Buying Organic Foods

Research over the last few years shows that pesticides, hormones and other chemicals that are used on/in the foods we eat have a link to various cancers and other serious health problems. Plus, we now know that our government is even failing to test meat for the harmful chemicals that it’s supposed to by law! Armed with this knowledge, more and more people are looking to buy organic food.

In the US, federal organic legislation defines three levels of organics. Products made entirely with certified organic ingredients and methods can be labeled “100% organic”. Products with at least 95% organic ingredients can use the word “organic”. Both of these categories may also display the USDA organic seal. A third category, containing a minimum of 70% organic ingredients, can be labeled “made with organic ingredients”. In addition, products may also display the logo of the certification body that approved them (there’s lots of certification bodies). Products made with less than 70% organic ingredients can not advertise this information to consumers and can only mention this fact in the product’s ingredient statement. 
So look for 100% Organic or the USDA Organic symbol on the packaging. 
Also keep in mind that just because something is organic, doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. Lots of things that may be labeled organic are unhealthy. Examples – macaroni and cheese, ketchup, chips, cookies, etc.
Beware of farmer’s markets as well. Just because it is grown/raised locally doesn’t mean that it’s chemical free!

Buying organic is not cheap. Unless you are raking in huge amounts of cash, you can’t buy everything organic. So what foods should be at the top of your list?

  1. MEAT/EGGS – chickens, cows, pigs…they are all raised using hormones to speed up their growth, antibiotics to resist disease and feed products that contain pesticides and chemicals. All of this stuff is eliminated when you buy USDA Organic meat. Grass-fed is the best.
  2. MILK – Pesticides and other man-made chemicals are found in most dairy products. With the amount of milk that children and pregnant/nursing Mommy’s drink (trust me, I know), this is one product that you do not want to skimp on if you have children!
  3. CELERY – Because it has no protective skin like most other vegetables and fruits, it is impossible to get all of the chemicals out/off by washing. If you eat celery…which you should, buy organic.
  4. PEACHES/STRAWBERRIES/APPLES – Not only do humans like these fruits…so do insects. You can find these fruits year-round. If you buy them out of season they most likely are imported…from a country that probably doesn’t have regulations on pesticides!
  5. BLUEBERRIES – I separate these from the fruits above because they are treated with more pesticides than any other fruit when grown in a conventional orchard – over 50!
  6. PEPPERS – While they have a skin, it doesn’t provide a very good barrier to pesticides. They are also imported heavily.
  7. SPINACH/KALE – These leafy greens are something that I try to eat a few times a week. After finding out that they are usually sprayed with almost as many pesticides as blueberries, I’m going to start buying them organic!
  8. POTATOES -Because they are a root vegetable, they absorb just about everything that’s in the soil…like the chemicals used in fertilizer. Washing a potato just isn’t going to remove the chemicals that have been absorbed.
  9. GRAPES – I grew tried to grow grapes a few years ago. After leaving them alone for the first year, insects destroyed them before they could ripen on the vine. I resorted to using a mild insecticide…and I can only image what large orchards do! Grapes have a very thin skin and no amount of washing or even peeling will eliminate contamination.
So when buying organic, you don’t have to get the most expensive offering. There are some companies that do only organic and they have a name that you will see all over the place in a health food store. Nearly every large supermarket (walmart, Kroger, Safeway, etc.) has a store-brand organic option for many foods. Look for the non name-brand organic food, it will save you some money while saving your health. You can also find coupons for organic milk and yogurt, so use them! 
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