“What do you mean, wise things I should know? Isn’t ‘going organic’ itself already a wise thing to do for my health?”
These were the exact disapproving words I got from my best friend when I told her what I knew about organics. As a newbie organic consumer, she was the first person I thought of when I discovered that not all organic products are as promising as they sound.
Undeniably, health enthusiasts have paid more and more attention to organic foods. Who wouldn’t, right?!
The countless benefits that these organics bring to our health and environment make them market superstars!
The sad thing starts here: Only a few organic consumers know what “organic” really means. Let’s kick this off and let me be your best friend today! ?
When brand consultancy BFG surveyed 300 shoppers, it was found that 70% of them purchased organic foods — and only 20% of these organic food shoppers correctly defined what “organic” truly meant.
I was personally guilty of this before! I can’t deny how items stuck with “organic” labels appealed to me. With the other chores and errands waiting in line, I grabbed them without hesitation! Their “organic” labels gave me a quick guarantee that I’m putting healthy selections in my cart! Unfortunately, this time-friendly habit came to an end the moment I learned that not all “organic” products are truly organic. It’s a bittersweet revelation. It took me some time to face that I need to put an extra effort the next time I do my grocery shopping. This was a powerful awakening lesson for me.
Do not be a part of the 20 percent — BE A WISE SHOPPER! ?
In the United States, “organic” can be defined differently depending on the product. Generally, organics can be identified when these 3 conditions are met, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards!
- The product bears the official USDA organic seal.
- The product has been certified organic.
- The product contains more than 70% organic ingredients.
WARNING: There are some manufacturers and producers that use a very similar seal, but different in color. This marketing misconduct can be fined for up to $11,000 per violation. Also, the USDA only allows products with at least 70% organically produced ingredients to use the words “made with organic ingredients.” You see, organic can sometimes be a trick! ?
Of course, I don’t want to leave you wondering how to measure up these USDA standards. We can thank the heavens that Environmental Working Group (EWG) existed, when it was needed the most. THEY HAVE DONE THE JOB FOR US! ?
EWG is a nonprofit organization advocating for policies that protect global and individual health. They rank pesticide residues present in fruits and vegetables that you are most likely buying! Updated yearly, the EWG Shopper’s Guide is based on the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests.
Every day, many consumers rely on EWG’s Shopper’s Guide. They help families make the best choices for their daily food consumption. When conventional products test high for pesticides, EWG makes an effort to help you locate quality organics!
The Dirty Dozen™ and Clean Fifteen™ are the most famous EWG projects — and you are about to discover them!
The top 12 most chemical-rich crops are collectively called, The Dirty Dozen™ by EWG. These 12 crops contain the highest levels of pesticide residue used by farmers and therefore, should be bought “organic” when possible!
Are you a fan of strawberries? Sorry to say this but it is on top 1 and was found to contain 22 different types of pesticide residues on just one sample! Spinach comes at the second spot, after the report found that 97% of conventional spinach samples contain pesticide residues ?.
Oh, this will surely make you think twice about the stuff you buy in the grocery store next time! Here’s the complete list of the Dirty Dozen™:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
You can find EWG’s updated list of the Dirty Dozen™ here.
Alternatively, the Clean Fifteen™ of EWG refers to 15 crops that use the least amount of pesticide contamination. According to EWG’s recommendation, these 15 crops can be safe, even if you don’t purchase the organic sorts. ? Time to see the list!
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
You can find EWG’s updated list of the Clean Fifteen™ here.
Another great tip I could give you to make you a wiser enthusiast of organics, is to ask this single question before you buy: “Does this have GMOs?” ?
GMOs stand for Genetically Modified Organisms. They are added to crops to make them pest resistant. Producers do it to increase production — and only organic foods are guaranteed to not have GMOs in them! The last time rats were used in experiments for a GMO-related study, the ones exposed to GMOs died sooner and had more tumors and organ damage than the ones fed with non-GMOs.
Have you noticed that little sticker glued on apples, bananas and other crops? That’s not just for branding! That is called a “Price Look-Up” or PLU Code. What purpose does it serve? ? Remember these two things:
- If there are five numbers in the PLU code, and the number starts with “8”, the item is a genetically modified fruit or vegetable!
- If there are five numbers in the PLU code, and the number starts with “9”, the produce has been grown organically and is not genetically modified!
Certified Labels vs. Non-Certified Labels
Labels are helpful! They contain information about how a certain product was grown or processed. But with all the various labels nowadays, coming in different shapes, colors and seals… The thing I would never want for you is to be misled! Try to look at the following:
- HORMONE-FREE / RBGH-F
- RAISED WITHOUT ANTIBIOTICS
- GE-FREE / NON-GMO
- ALL NATURAL
These labels can actually serve the truth on how some of the products were really processed. The problem is that they have no universal standard or definition. They are not certified and therefore, misleading. For you to be even wiser, have a glimpse of the most common certified and legitimate labels to look for!
Have you held tight on Wisdom #2? This is how the seal looks like! USDA’s National Organic Program regulates labeling requirements for organic agricultural products. Organic labels can be found on produce, dairy, meat, processed foods, condiments and beverages.
CERTIFIED NATURALLY GROWN
This is an alternative, farmer-friendly, non-governmental certification system where other farmers act as inspectors! Meaning, this label indicates that someone is certifying that the product is indeed natural, rather than just using the word “natural” for marketing purposes.
Fair Trade standards are enforced by the Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International. Under this label, products must be grown, produced and processed in a manner that supports social development, economic development and environmental development.
ANIMAL WELFARE APPROVED (AWA)
The basic premise of AWA standards is that animals must be able to behave naturally and be in a state of physical and psychological well-being! They only certify family farms (charging no fees to participating farmers) where animals must be raised on pasture or range.
AMERICAN HUMANE CERTIFIED
American Humane Association ensures that livestock have access to clean & sufficient food and water, safe and healthy living environment, and staff or managers who are thoroughly trained to care for animals humanely!
NON-GMO PROJECT VERIFIED
This seal is given by the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization, which verifies that products are processed according to their best practices for GMO avoidance — from seed to shelf!
The American Grassfed Association certifies beef, bison, dairy, lamb and goat that is fed only on pasture! The standard also highly promotes livestock welfare. These livestock must be raised without antibiotics, synthetic hormones or confinement.
The Perks of Going Organic
Now, this is the part where I give you all the good reasons, as to why nothing beats going organic!
Money talks! As people have increasingly purchased organic food, this showed consumer support for organics. Companies and producers have then tried meeting that demand with better, more competitive prices. Currently, organic food is becoming more affordable!
Health and safety! This might be the most popular reason that organic-loving consumers live for. A quality organic diet increases the consumption of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids! Also, it is much safer compared to non-organics — which translates to a healthier body, that is capable of fully absorbing nutrients!
Outstanding flavor! Well, the taste might be in the tongue of the beholder, but you’re more likely to get fresher flavor with quality organics! These foods don’t contain artificial preservatives, so they usually sit on the shelf for a lesser time. This is how you get a fresher, better-tasting product!
Strengthen the future generations! Pesticides and chemicals have been linked to infertility problems in both males and females. When soon-to-be parents wisely go for quality organic food, they are absolutely building a family that is exposed to fewer health risks!
More than just these health-related reasons, you’ll be surprised too with how much favor you are doing the environment by choosing quality organics!
Support sustainable farming! Study shows that sustainable farming methods, including organic food production, use 23% to 56% less fossil energy than conventional farming methods!
Help prevent soil erosion & air pollution! The farming methods used in organic farms help control soil erosion. Soil from organic farms is also pesticide-free and doesn’t result to polluted air!
Protect animals! Research shows that organic livestock is more likely to be treated better than non-organic livestock, in terms of feeding and medicine. Environmentally, many other wild creatures suffer in the presence of toxic chemicals that infiltrate their natural habitats!
Keep our water clean! Opposing the organic farming methods, non-organic operations can deposit pesticides into lakes, rivers and reservoirs. Sadly, this can contaminate the drinking water supply and can remain in the water system for years!
I am truly hoping that you have fully opened your senses to maximize the health benefits of embracing quality organics. If not, then let me try just once more through these compelling words from Dr. Mark Hyman, a leader in the field of Functional Medicine:
“We get rid of the bad stuff, put in the good stuff, and because your body is an intelligent system – it does the rest.”Dr Mark Hyman
Perhaps, you have long known the importance of what sort of food items you should let into your body. But I am delighted to have taken you into another perspective — that even the items and labels that we always thought to be healthy just as they are, still demands wise decisions! This way, you can be at peace, knowing that you are responsibly doing your part in your intelligent system. Plus, you can guarantee yourself that you are not letting your time, money and energy go to waste!
Do you know someone who’s planning to have a lifestyle change and thinks of going organic? Make sure to be an awesome friend by letting her know too, about the wise things you have discovered today! ?
Gita is the founder of My Menopause Journey. Since 2014, she has been supporting midlife women by sharing hard-earned learnings from her own experience. To advance her knowledge, Gita puts a lot of her time and effort into understanding the broad spectrum of women’s health. She immerses in extensive research about the physical, mental and emotional aspects of menopause. Gita believes in the life-changing power of healthy, holistic living — this is where she anchors her message to all women. Learn more about her marvelous mission in About us - My Menopause Journey.