Monday, August 8, 2011

To Organic Or Not?

Trips to the grocery store usually go something like this:

Boyfriend: Wow, look at these beautiful blueberries. They look delicious, let's get them.
Me: Are they organic?
Boyfriend: No, but they're local, from New Jersey.
Me: You get them, but I'm not going to eat them. (I'm a pain, I know.)

At this point the conversation usually dissolves into bickering about what organic really means, not giving too much trust to labels, and large distributors vs. small farms. I'm sure our fellow grocery shoppers love us.

In reality, our disagreements stemmed from neither of us having an exact understanding of organic labels, which I think is common problem. The information is out there, but it requires research. My boyfriend and I sat down together to ensure our understanding of organic to help ease grocery store tensions in the future. Since I believe what you put into your body is of the utmost importance, I thought I would share my knowledge to help everyone understand just what organic can mean.

The ideal foods are locally-grown, fresh, and organic. The label to look for when buying organic, and the only one that matters, is the USDA Certified Organic label. Farmers whose produce uses the USDA seal have met strict standards regulated by the USDA's National Organic Program, whose requirements apply to both fresh and processed products.

The USDA term organic means that crops must be grown without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Products labeled "100% Organic" are completely organic or made with only organic ingredients. Products labeled "organic" must contain at least 95% organic ingredients. Items labeled "made with organic ingredients" or "contains organic ingredients" will not have a USDA label and must contain at least 70% or less than 70% organic ingredients, respectively. This means, that unless the product has the USDA label, the organic claim is meaningless.

It's also important to know that some items are more important to buy organic than others. Through testing, it's been found that some fruits and vegetables have higher and lower levels of pesticides after washing and peeling. As organic foods are more expensive, make your money count and purchase the most necessary organic items. (I saved these lists on my phone so I always have them for reference at the grocery store.)

Fruits and vegetables to always buy organic:
·         Apples
·         Bell Peppers
·         Carrots
·         Celery
·         Cherries
·         Grapes
·         Kale
·         Lettuce/Spinach
·         Nectarines
·         Peaches
·         Pears
·         Strawberries
·         Potatoes
·         Raspberries
·         Celery

Fruits and vegetables with the lowest pesticide levels:
·         Asparagus
·         Avocado
·         Broccoli
·         Cabbage
·         Corn
·         Eggplant
·         Kiwi
·         Mango
·         Onion
·         Papaya
·         Pineapple
·         Peas (sweet)
·         Sweet Potato
·         Tomatoes
·         Watermelon

This site can be used as a source to help to answer many questions regarding organic foods. Happy eating!

xx Molly

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