There are so many options in the grocery store aisles and new products pop up daily. For these reasons, I can easily make grocery shopping into a several hour event. I personally like to know what I am buying and eating, so I examine food labels, read ingredient lists, and compare products. Unlike many, I actually enjoy my long grocery shopping excursions and sometimes even look forward to them. For those of you who would rather zip in and out of the grocery store, I am here to help! Every few posts or so I will provide you with some tips on how to navigate the grocery store and make your visits more healthy and less painful! Today lesson: Eating Organic 101.
Organic food availability has increased over the past few years in the marketplace. Now they can easily be found in not only health food stores like Whole Foods, but also in your basic, more generic stores and even places like WalMart and Target. Organic foods are generally more expensive than non-organic foods, which can turn many people off from purchasing them, so read on to learn about the benefits of eating organically, and which foods should top your organic to-buy list.
Why eat organic?
Whether or not organic food are more nutritious has been a long on-going debate. However, recent studies suggest that organically grown plant products contain more minerals and antioxidants then conventionally produced products. Producing organic food is also better for the environment. Environmental benefits of organic production include improved soil organic matter, reduced energy use, reduced pesticide residues in food and water, and lower nutrient pollution.
Why is organic food more expensive?
Due to a smaller production scale and higher labor costs, organic foods tend to cost more at the grocery store. However, you may notice when certain fruits and vegetables are in-season, the organic to non-organic price is fairly similar. Focus on eating organic fruits and vegetables that are in season to avoid the high mark-up. Refer to the website fruitandveggiesmorematters from the Produce for Better Health Foundation for lists of foods that are in season monthly and year-round.
What does organic mean on a food label?
In order to use the term “organic” on a food label, specific guidelines must be met as defined by The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program. These guidelines ensure that all organic meat, dairy, eggs, and poultry came from animals that were given no antibiotics or hormones. Plant-based foods can be labeled USDA organic seal of approval, like pictured above, as long as they are grown without most pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage fertilizers, bioengineering or ionizing radiation.
What are the different levels of organic claims on food labels?
A product will be labeled “100% organic” as long as it is completely organic or made from completely organic ingredients. The USDA allows foods to be labeled “organic” as long as 95% of the ingredients are organic. By law, products can be labeled “made with organic ingredients” as long as it is made from 70% organic ingredients. However, you will not find the USDA organic seal on these food labels.
The Dirty Dozen & the Clean Fifteen
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit research team whose mission is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG accomplishments include helping to ban BPA plastic in baby bottles, reform toxic chemical laws, and fighting for safer tap water. The EWG also helps determine which produce is the greatest contaminated and which is the least contaminated by pesticides in the US. The produce found to be the most contaminated make up the “dirty dozen” list and is recommended to be purchased organic, washed, and eaten. The “clean fifteen” list of foods are those that are the least-contaminated and deemed O.K. to eat non-organic by the EWG. You may notice that the foods on the “clean fifteen” list tend to have thicker skins that are either peeled or tossed away before being eaten. The hard exterior of foods like watermelon, cantaloupe, and avocado may help protect the inner, edible portion from absorbing pesticides.
Dirty Dozen:Buy these organic
- Nectarines, imported
- Grapes, imported
- Sweet bell peppers
- Blueberries, domestic
- Kale/collard green
The Clean Fifteen: Lowest in pesticides
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet peas
- Cantaloupe, domestic
- Sweet potatoes
“Executive Summary | EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides | Environmental Working Group | EWG.org.” EWG Home | Environmental Working Group. Web. 06 Feb. 2012. <http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/>.
“Fruits & Veggies More Matters » What’s In Season? Winter.” Fruits & Veggies More Matters. Produce for Better Health Foundation. Web. 06 Feb. 2012. <http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/?page_id=795>.
McCullum-Gomez, Christine, and Anne-Marie Scott. “Perspectives on the Benefits of Organic Foods.” Eatright.org. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sept. 2009. Web. Feb. 2012.
“Question of the Day – What Does ‘ Organic’ Mean on a Food Label? – from the Academy.” Eatright.org. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Web. 06 Feb. 2012. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442451536