By Christina | May 4, 2008
I have three children and have been in the fitness field for over twenty years. This combination of fitness and children means I am always looking out for what is best nutritionally as well as how to best affect their physical fitness level. It seems that more and more people are touting the benefits of organic foods so I decided to take a deeper look into the world of organics. In addition, I wanted to know what the difference was between a label which claimed to be organic and those stating “natural”.
Organic food has been gaining in popularity more quickly than any other food category even thought it does cost more than your regular choice of groceries. So, what I want to know is, is it worth it?
The research that I found showed that almost two-thirds of Americans bought some type of organic food or beverage in 2007 which is up from 50% in 2004. These products typically cost us about 50 percent or 100 percent more for these organic products. So the question, is it worth it? The answer is it may be it may not be. Huh?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that even washing certain fruits and vegetables they still contain much higher levels of pesticide residue than others. This includes apples, berries, grapes, spinach, and potatoes. On the other hand, that’s not true for bananas, mangos, or corn. The following are some facts to help you decide what organic, or natural, foods you should buy:
- Animals have not been treated with: antibiotics, growth hormones, or feed made from animal byproducts
- Animals must have been fed organic feed for at least a year
- Animals must have access to the outdoors
- Food hasn’t been genetically modified or irradiated
- Fertilizer does not contain sewage sludge or synthetic ingredients
- Produce hasn’t been contaminated with synthetic chemicals used as pesticides
What the labels mean:
- “100% Organic”: Product must contain 100 percent organic ingredients
- “Organic”: At least 95 percent of ingredients are organically produced
- “Made with Organic Ingredients”: At least 70 percent of ingredients are organic. The remaining 30 percent must come from the USDA’s approved list
- “Free-range” or “Free-roaming”: Misleading term applied to chicken, eggs and other meat. The animal did not necessarily spend a good portion of its life outdoors. The rule states only that outdoor access be made available for “an undetermined period each day.” U.S. government standards are weak in this area
- “Natural” or “All Natural”: Does not mean organic. There is no standard definition for this term except with meat and poultry products. (USDA defines “natural” as not containing any artificial flavoring, colors, chemical preservatives, or synthetic ingredients). The claim is not verified. The producer or manufacturer alone decides whether to use it.
Must-buy organic foods:
- Grapes, imported (Chili)
- Bell peppers
The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that even after washing, some fruits and vegetables consistently carry much higher levels of pesticide residue than others. Based on an analysis of more than 100,000 U.S. government pesticide test results, researchers at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a research and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., have developed the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables, above, that they say you should always buy organic, if possible, because their conventionally grown counterparts tend to be laden with pesticides. They cost about 50 percent more — but are well worth the money.
Other organic foods worth considering:
The three listed above will reduce the risk of exposure to the agent believed to cause mad cow disease and minimize exposure to other potential toxins in non-organic feed. These foods contain no hormones, and antibiotics which have been linked to increased antibacterial resistance in humans. They often cost 100 percent more than conventional products.
The choice is obviously yours but when you read the facts it is difficult to imagine giving my family anything but the best, even in this financially hard time.