All About Organic
by Danica Crouse, RDN, LD
Have you ever wondered what all the fuss is about when it comes to choosing organic foods? Let's explore what it means for you and for the planet when you choose to shop organic.
Organic vs. Conventional Farming
Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet, whether they are grown organically or conventionally. However, potentially harmful pesticides can remain on many conventional crops, even after washing, peeling and/or scrubbing. The USDA has established an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards. There are criteria for how foods are grown, handled and processed in order to be labeled as "organic". When you choose to purchase organic products, you are choosing farming practices that:
- Prohibit the use of most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides
- Enhance soil and water quality
- Avoid the use of additives and genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- Provide healthy habitats for livestock including use of organic feed, accommodate natural behaviors, and avoid the use of hormones and antibiotics
Better for You
Some research has shown that there may be more beneficial nutrients in organic foods when compared to conventionally grown crops and meat. Higher levels of antioxidants and vitamins have been found in produce as well as increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids found in organic meat, eggs, and dairy products. Organic foods also have lower levels of pesticide residue and heavy metals which have been linked to negative health outcomes. Although the health benefits of going organic are not fully understood, reduced exposure to potentially harmful pesticides and fertilizers may translate to improved health.
Benefits for the Environment
The benefits of choosing organic go beyond human health. There are positive environmental impacts from organic farming practices including the improvement of soil health and biodiversity, reduction in erosion, minimizing human, animal and environmental exposure to toxic materials and water conservation.
Where to Start
It can be confusing to walk the grocery aisles and decide which foods to select. You can compare a conventionally grown apple with an organic one, and to the naked eye they would appear the same, but the organic option comes at a premium price. Purchasing only 100% organic foods may not fit everyone's budget, so where should you start?
- Choose organic when it comes to crops with the most pesticide residue. Following the EWGs's "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" can help you establish some ground rules when selecting which produce you want to be organic.
- Select in-season crops and chat with the farmers at your local market to learn about their farming practices. Some farms follow organic farming guidelines but don't have the certification.
- Not all packaged organic foods are healthy, so try to choose nutritious foods like Sweet Nothings Spoonable Smoothies which are USDA Certified Organic.
Going organic doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. Organic foods are becoming more readily available and can be found within various price points. Choose the foods that align most with your budget, values and your health goals.