With all the chatter on Organic foods, are they really better for you and should you really spend the extra few dollars to buy organic?? People buy organic food for many reasons: to reduce the toxicity in their body, to eat more nutritious foods, to be environmentally friendly, protect future generations, prevent soil erosion, protect water quality, save energy, and to support local and/or sustainable farms. Some even claim Organic tastes better because organic food is grown in well-balanced soil, but everyone has an opinion… Does it really taste better or is it all in your head??
What does Organic even mean?
Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows:
Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.
To get a USDA Certified Organic seal a producer must be a licensed organic farmer, and must adhere to the following guidelines: no use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, no use of genetically modified seeds, no use of sewer-sludge fertilizer, and no use of irradiation treatments. They also must be inspected regularly and let the inspectors onto their farms at any time.
Keep in mind, the USDA has identified for three categories of labeling organic products:
100% Organic: Made with 100% organic ingredients
Organic: Made with at least 95% organic ingredients
Made With Organic Ingredients: Made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.
Some researchers has found that organic produce does have higher levels of phytochemicals and vitamins than conventional, but there is currently no definitive research. Some produce contains very little risk of contamination and can easily be bought conventionally. These items include, asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kiwi, mango, onions, papaya, and pineapple. Obviously, eating all organic produce may reduce your exposure to pesticides the most, but is that really realistic??? Especially when eating pounds of veggies a day??
It’s important to note that all produce should be thoroughly rinsed before cutting into it or eating it. This includes even skinned produce!!
Currently, the USDA Certified Organic seal is something you can trust. Eating conventional produce does cause artificial pesticides to accumulate in the human body. You should buy Organic, when you can, to minimize your exposure to artificial pesticides and possibly to increase phytochemical content– but don’t think that organic equates to a more wholesome/nutritious product!
If you’re really watching your pennies, you may consider at least buying organic, whenever you can. I suggest buying organic produce that contains higher levels of contamination such as: pears, apples, strawberries (most berries), nectarines, cherries, bell peppers, coffee, celery, lettuce, spinach, grapes, raisins, potatoes, and tomatoes.
For all you coffee Lovers out there, coffee is the big one here. It’s been stated that if you were to buy only one thing organic, you better make it coffee since most of it is grown in third-world countries where the laws are less stringent and many use harmful pesticides such as DDT, which is a known carcinogen and outlawed in the US.
Here is a quick and helpful list of the foods you should consider buying organic and those that are lower in pesticides and you may opt out of purchasing organic.