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Understanding Organic Foods

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Understanding Organic Foods

Foods produced using animal and environmentally friendly farming techniques defines Organic Food. It is a farming system product which avoids the use of man-made farming techniques for product output. Pesticides, fertilizers, growth regulators and livestock feed additives are not used in producing organic foods, just natural.

So you’ve decided to go organic. Congratulations!  Now what?

Over the past few years, the number of organic foods available at the grocery store has increased significantly. You’ll find everything from produce to meat to packaged snack foods.

Products marketed as “organic” must meet certain standards and regulations set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Organic means that the produce and crops are grown without using pesticides and other questionable chemicals. There should be no synthetic substances or genetic engineering going on when it comes to these foods.  The animals must also be raised a certain way.  Their diet should be organic as well, and they should not be given any antibiotics or growth hormones.

Here are some terms to be familiar with when it comes to organic labeling:

  • 100% Organic: These products contain only organic ingredients. They may display the “USDA Organic” seal.
  • Organic: These products contain at least 95% organic ingredients. They may also display the “USDA Organic” seal.
  • Made with Organic Ingredients: These products contain 70%-95% organic ingredients. They cannot display the “USDA Organic” seal.
  • Products containing less than 70% organic ingredients can only use the term “organic” to describe the organic ingredients within the ingredients list. They cannot display the “USDA Organic” seal.
  • “Natural” does not mean organic. The term “natural” is not regulated by the USDA. It may appear on food labels without meeting organic standards.

Is Organic Food Healthier or More Nutritious?

Do not confuse the term organic to mean that anything you eat that is organic is good for you.  Sure you can have cookies made from all organic ingredients but that does not mean they are healthy or the best choice.  Organic only means that the food was grown or raised according to certain standards.  The quality of the food or its nutritional value can still be compromised.  However, having said that, who wouldn’t agree that eating foods without pesticides and other harmful ingredients is much better and healthier for you than the alternative?  Additionally, the vitamin and mineral content will be higher than processed foods.

Some argue that because organic foods are not being protected from diseases and insects because of the lack of use of pesticides, that it is not safe.  I would much rather take my chances than continue to eat pesticides on my food.  The amount of damage that pesticides can do to your body is overwhelming.  The chemicals can have long lasting bad health effects that may be irreversible over time.

When the budget is limited and you can’t buy organic, choose fruits and vegetables less likely to have pesticide residue.  Those produce most likely to be contaminated include:  peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, strawberries, pears, cherries, grapes, nectarines, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes.  Try to buy organic for these items.  Luckily, drastically reducing exposure to pesticides and bacteria found on produce can be achieved by washing them in water and white vinegar.  This is a safe solution that kills 98% of bacteria and removes pesticides. To do this mix 3 parts water to 1 part white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray this solution on fruits and vegetables to remove residue.  Be sure to rinse with water after spraying to complete the removal process. If you have more time and want to clean fruits and veggies while you are doing something else, just fill a bowl with water and add 1/8 to 1/2 cup of vinegar, depending on the size of your bowl. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes and rinse with water.

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