Wednesday, July 22, 2009

All About Organic Food

In an ideal world, I would eat everything organic. But the reality for most of us is that it's not always easy to find, or easy to afford, an entirely organic diet. The challenge is to stretch your budget and still get some of the benefits of organic food into your diet. I have been doing a lot of research lately (just google it and you will find a ton of stuff) and I want to share some of the tips that I have found.

What to buy organic:
1. Meat. This is the number one thing you should buy organic. Animals fed antibiotics on a regular basis develop strains of diseases that are resistant to antibiotics. If we eat those animals, we can get those resistant diseases. While tests did show that a small percentage of meat contained these diseases, the tests were done on a small scale and not many of these tests are done. There is absolutely no control over antibiotics being fed to animals - you can walk into a feed store and buy a big bag of antibiotics to feed to your animals. Eggs are also worth buying organic - look for free range eggs. But
2. Dairy products. These come from the same kinds of animals as meat, being fed terrible things like hormones and antibiotics. Organic milk might seem like a ridiculous purchase to you right now, but it actually has MUCH more nutrients than regular milk. I have seen organic milk at the top of a lot of lists of what to buy organic.
3. Some produce. Produce with skin that you eat, or produce grown with a lot of pesticides, is better to buy organic. Apples, peaches, cherries, berries, grapes, bell peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, and green beans are some examples where organic is the best choice. I have also read that if you eat a lot of one certain item, you should buy that organic. For example, if you eat carrots every day, you should go for organic carrots.

What not to buy organic:
1. Seafood. Don't bother with organic seafood - it's not regulated, so anything could be labeled organic, and you will just pay more for no reason.
2. Some produce. Not all produce uses a lot of harmful pesticides. Some, like broccoli, require minimal pesticides to grow and therefore don't have much residue. Others, like bananas, have a protective skin that you don't eat. Pineapples, oranges, and onions are some other foods that don't really need to be organic.
3. Processed foods, cosmetics, and cleaning products. Processed foods include things like chips and pasta. Also, don't bother buying organic junk food. Organic junk food is not healthy, just like regular junk food isn't healthy.

How to buy organic on the cheap:
1. Look for sales. Check your local stores' circulars and look for coupons.
2. Buy store brands. Stop & Shop has the Nature's Promise brand, which is their store brand natural and organic food line. Even Whole Foods has a "private label."
3. Buy in season and local produce. When it costs less for producers and stores to ship things, they cost less for you, too. If the produce is in season, prices are more competitive, so buying organic won't be too much different from buying regular, price-wise. You can also check out local farmers' markets.
4. Join a CSA. Community-supported agriculture is on the rise. I just found an organic farm CSA to join for next year. It works like this: you pay near the end of the year for a share of the next season's crops. Each week, you pick up your share - a big box full of whatever was ready for harvest at that time. You will get tons of fresh produce, and depending on the CSA, you may also get fresh herbs, flowers, or other products such as eggs. One share typically feeds about 4 people. Some CSAs also offer half-shares. The CSA I plan to join by purchasing a half-share ends up costing about $17 a week for the season. If you get used to eating in-season produce, you won't need to buy any other produce at the store. You can find a CSA near you here.

Click here to see one article I used when writing this post.

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