, or washing needed. Most can go straight from bag to pot). Be sure to allow for the quickly reduced cooking temperature in things like soup. Some can be chopped even when frozen, but larger pieces should be thawed first for safety.
  • Increased flexibility: Your schedule isn’t dependent on what fresh produce you have to use before it spoils.
  • Decreases cooking time: As mentioned, blanching frozen vegetables helps reduce total needed cooking time.

Which Applications are Better -- Frozen vs. Fresh

  • Frozen:
    • Cooked dishes like soups (freezing alters the cell walls and can affect texture); Purees (cold or hot)
    • Smoothies (a handful of frozen fruits and veggies like broccoli is wonderful in smoothies and eliminates the need for ice cubes)
    • Last-minute additions to stir-frying (no excuses for not having a mixture of veggies with that pasta).
  • Fresh:
    • Salads
    • Fruit salads
    • Picco de Galo
    • Salsas
    • Pesto
    When in-season and time permits, pre-washed greens, sprouts, and fruit are good selections.

At the Store Tip

Walk through the frozen aisle and compare it to your shopping list. Be aware of what frozen substitutions are available (this will vary widely by store) before attempting to buy everything fresh. Ask yourself what options are there for lightning fast stir-fry mixes you can have in your freezer for a time when you will need it. Keep watch of the items on sale. Make sure to avoid those with heavy sauces.

Eat Flash Frozen

Flash frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen shortly after picking or harvest to ensure that the best possible nutrient value is maintained.  Out of season, flash frozen produce offers an alternative to imported (”fresh”) fruits and vegetables whose chemical (pesticide) load may be unknown or elevated and whose nutrient value may have decreased drastically during transport. 

Eat Organic or Nearly Organic

It is easy to think that there is no downside to eating organic.  However, organic farming cannot provide 100% of the food supply necessary to feed our increasing population in the United States (since it consumes more space than other farming practices). Nor is it without its detrimental effects on farmland; eating organic may remain a privilege for the higher socio-economic classes (leaving the poor disenfranchised).  The lack of proven health benefit for organic foods is typical in the complexity of the causal chain (proving cause and effect) of environmental health. However, it is likely that the key benefit of organic foods may emerge as increased nutrient value rather than significantly reduced negative health effects (due to pesticide residues).  It is also very likely that one step below organic (certification-in-process organic farms or integrated pest management practices) may be just as beneficial to health.  Eat organic selectively and when possible, choose near-organic farming processes as an adequate substitute.

I have to admit that I used to be a skeptic about organic food. Recently, I had a change of heart. First I read Maria Rodale's book Organic Manifesto: How Organic Food Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe, which gave me a new appreciation for organic food. (In addition to being the author of the book, Maria is chairman and CEO of Rodale Inc., which publishes Prevention.) Then I visited her family's organic farm in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was an eye-opening educational and culinary experience. Because the fertilizers and pesticides they use are all natural (Maria showed me beetles protecting the plants), I could just pick a mint or lettuce leaf and eat it without washing it first. (When you buy it in a store, though, wash it, because you can't know how it's been handled.) Breakfast was their chickens' freshly laid eggs. In fact, all the food I ate that morning came from the family farm. I was ready to move in. Here's some of what we talked about.

Dr. Arthur Agatston: Many people agree in principle that organic food is better but say they can't afford it. How do you respond?

Maria Rodale: The true cost of not buying organic is never factored into charts that compare, for example, the price of organic versus nonorganic apples. That price needs to include the toll that all the toxins used in conventional farming exact on your health and the health of your children. Moreover, the commercial agricultural techniques that are used for nonorganics are very damaging to the environment, so we end up paying in other ways.

AA: Such as?

MR: Applying chemical fertilizers to soil is a very short-term solution that creates long-term devastation to the soil. So, you basically are accelerating the desertification of our planet--whereas organic agricultural practices actually improve the soil over time. Organic production also requires 20 percent less fossil fuel than chemical production. That's another bonus.

AA: Why should people care about the health of the soil?

MR: Healthy, organic soil is alive with billions of living creatures per square inch. All those living creatures absorb water that can help prevent the type of catastrophic flooding we've been seeing lately. They absorb so much water, in fact, that if you look at healthy soil under a microscope, it looks like a sponge. But the massive application of agricultural chemicals in conventional farming kills off that microbial life. It's soil genocide, really. Just as too many antibiotics kill all the good and bad bacteria in your body, too many chemicals leave soil a dead, empty filter. It can't feed the plants. It can't protect the plants. It can't absorb water. Those are huge costs.

AA: What about the more immediate costs at the cash register?

MR: There are ways to eat organic without blowing your budget. Farmers' markets are a great place to find locally grown, often more reasonably priced organic food, and they're fun to visit. If you haven't looked recently, you may be surprised by the variety of organic produce at local supermarkets, and even the well-known pricier chains often have sales. Many communities have thriving food co-ops that buy organic produce at significant discounts and also help sustain local farms.

AA: Growing your own would be even cheaper, wouldn't it?

MR: Yes, you can grow organic produce right in your own backyard if you have one. Many communities, especially in underserved urban areas, have thriving community garden projects.

AA: What about the "I don't have time to cook" excuse?

MR: It's true that when you commit to cooking your meals at home, it's not the same as pulling out two bucks and buying a fast-food hamburger. But if you buy fresh or frozen organic produce, you won't be buying processed or junk food, which will save you money. In reality, once you start shopping organic, you eliminate a lot of unnecessary products.

Adapted from The South Beach Wake-Up Call: Why America Is Still Getting Fatter and Sicker. . .Plus, 7 Simple Strategies for Reversing Our Toxic Lifestyle, by Arthur Agatston, MD (Rodale)

Many people wonder whether or not frozen vegetables are less nutritious than fresh vegetables. It seems that they would be, simply because many people assume that foods which have been processed are bound to be less nutritious than otherwise. In fact, the truth appears to be that frozen vegetables are at least as nutritious as fresh vegetables — and in some situations may actually be more nutritious.

Part of the confusion no doubt arises from the fact that vegetables lose much of their nutritional value when other preparation techniques are used. Proponents of a raw food diet will discourse at length about the health benefits of eating vegetables that haven’t been heated past a certain temperature. Canned foods are undoubtedly less nutritious than fresh vegetables, because they are cooked for a very long time, and then packaged with a great deal of salt. Frozen vegetables, however, are not heated up, and so do not undergo the same denaturing of proteins or loss of vitamins in waste water.

The term “fresh vegetables” needs to be looked at a bit closer to determine whether frozen vegetables might actually even be more nutritious. Truly fresh vegetables, of course, are vegetables that you pick out of your own garden, or are perhaps purchased at a farmer’s market the day they’ve been harvested. These vegetables are ideally picked at the peak of their freshness, and if you prepare them that evening they will be chock full of minerals and vitamins.

When most people talk about fresh vegetables, they mean vegetables purchased at their nearby supermarket, an aisle or two away from the frozen vegetables. These vegetables aren’t nearly as fresh as those from your own garden. In many cases they’ve spent days or weeks in transit, and then some time in the produce aisle. Over that time, vitamins and minerals have leeched out, and by the time you buy them and prepare them, they are far from their peak ripeness.

Frozen vegetables have been picked at the peak of their ripeness, and immediately flash frozen. As a result, all of the minerals and vitamins are locked in, ready for your benefit. This means that in some cases, frozen vegetables might be more nutritious than vegetables purchased from the produce aisle which have been sitting for weeks. Frozen vegetables may also have the outer cellulose layer already broken as a result of the freezing, making it easier for your body to digest the vegetables.

There are some things that may make frozen vegetables less nutritious than fresh vegetables. Avoid frozen vegetables that have sugar or salt added — good frozen vegetables should just have the vegetables listed in the ingredients. Also take care that you don’t leech out the good nutrients by boiling the frozen vegetables for a long time — the less the vegetables are boiled, in general, the more vital ingredients they will retain.

So, are frozen vegetables less nutritious than fresh? The answer seems to be a resounding no. Of course, fresh vegetables usually have much richer flavors, and most people find the texture preferable. But if these things don’t bother you, and you prefer the convenience of frozen vegetables, nutritional issues shouldn't be a concern.