What is ‘Organic’ and What Should You Always Buy Organic?

The term ‘organic’ is tossed around so many times in our day to day lives. We see it on labels for produce, meat, and even more and more snack items now. Many people choose to purchase organic while many people still choose to purchase the conventional versions, without really knowing what the word ‘organic’ entails.

The USDA has a lot of rules and regulations when it comes to which foods can be labeled as organic and which producers can be called certified organic producers. Some of these rules include prohibition of using synthetic fertilizers, genetic engineering, and sewage sludge (ew!). In addition to that, pesticides are also prohibited to control crop pests, weeds, and diseases (they have to use physical, biological, or mechanical controls to deal with these).

Poultry and livestock can also be considered organic. In order for them to be organic, they must be fed 100% organic feed, they must be tended to when sick, they must be out on a pasture for the entire grazing season (must be 120+ days), and 30%+ of their feeds must come from the pasture. Note: organic livestock/poultry doesn’t mean it’s grass-fed/pasture-raised/free-range/cage-free. They have similar but other standards as well.

Organic food is definitely much better than conventional foods because of these standards; but they are also more expensive. Not everyone is going to be willing to spend money to purchase the organic versions of everything, but here are the top foods you should buy organic and why:

  1. Berries
    Organic berries are definitely more expensive than their conventional counterparts, but they are also sprayed with so many different pesticides, it’s worth it to buy organic. In fact, strawberries are NUMBER 1 on EWG’s Dirty Dozen list (see link at the end of the article).
  2. Any apple products (including plain apples)
    Apples are one of the MOST pesticide-sprayed produce products in the United States, so you should always buy them organic. If you get them at a good time, they can even be on sale for less than conventional apples are (like at Whole Foods these past few weeks).
  3. Dairy/Poultry/Livestock
    You have probably heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’. But you are also what you eat has eaten. So even if you think you are eating healthy and organic for the most part, if you are eating cheap eggs/meat/cheese/etc., then you’re also going to be eating what they ate. If they were fed antibiotics, growth hormones, and cheap feed, you’ll also be feeding that to yourself as well. Grass-fed/free-range/pasture-raised/cage-free is even better, but we’ll go into those in other articles.
  4. Corn/Soy
    Corn and soy are some of the most genetically-modified foods on the market today, so buying organic corn/soy products guarantees that they won’t be. Many of the chemicals used have also been said to be carcinogenic (potentially cancer-causing). This also includes snacks like chips and popcorn made out of corn.
  5. Spinach
    This is a very commonly bought item, but it’s not always bought organic. Conventional spinach is actually #2 on EWG’s Dirty Dozen list and is found to contain toxins like carcinogens, neurotoxins, and reproductive toxins. Keep in mind it’s also very difficult to get rid of these on the surface of spinach because you can’t just peel the skin off like many other fruits/vegetables. Don’t trust that just because it says ‘triple-washed’ on the package, it’s going to be chemical-free.

These are just some of the top foods you should purchase organic, but the list goes on and on. Organic alone isn’t the best option, but it is a better option than conventional. In addition to that, keep in mind that while the farm has to be free of the prohibited chemicals for at least 3 years in order to be considered organic, toxins can contaminate land for far longer than that; but it is still a better option to get less toxins compared to a full dose.

Check out some of the links below for more information and more products you should purchase organic:
USDA Rules & Regulations for Organic: https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic
19 Foods to Always Buy Organic (from Livestrong): http://www.livestrong.com/slideshow/1004202-20-foods-always-buy-organic-even-youre-budget/
EWG’s Dirty Dozen (plus more): https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php

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