Organic foods are grown and harvested without subjecting them to any chemical processes. They are free from insecticides, pesticides, toxins and artificial fertilizers. With more and more people getting conscious about what they consume, organic farming is increasingly being supported and favored over commercial farming. It is still a small industry, labor-intensive and mostly confined to small farms, thus organic food is priced higher than commercial food products. The organic farmers also have to follow strict regulations to be certified, and work harder to maintain that certification. They also have limited government sources therefore their produce has to be priced slightly higher than commercial produce.
There are more benefits to be gained from eating organic foods. They are not mass-produced and are allowed to ripen before they are harvested and shipped locally so you can buy the freshest and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables that are in season. They are free from pesticides and chemical fertilizers that introduce toxins into humans and animals alike. Buying organic produce will also help the local farmers to stay in business and keep on producing more organic products.
It might be confusing to look at all the products labeled organic in the vegetables, fruits and meat sections of a grocery store. Here are some tips to guide you in choosing the right organic food.
- Look for products that include the word 100% Organic or Certified Organic in their labels. It means that the ingredients used are all organic. Some pre-packaged products may also be labeled organic which means that some of the ingredients included were processed using organic methods.
- Most grocery stores have a separate section for organic products. Look for products that are locally produced. This ensures that they are fresher and allowed to ripen naturally before being harvested and sold. Look for those that are blemish-free and have brighter colors.
- Be wary when buying apples, kale, lettuce, nectarines, bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, celery, cherries, peaches, pears, strawberries and imported grapes. These products are highly susceptible to pests and have the highest levels of pesticide, according to the Environmental Working Group.
- You can safely buy onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, mango, asparagus, papaya, watermelon, broccoli, sweet peas, kiwi, sweet potato, eggplant and cabbage. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) listed these fruits and vegetables as those with the least level of pesticide residue based on tests collected by the USDA and USFDA. Fruits and vegetables with thick skin that you can peel may not all be organic but they are generally safer than those with thin skin. You can learn more about these fruits and vegetables at Food News, a website maintained by EWG.
- Look for fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry and dairy products that contain the USDA Organic seal which assures you that the product is 95% to 100% organically processed. A product that is at least 95% organic may also display the USDA seal and labeled Organic.
- Some products may be made from about 70% organic ingredients but will not have the USDA seal. Check the list of ingredients on the package. Others contain less than 70% organic ingredients. Make sure to read the labels to check the ingredients on packaged products.
- Check the meat you are buying and look for labels that say “Natural”, “Grass Fed”, “Free Range” and “No Hormones Added”.
- Shop for fruits, vegetables and other organic products at the weekly farmer’s market. You can be assured that you are getting the freshest, best and in-season produce from these weekend markets.
- Be wary of processed snacks. They may be made with organic ingredients but they still contain high levels of oil, sugar, fat and salt.
To eat healthier and safer, organic foods are the best. The extra amount that you pay for them gives you great long-term dividends. You help protect the environment and you help the local organic farmers to produce more.