Organic food is becoming more popular these days. Locally grown and harvested produce and meat is seen as more flavorful, and eating locally and seasonally is a great way to explore more food options and expand your veggie horizons in your own backyard.
The designation “organic” means that meat and produce is grown with no pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms.
Animals grown organically for meat, milk, or eggs are also not given antibiotics or growth hormones. Consequently, humans do not ingest additional antibiotics or growth hormones when they eat organic meat. The Food and Drug Administration has recently recognized that antibiotic use in chickens and other meat animals may even be contributing to antibiotic resistance in humans, making eating organically even healthier.
The benefits of eating fresh, organic food go well beyond health benefits, although if that was the only benefit it would still be a worthy endeavor. Food grown with traditional pesticides poisons the environment where it is grown, the growers of the food themselves, and people who are not even born yet. Chemicals and pesticide residues cross into the womb and can be found in alarming levels in fetuses.
There have been multiple studies to see if the nutritive benefits of organic food outweigh traditionally grown foods, and the results have been mixed. Some studies have shown that organic foods are higher in nutrients, but others showed little difference in nutrition.
Regardless of the research on the nutrition, it makes good sense to feed yourself and your family as few chemicals and pesticide residues as possible.
One stumbling block for those considering a switch to organic produce is price. Because organic food is not as widely available, prices are generally higher by as much as 35%. Shopping at a local farmer’s market can help combat this, but if that is not an option for you, follow the guidelines set forth in the Environmental Working Group’s annual Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists. The Dirty Dozen lists the 12 foods with the highest number of pesticide residues in the strongest concentrations and includes favorites like peaches, grapes, apples, and potatoes. This means that if you can only afford to purchase some organic foods, choose to purchase organic foods from the Dirty Dozen. The Clean 15 is a list of foods that have little trace of pesticide residue, even when grown traditionally and includes cabbage, sweet corn, grapefruit, and kiwi.
Buying organic food locally also cuts down on fossil fuel consumption and supports local farmers, so if a local community-supported agriculture (CSA) co-op is available, that can make buying organic even more beneficial. Keep in mind that when purchasing processed foods such as chips or cereals, only those labeled “organic” fall under the same guidelines as produce. Making the switch to organic food will also increase demand, which may bring down prices and make a wider variety of organic products available.
What kinds of organic foods are available to you?
Image by Bart Everson via Flickr