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The produce section seems to grow larger and larger with each visit to your local supermarket. Standing front and center, empty basket in tow, you’re in a bit of a dilemma attempting to decipher between the vast array of produce available, and this is before the mere thought of the term ‘organic’ comes to mind. That word is sprinkled throughout your grocery, placed randomly, or so it seems, on fruit, meats, and packaged goods- what does it actually mean? While definitely not random, the word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. The USDA requires that organic produce be developed without using conventional pesticides and fertilizers made with artificial ingredients, sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation.
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New organic foods are appearing daily with our choices now ranging from organic cereal to butter. Most families cannot afford to go completely organic. But which foods should you buy organic whenever possible, and which are okay to buy non-organic?
Meat, Dairy, and Eggs: Free of antibiotics, added growth hormones, and pesticides, organic meat, eggs, and dairy products are among those products I would recommend choosing organic over the conventional product. Organically raised animals eat an organic diet that does not contain pesticides or fertilizers. In the organic spectrum- I would suggest to purchase these items whenever available and as budget allows.
- Meat including Beef, Pork, Chicken, and Turkey
- Milk and Dairy Products
Fruits and Vegetables: The Environmental Working Group has developed two lists of produce items in regards to going organic. The Dirty Dozen are fruits and vegetables that are most likely to have higher trace amounts of pesticides, and the Clean 15 are those fruits and vegetables that are least likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues.
Know Your Terminology. The terms “natural” and “organic” are not interchangeable terms. You may see “natural” and other terms such as “all natural,” “free-range” or “hormone-free” on food labels. These descriptions must be truthful, but don’t confuse them with the term “organic.” Only foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled with the organic seal.
Not all foods have to be purchased organic. Packaged or highly processed foods such as chips, pasta, bread, cereal, oil, and canned or dried fruits and vegetables don’t have a difference in safety and nutrient values between the organic and non-organic versions.
The Envirnmental Working Group provides excellent insight, as well as a full list (beyond the clean 15 or dirty dozen) They also have a PDF download of the following image for easy carrying when shopping for your produce.
Regardless of organic or conventional, fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber- so eat up!