What is organic?
Simply stated, organic foods are grown, prepared, processed and packaged without added chemicals or unnatural components. Organic can also refer to the way that organic farmers keep the soil, plants, animals, people, and environment in harmony by sustaining these ecosystems better than their conventional counterparts.
Generally speaking, organic farmers care for the health of the land, the animals they raise, and the food they grow in order to produce purer and higher quality foods. Organic farms also tend to produce less waste and are more energey-efficient. Organic foods are perfect for those consumers that would like to minimize exposure to toxins while supporting sustainable agriculture and humane practices.
Are natural foods organic?
No. Unlike organic foods, natural foods are not certified by a third party to make sure they comply with USDA organic standards.
Why choose organic?
There are many benefits to eating organic rather than conventional (non-organic) foods. I will give you a few good reasons, and then we will evaluate these topics more in-depth in future posts.
- Contains no artificial chemicals, pesticides or synthetic fertilizers that can harm our environment and contaminate our water.
- Contains no antibiotics.
- Contains no genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or genetically engineered seeds/crops.
- Contains no synthetic hormones.
- Packs a nutritional punch (contain higher nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants than non-organic foods). They taste better, too.
- Comes from organic livestock that has been fed 100% organic feed.
- Is good for the soil and the environment.
What is the truth about organic standards?
The USDA Certified Organic seal may be used on foods that contain at least 95% of certified organic ingredients. Most products labeled as organic, however, exceed these USDA regulations. Standards are constantly being challenged by various organizations, and some claim that the regulations set forth by ACO (Australian Certified Organic) are more stringent than USDA (there are actually several international organic certifying bodies). Some suggested reading about the foundations of organic regulations and to clarify certification issues can be found on Wikipedia. Another good read can be found here.
Aren’t organic foods more expensive?
Yes, and organic foods can differ so much in price, depending on the label and the store from which you purchase it. Because of this, it is not usually the affordable option. If you are starting out organic, try looking at the EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) list of fruits and vegetables that seem to be most contaminated by chemicals. When purchasing these “Dirty Dozen,” try going organic instead. Here’s a pocket-sized list of the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen” to use as a guide when you are grocery shopping.
While there are always two sides to every story, when given the choice, I still prefer to eat organic. Synthetic is not natural. No arguments there, right? And I personally don’t think that synthetic is the way that nature intended.
While I won’t tell you to “go organic,” I will encourage you to do your research and help support your local farms. If you can possibly grow your own food chemical-free, I’d say that’s the way to do it. However, if you can’t (I happen to be in this category), then CSAs and local farmer’s markets are great options. Get to know your local family farmers and their practices to see if they are right for you. In many instances, purchasing directly from a family farm is more affordable (and fresher) than the grocery store. Not to mention, you would be supporting local (small) farming.
Remember, you are what you eat!