You may be familiar with the arguments that encourage organic eating for the sake of the environment or even for your health, but have you ever wondered whether eating organic could make a difference to your weight loss?

You can check the USDA's explanation if you're looking for a technical definition of "organic" food, but the word basically refers to food produced in such a way as to minimize that food's exposure to pesticides and its negative environmental impact.

This form of food production has been found to reduce that food's exposure to pesticides by about 97 percent. This could be a big deal when it comes to common toxins like cadmium, a toxic metal that can damage our intestinal tract, liver, heart, and kidneys, and organophosphates, which can cause symptoms as transient as headache and nausea or as severe as nervous system damage, seizures, and coma.

Both have also been associated with an increased risk of cancer, and studies have found that levels of most pesticides were four times higher in non-organic food and that levels of cadmium were twice as high. Atrazine, another common pesticide, has been linked with mitochondrial dysfunction and insulin resistance in rats.

Organic produce has also been found to be as much as forty percent higher than conventional produce in antioxidants, which tend to have an anti-inflammatory effect. Since inflammatory processes can be part of the cycle that leads to weight gain, this could also be a pretty big deal. Antioxidants and other beneficial polyphenols can also reduce food’s impact on blood sugar, which is key to controlling cravings and managing how your body stores fat.

Research has also suggested that even if an organic apple and a non-organic apple contained close to the same number of nutrients, the organic apple will be much smaller, thus giving you more bang for your calorie buck.

This is because organic fertilizers are much more expensive than chemical ones, meaning that organic crops are less likely to be over-fertilized, and over-fertilization tends to make fruit bigger without increasing their levels of important nutrients.

Of course, some organic producers overuse “natural” fertilizers like nitrogen that can have the same calorie-increasing and antioxidant-reducing effect as more conventional fertilizers, so someone truly dedicated to eating the absolute healthiest they can may want to research the specific producer they're buying from.

Organic food will be also be free of the antibiotics, growth hormones, and genetic engineering that are now found in most conventional produce and which have all been hypothesized to have negative effects on our weight and our health.

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The Organic Center also suggests that though even though there is not quite enough evidence to predict how great the health effects of eating organically will be for the average adult, it will almost certainly make a huge difference for children and pregnant women.

They believe that reducing prenatal pesticide exposure could reduce children's risk of being born prematurely, being born with birth defects, and experiencing learning disabilities like ADHD and autism.

According to professor Charles Benbrook, early pesticide exposure may also put children at risk for epigenetic changes that could increase their chances of gaining weight as they age. For example, one study found that higher in-utero exposure to certain pesticides was correlated with a higher BMI in 6-year-olds.

However, when it comes to processed food, seeing "organic" stamped on the front doesn't mean you can ignore the rest of the label; organic versions of processed food can even sometimes contain more calories and sugar than the original. Because you think what you are eating is healthier, studies have also shown that you may unwittingly eat up to 131 percent more of it than you would an obviously unhealthy snack, an effect called the "health halo."

Dieter Stephan Neidenbach also found that he experienced greater weight loss success when he stopped worrying about whether his food was organic and instead focused on counting calories and eating for health. Neidenbach also points out that some research suggests that as many as 99.9 % of the "pesticides" in an American diet are the anti-nutrients that plants produce to defend themselves, and thus deem any artificial pesticide exposure insignificant in comparison.

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Though there are few downsides to eating organic⁠—at least if you stick to plain old fruits and veggies rather than processed organic products⁠—it also isn't the be-all end-all of a good diet or a healthy lifestyle, and there are certainly economic and personal reasons that eating organic may not be feasible for everybody all or even most of the time.

So, if you want to start weeding pesticides out of your diet but find going fully organic too daunting a task, you could try starting by purchasing only half or even a fourth of your produce organically grown. You could also optimize your organic buying by focusing on specific types of produce, since some fruits and vegetables have been found to be more commonly exposed to greater levels of pesticides than others.

Strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes , celery and potatoes are all part of the Environmental Working Group's high-risk "dirty dozen." In contrast, their low-risk "clean fifteen" included avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions , papayas, eggplants, asparagus , kiwis, cabbages, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms, and honeydew melons.

The Organic Center also provides lists of higher and lower-risk foods organized by season, since food is grown much differently in winter months than summer ones. They also note that pesticide levels in imports tend to be far higher than levels found in non-organic food grown in the US. Even if you're still hesistant to start experimenting with organic produce, you definitely shouldn't let your fear of pesticide exposure stop you from eating fruits and vegetables altogether, or even let it limit the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat! As researcher Carl Winter puts it, “I’d rather have people eat larger amounts of conventional produce than smaller amounts of organic produce.”

The benefits of a plant-based diet are simply too numerous to risk lowering your produce intake even given the possible presence of pesky pesticides; most experts recommend consuming between 4 and 6 cups of fruits and vegetables per day. Since the 123Diet suggests consuming 2 cups of vegetables during each of your two major meals of the day, if you add in some fruit for breakfast and a few colorful snacks throughout the day, you should be right on target!

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