If you’re trying to improve your health, you probably know that the most important place to start is by rethinking what you put into your body. We all know that organic food is the healthiest, but these days, it seems like half the food in the market carries the “organic” label- with little more than sticker shock on the price to show a difference. Rather than blowing your entire paycheck on a fridge and pantry full of organic groceries, follow these tips for when to buy organic and when to skip and stick with conventional:
Organic: What does it really mean?
With all the terminology thrown out there about food these days, from “whole grain” to “all natural” and of course “organic,” it can be hard to know how to shop. The truth is, the term “organic” can vary from country to country, but it generally means that the food is produced without chemicals, pesticides or additives. If a processed food is labeled organic, it means it contains only organic ingredients (or a high enough percentage to receive the “organic” label.)
Fruits and Vegetables- when to go organic
Fruits and vegetables are among the most likely to absorb chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides in conventional production. However- you don’t need to shell out to make sure all of your produce is organic! Washing your produce thoroughly removes the majority of chemicals, but fruits and veggies with thin skin can absorb these chemicals into the fruit itself. The “dirty dozen” to buy organic include apples, strawberries, celery, peaches, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, bell peppers, green beans and potatoes. But you can feel safe buying the “clean 15”- produce conventionally grown with little pesticide residue, including corn, mangoes, bananas, avocado, eggplant, onions, grapefruit, kiwi, mushrooms and asparagus.
What about Dairy?
It’s generally a good idea to go organic when it comes to milk, because conventional dairy farms are known to use a growth hormone in their cows to stimulate milk production. Organic milk cows are also required to spend more time grazing, which changes the omega fatty acids in the milk- there are higher levels of omega 3’s (good for you!) in organic and lower levels of omega 6 (less healthy) fatty acids. So overall- it’s worth the extra dollar or so to consume organic dairy!
Plenty of processed foods on the shelf, from cookies to crackers, chips and cereals, proudly claim to be “organic.” But is it worth the extra cost for peace of mind? Maybe, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that an “organic” label makes a processed food product healthy. To be honest, you’re just as well off if you limit your organic shopping to the produce and dairy departments- and shopping for items with as short an ingredient list as possible! (Pick an apple with one ingredient over an apple granola bar with 12!)