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“Eat” Series Part 1: When To Go Organic

We’ve heard organic is better, but take a trip to a grocery store that caters to organic food buyers and it’s easy to see the price difference between organic foods and conventionally-grown foods. Despite the higher financial cost, it pays to go organic. Make the switch and you could see health benefits and protect yourself from the long term effects of harmful synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

There are situations in which it’s imperative to go organic and some instances where you can get away with conventionally-grown foods. Here are a few reasons why it’s good to go organic, when you absolutely need to choose organic and when, if necessary, you can skip that organic label.

Why Organic Is Better

Organic fruits and vegetables are superior to their non-organic counterparts. But what exactly makes going organic so much better? We’ve all consumed foods that weren’t organic and we’re no worse for the wear, not visibly at least. Why should we spend more money to get produce that tastes the same?

It’s not so much that organic produce has benefits beyond that of regular fruits and vegetables, but rather it’s not damaged by toxic pesticides and chemicals. Since World War II, the use of potentially harmful chemical pesticides has increased roughly tenfold as a result of modern agricultural practices. The long-term health effects of 90 percent of these chemicals weren’t yet known at the time they were determined to be “safe,” according to the National Academy of Sciences.

Now that enough time has passed, we know some of the harmful side effects of using these harsh chemical pesticides. Synthetic pesticides have been linked to a host of health problems, including skin, lung and eye irritation and even certain cancers. Not to mention these chemical pesticides and fertilizers can wreak havoc on our water, soil and environment.

Fruits and vegetables are the main offenders when it comes to contamination, but chemicals can work their way into meat, poultry, dairy and eggs. Growth hormones and antibiotics fed to animals or pollution from their natural environments can be transferred to us through our food.

This is where organic foods have the advantage. Crops that are USDA Certified Organic are sprayed with natural pesticides, so you won’t be feeling the negative long-term effects of chemical synthetic pesticides. Organic foods are also more nutritious, with organic produce containing a slightly higher amount of antioxidants than conventional produce. A review published in the British Journal of Nutrition also found that switching to organic fruits, veggies and cereals would provide an astounding 20 to 40 percent more antioxidants, the equivalent of one to two extra servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

How To Find Truly Organic Food

Now you know why it makes sense to choose organic foods when you can. But how can you tell the good from the bad? Thankfully, it’s not too difficult. Start by looking for the USDA Certified Organic label. This is your guarantee that the food you’re purchasing wasn’t sprayed with toxic fertilizers or pesticides, that it wasn’t pumped full of antibiotics or growth hormones and, in the case of animals, that it was fed a 100 percent organic diet.

The organic distinction doesn’t just apply to fresh foods, either. Frozen organic fruits and vegetables can often be a more cost-effective option to the fresh stuff with the same guarantees. Same with shopping the store brand. As long as it sports the USDA Certified Organic label, you’re guaranteed that high, organic quality. Locally-grown produce tends to be less heavy on the chemical pesticides and fertilizers as well. Hit up a local farmer’s market and support local agriculture, all while saving a little money and getting your hands on good quality produce.

When It’s Important To Choose Organic

Eating organic all of the time can be costly and become challenging, but there are instances in which you should absolutely choose the organic option over the conventionally grown one. Use the “Dirty Dozen” list as your guide for when it’s imperative to go organic. The Environmental Working Group devised the Dirty Dozen to identify those fruits and vegetables most susceptible to chemical contamination. Strawberries, apples, grapes, cucumbers and other fruits and vegetables with thin, easily-permeable skins make the list. Fruits and veggies that are a little tougher, like pineapples and avocados, make the Clean Fifteen list of produce items you can get away with not choosing organic, if you must.