What's the deal with organic foods? Some nutrition experts may urge you to eat all organic because it's important to reduce chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics in the diet, while others may say organic foods are unnecessary because they don't deliver any more nutrients than conventionally-grown/raised food. Like any nutritional decision, the amount of organic food you eat is up to you: your food sensitivities, your budget, and your convictions. Today I'll share with you what works for me when it comes to choosing organic.
I personally do not have the budget to eat all organic. Nor do I live close enough to a specialty grocery store that offers all organic foods. My biggest concern when it comes to conventional food is the non-food added to keep a product fresh, big, or cheap. For that reason, I look to trusted research from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to find which foods have the highest levels of these non-food (chemical, hormonal, or antibiotic) additives. If you've heard of the dirty dozen list, it was born out of an idea like this one. Which produce items come delivered with the most amount of toxins? Here's my version of the list, in an easy-to-remember format:
Berries (strawberries and domestic blueberries)
Peppers (sweet bell & hot)
A-B-CCC, G-N-PPP, S! S! ...it's a little helpful (albeit nonsensical) chant to recite to yourself when you're in the grocery store trying to remember which produce items to buy organic.
Corn is another category in an of itself. Although not officially on this dirty dozen list, I prefer organic corn. I could write an entire blog post on corn, but for the sake of space, let's just say that most corn in our country is genetically modified. Without even getting into the political issue of government subsidies on food, I'll claim my stance on GMO food: it's less than ideal for your health. I'd like to eat my food the way God created it. For this reason, I choose organic corn and corn products!
Now when it comes to animal products, I do my best to avoid hormones and antibiotics and while you can do this by reading labels carefully, the easiest way to ensure that your animal products were raised responsibly and naturally is to buy certified organic meats and bi-products. Farms have to pay to obtain and keep their organic certification, which means these farms are closely monitored for humane practices, as well as healthy food and natural living areas for their animals. Certified organic animal products cost more than conventionally-raised animal products, but they do tend to taste better and you can definitely eat them with a greater peace of mind, knowing the meat or bi-product you're consuming came from a healthy animal.
Other than organic produce from the dirty dozen list, organic corn, and organic animal products whenever possible, the rest of my food is conventionally grown. At this point in my nutritional research, I do not find it necessary to buy organic when it comes to most grains, non-animal proteins, spices, and other basic pantry items. These are my recommendations on organic choices, but my most important piece of advice would be to not let an inability to buy organic keep you from eating whole, nourishing foods. Eating conventionally-grown vegetables is better than eating none at all! Our bodies are resilient and will know what to do with nutrients and toxins.
Now go enjoy organic strawberry season!