Breaking Down Organic
Getting to the Root of Organic
By Heather Martin Jeffcoat
We are bombarded every day on the TV, in the newspaper andeven now on social media about eating healthy and choosing the right types offood. You have heard the word organic thrown around so many times, but do youknow what it means? Do you hear the word organic and think it must lack tasteor cost a lot more money?
Let’s break it down and discover together what organic meansfor you.
What is Organic?
According to the USDA organic products arelabeled as “USDA Certified Organic.” It states that “organic food is produced byfarmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation ofsoil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that aregiven no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced withoutusing most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredientsor sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. “
Why Choose Organic?
Frances Self Drennen, Co-Owner of MannaGrocery & Deli in Tuscaloosa, opened a store in 1980 to provide the area apath to great health through good food without unnecessary additives,chemicals and enhancers.
“In my opinion it is important tobuy organic products (when possible) for two reasons. Healthwise, foods grown without pesticides and synthetic chemicals are betterfor humans and for the environment. We don't need the toxic load thatcomes with excess chemicals. The second reason is to support those whoare growing and producing organic products. When we buy organic, we senda message into the marketplace that organic is important and valuable,” Drennensaid.
Registered Dietician Kellie Patton encourages families topurchase and consume as much wholesome, natural food as possible instead ofprocessed alternatives.
“Whetherorganic, local or conventional, they are wholesome and contribute to healthfuldietary patterns. Research on differences between organic and conventionalproducts is ongoing and the best method to differentiate products is the foodlabel,” she said.
Visit your local farmer’s market to look for organicallygrown produce, but if you can’t find organically grown still buy produce.Locally grown produce is better for you than nothing at all.
Sometimes the biggest drawback to organic foods is that theyare often much more expensive, but you must do your research and see if it isworth it for you.
The price is higher for organic items due to the farmingpractices used to produce organic items. Consumers and families on a tightbudget can also purchase organically produced foods through acommunity-supported agriculture program.
Not all veggies and fruits have to be purchased organically.Remember the “Dirty Dozen.”
The Dirty Dozen is a list released annually by theEnvironmental Working Group that analyzes the Department of Agriculture dataabout pesticide residue. It ranks foods based on how much or little pesticideresidue they have. The group estimates that individuals can reduce theirexposure by 80% if they switch to organic when buying these 12 foods: apples,celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes(imported), sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries (domestic), lettuce andkale/collard greens.
To further contain a family’s monthly food costs, seasonallyavailable, locally produced organic foodscan be frozen, dehydrated or preserved (canned) for later use.
When storing be aware that organic fruits and vegetables arenot treated with waxes or preservative and may spoil faster. When choosingorganic produce the appearance may look less than perfect but it must meet thesame quality and safety standards as those of conventional fruit and vegetables.Even if it is not perfectly shaped or smaller than what you have seen in thegrocery store it doesn’t mean anything is deficient.
There are organic options for milk, dairy, meat, baby food,etc. Almost everything has an organic version available now. Be smart and doyour research to make sure you need the organic version of that item.
Know the Terms
Even the term organic can be tricky. There are three levelsof organic claims on food labels according to the USDA Nation Organic Program:
100-percent Organic - Products that are completely organic or made of only organic ingredients qualify for this claim and a USDA Organicseal.
Organic -Products in which at least 95% of its ingredients are organic qualify for thisclaim and a USDA Organic seal.
Made with OrganicIngredients - These are food products inwhich at least 70% of ingredients are certified organic.The USDA organic seal cannot be used but “madewith organic ingredients” may appear onits packaging.
Does organic and all natural mean the same thing? No. They are not interchangeable. And that can beconfusing. The FDA doesn’t even have a definition for all natural. The FDAstates that it “is difficult to define a food productthat is 'natural' because the food has probably been processed and is no longerthe product of the earth. However, the agency has not objected to the use ofthe term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, orsynthetic substances.”