Important Tips on Which Organic Foods to Buy
Many health conscious families are making the switch to buying organic food for numerous reasons. It makes sense to buy foods that are healthier to eat which have been grown on organic soil with no pesticides used or hormones injected into the animals. Organic food tastes better and helps reduce environmental pollution to our planet. (sewage sludge, yes, even from our toilets, sprayed on the grasslands emits over 500,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in the US each year!) In order to be honored with the USDA Organic Seal, foods must have been grown with no bioengineering, or sewage sludge. They must be produced with no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, or growth hormones. They cannot be irradiated which accounts in part for a tomato no longer tasting like a real tomato or a strawberry with no flavor. Organic foods can help assure that what we are putting into our bodies is actually real food and not something that merely resembles food.
2019 Dirty Dozen Plus / Organic Foods To Buy
This list is updated each year by the Environmental Working Group. This is the most recent list of foods to avoid with the highest amounts of pesticide residue.
- Hot Peppers
Clean Fifteen Fruits and Vegetables
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas - Frozen
- Honeydew Melons
Which Organic Foods Should We Buy?
First you must decide why it's important for you and which foods you consume the most. Some people are concerned with the cost, as organic food often costs more to buy. Perhaps you are pregnant and are concerned about the foods you are consuming. Maybe you have an infant and want to start your baby with the best foods possible. Your concerns may be more environmental and you want to cut your carbon footprint. Or, you're like many others who are tired of eating food stuff and want to eat real food. There are numerous other reasons including the abuse of animals which cause people to make the decision to buy organic.
Once you know why, now it's time to make a list of which foods you should buy. If you're on a limited budget and can't buy all organic, it is recommended to start with meat and produce, especially any produce that is grown underground, such as potatoes and carrots. A priority should be given to infants and pregnant women. ( Earth's Best, Sprout and Gerber are a few of the companies making organic food for babies, or you can make your own.) When purchasing organic foods, concentrate on nutrient dense foods.
- look for the USDA Organic Seal when purchasing beef, chicken, pork. (the animals have not been given antibiotics or hormones, have access to outdoors and fresh air and are fed organic food)
- strawberries (high pesticide residue), bananas, peaches, apples, pears, nectarines, grapes, cherries, red raspberries. although bananas have thick skins, they are not immune to the effects of pesticides and eleven carcinogens have been found to be used in production. (Gary Hirshberg, CE-YO of Stoneyfield Yogurt)
- bell peppers, celery (both high in pesticide residues), spinach, lettuce (or grow your own), potatoes, carrots, kids love carrots and it's worth the extra cost to buy them.
- dairy products such as milk and yogurt should be priorities. organic dairy cows are not injected with rBGH/rBST ( recombinant bovine growth hormone/recombinant bovine somatotropin). children need the calcium and Vitamin D. organic soy milk can also be a substitute for regular milk and it tastes great.
- organic peanut butter is much healthier than the peanut butter made with sugar and hydrogenated oils.
If you must start slow, make a small list of a few products to buy each shopping trip. Even if it's only a bag of organic potatoes, it's a first step. Start with the foods that you or your family eat most often.
Did you know that up to 45% of the corn grown in the US is genetically engineered as well as 85% of the soybeans?
Want to guess how much of the food in the supermarket aisles contain genetically engineered ingredients...... estimated at 70-75%!
(Center For Food Safety)
Understanding USDA Organic Seal Labeling
Here are some important terms to understand when buying organic food. The National Organic Program has labeling requirements to give the consumer assurance that the food has been grown, produced and processed organically. The USDA must give accreditation to any organization whose annual gross income from farming and processing organic goods is more than $5,000. The labeling requirements are based on the amount of organic ingredients in a product.
- 100% organic- no synthetics, only all organic ingredients (excluding water and salt) including processing. can use USDA organic seal
- organic- minimum of 95% organic ingredients, can use USDA organic seal
- made with organic- contains a minimum of 70% organic ingredients of which 3 organic ingredients should be listed on the label. cannot use USDA organic seal.
The information labels must include a list of organic ingredient(s) in the package and the name of the certifying agent of the product. (This may not apply to a local vendor at a farmer's market whose operation from the annual gross sale of organic products does not exceed $5000.) Be an educated consumer and read the labels closely.
Where to Buy Organic Food
Many grocery stores now have organic sections in their stores. Organic produce is labeled in the produce section. Some stores have sections throughout the store labeled for organic foods making it easier to find the products. There are also stores such as Whole Foods Market and Sprouts Farmers Market which sell mostly organic and natural foods. Some health food stores carry organic foods and farmer's markets throughout the country now boast of selling organic products. There are farms which serve also as co-ops on which certain days are set aside for the public to come and pick their own produce. Included in the References and Resources section are sites which help you find places in your area to buy organic foods. Start however you can and take the necessary steps to bringing healthier food into your homes. Happy, healthy eating.
Eat Smart and Take Action
Food Shopping Tips
Shopping for food should be enjoyable.Make a list and allow yourself enough time to read labels. It's great if you're not hungry or rushed. Food is our bodies fuel. Make it as high quality as your food budget can afford!
When shopping for meat, be sure to look for the USDA Organic Seal! Meat is not 100% organic just because the animals were not injected with antibiotics or hormones. If in doubt, talk to the manager of the dept.
Three More Important Labels
Grass-Fed- look for the seal of American Grassfed Association which means the cows have fed on nutrient rich grasses instead of corn and soy. Grass- fed cows are outside where nature intends a cow to feed. Food produced by grass-fed animals is lower in saturated fat and higher in essential nutrients.
Pastured- chickens that roam free feed on grass and nutrient-rich insects. Food can be higher in omega-3's, folate and vitamin B12. Free range does NOT mean pastured, it only means the hens aren't penned in cages. A label marked 'vegetarian' means the poultry never went outside where they would eat bugs and insects.
Local- local foods are fresher and exposed less to chemicals and bruising from travel. find the freshest market in your area and ask questions of where it came from, how far did it travel. The shorter the shelf life, the more vitamins are left in the produce. Support your local farmers.
References and Resources
- EWG's 2019 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce
Check out EWG's Dirty Dozen™ and Clean Fifteen™ lists to help decide when you should splurge for organic fruits and vegetables, and when you shouldsave money by buying conventional.
- Eat Well Guide
Find farms, markets, restaurants and more in your local area throughout the United States and Canada.
- National Family Farm Coalition
U.S. farm and food policy must change in order to reverse the economic devastation currently faced by our nation's family farmers and rural communities
- Whole Foods Market: Natural and Organic Grocery
Whole Foods Market is the world's largest retailer of natural and organic foods, with stores throughout North America and the United Kingdom
- The National Organic Program
The United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service
- Official Food, Inc. Movie Site - Hungry For Change? - Spread the Word
A very comprehensive, informative site full of information and resources. An excellent video interview with the CE-YO of Stoneyfield Yogurt and Josh Trought of the National Family Farm Coalition.
- Local Harvest
Find locally grown produce anywhere in the country! Use our map to locate farmers markets, family farms, CSAs, farm stands, and u-pick produce in your neighborhood.