Earlier this week, I was at the supermarket picking out some fruit when a young woman walked up next to me, sighing, frazzled, with two little boys running around at her side. We exchanged a laugh and started talking. Once she found out that I was a nutritionist, she immediately said "You must eat super-healthy. I should probably get the organic stuff for my kids, huh?" I told her what I tell everyone who asks if I'm strict with my food choices. The honest answer: Not really. I practice what I preach, but I'm not perfect, nor do I expect that anyone else is! All I can do is help guide people to make the best choices in order to meet their goals. And to answer her question about buying organic food for her kids, I playfully responded back with this--"Who told you that?" :-P
There is some confusion surrounding organic eating. A lot of clients/friends/family will use phrases like “healthier” “better” “more nutrients” to describe organic food. But are organic foods really all of these things?
What Does Organic Mean?
100% organic plants are produced without conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, bioengineering or ionizing radiation.
100% organic meat, eggs, and dairy come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.
How Do I Know that it is Organic?
-Symbol: Look for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic seal on labels. This symbol signifies that the product contains at least 95% organic ingredients.
-Produce number: The stickers on non-organic produce contain 4 digits, but stickers on organic produce contain 5 digits; easy enough!
The “Dirty Dozen”
Pesticides in small amounts will not hurt us; so don't fret about that apple you had with lunch. However, large amounts of pesticides, growth hormones, and chemical fertilizers get into our foods (especially the skins of fruits/vegetables) and into our bodies and have the potential to reach toxic levels and/or disrupt our bodies' normal metabolic processes.
The “Dirty Dozen” refers to the twelve "dirtiest" fruits and vegetables in terms of synthetic inputs (pesticides, especially). These are the twelve that I always buy organic.
8. Bell Peppers
As for everything else, the thicker the skin, the less contaminated the fruit/vegetable is inside. For example, no need to buy organic bananas or avocados; the pesticides won't get through!
The “Not so Nice”
Organic produce is almost always more expensive than the non-organic equivalent; counterintuitive, huh?
Most studies suggest that there is virtually NO difference in the nutritional content of organic foods versus the non-organic equivalent. The same goes for taste.
So, there you have it. Happy Spring! Yummy, fresh, in-season produce is on its way; you decide whether or not organic is right for you!