When it comes to buying fruits and vegetables that go easy on the earth, it's hard to beat organic. But what does organic really mean?
"Organic" refers to an environmentally- and people-friendly way of farming and processing foods using no synthetic chemicals to control bugs or weeds. Organic farming usually involves farming methods that help conserve soil and protect water supplies. Many organic farmers also plant specific bushes and flowers to attract beneficial insects and ward off unwanted pests. Milk and dairy products from cows that are not treated with hormones and antibiotics and are given organic feed are considered organic. If your food store doesn't yet carry organic food, ask the manager to explore the possibilities. You can also refer the manager to local organic farmers who would be eager to supply more stores with healthy produce.
- Buy Organic (for less) at Farmers’ Markets: Visit Organic.org to find farmers' markets (and stores) that carry organic products.
- Most Important Produce to Buy Organic: If you are picking and choosing the organic foods you buy keep in mind that not all organics are equal. Many fruits and veggies have been shown to have high levels of chemicals. Apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, grapes (imported), nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, spinach, and strawberries can have high levels of pesticide residue. There are fewer health reasons for buying organic asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples, and sweet peas. They all have consistently low levels of pesticide residue. Check out the Organic Center's handy Organic Essentials Pocket Guide that you can take with you when you shop.
- What about other products? Organic meat, eggs, and dairy don’t have toxins or agents believed to cause mad cow disease that non-organics might have. Organic seafood can still contain mercury and other contaminants. Avoid fish high in mercury (like tuna and swordfish). Visit www.seafoodwatch.org for guidance. Also consider organic baby food -- children are far more sensitive to low concentrations of toxic chemicals because of their developing organs and high metabolism.
And did you know that cosmetics, lotions and other personal care products labeled organic may only have a small fraction of organic ingredients? Learn more about what's in your cosmetics here.
- Benefits to Buying Organic: You’ve heard the old adage that you should wash your produce before you eat it, but why? Farms that use pesticides are permitted to distribute produce that have pesticide residue on the outside. While a single piece of organic fruit or vegetable produce may not carry specific health benefits over purchasing a non-organic product of the same variety, the way this produce is farmed certainly does. Because pesticides aren't used on plants and hormones aren't fed to animals, organic farming is much safer and healthier for the environment.