What exactly does the term “organic” mean? In terms of “organic” food, it means they are grown and processed according to federal guidelines that oversee soil quality, use of additives, pest and weed control, and animal raising practices. Package products that are labeled “made with organic products” or “100% organic” means they must contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients. These products can contain up to 30% non-organic ingredients without GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and can include substances that would not be considered 100% organic products.
Be careful when purchasing items that have the USDA organic seal to make sure the product meets the USDA’s organic standards. Knowing the USDA organic label allows consumers to feel empowered to make decisions about the food they buy as well as other products. Organic sales in the U.S. totaled around $47 billion in the year 2016, and has been increasing in 2017. Organic products are the fastest growing sector of the U.S. food industry and the sales increase by double digits annually. I believe the recent craze and rise in popularity of organic products is truly because people want to know exactly what’s in their products. Being empowered to know what is sprayed on your food or what is in your products lets the consumer take care of their health. We’re seeing the growth of health-conscious people, and I believe people want to know what they are ingesting or applying on their body.
So what exactly are the benefits of buying organic products over conventional products? Organic produce is grown with natural fertilizer, weeds are controlled naturally, and pests are controlled using natural methods and naturally-derived pesticides. Organic meat, diary, and eggs are a result of organic and GMO-free feed, animals are treated with natural methods such as clean housing, rotational grazing, and healthy diet, and livestock must have access to outdoors.
The benefits of choosing organic produce over conventional ones are that the product contains fewer pesticides, organic food is often fresher and GMO-free, and farming is better for the environment. The downside to purchasing organic food is the upcharge. Organic products are generally more expensive and can be marked up double or even triple, due to the extra processes and regulations.
My recommendation on purchasing organic food is to follow the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. The Dirty Dozen is a list of twelve products that contain the most pesticide residues, and should be always bought organic due to the testing of pesticides found on them. Some of these include strawberries, spinach, apples, peaches, potatoes, and more. The Clean Fifteen are fifteen produce items that you can buy non-organic and still free of pesticides. A few of the Clean Fifteen are avocados, pineapple, asparagus, cauliflower, and more. You can find a complete list of the dirty dozen and clean fifteen at https://www.ewg.org/.
Other items I would recommend purchasing organic over non-organic would be anything that you put onto your body and skin. This would include hair products, beauty products, deodorants before you work out on the Total Gym, any products you’d use in the bathroom, and especially baby products. Limiting the amount of chemicals such as pesticides and others can be beneficial to you. According to the Pesticide Action Network, “chemicals can trigger cancer in a variety of ways, including disrupting hormones, damaging DNA, inflaming tissues and turning genes on or off. Many pesticides are “known or probable” carcinogens”.
I switched out all of our cleaning products, hygiene products, and stick to the Dirty Dozen for our organic produce. Another helpful tip I have is to download the free mobile app, Think Dirty, which allows consumers to make informed decisions on what products to purchase by scanning the item and receive a rating. This allows consumers to know if an item is healthy or hazardous. I find this so helpful when I am shopping and am unsure of which product to purchase. Lastly, my advice is to purchase the products with the least amount of ingredients, which generally applies more for packaged foods or products. My philosophy for buying items is to use a mixture of all the advice in this article as well as being informed about what I am ingesting and using. Knowledge is very powerful when it comes to making decisions that will directly impact your health.