This may not seem so simple to some, to you. And there are many barriers, excuses, reasons why you won’t - or think that you can’t - incorporate more organic foods into your diet. But the benefits far outweigh the risks (or in this case the barriers). So why not give it a try? Even if you just take baby steps and start replacing one food at a time with an organic option. It could be that simple to start on a path to better health.
You might say things like, organic food is hard to find, or organic food is so much more expensive, or I wouldn’t even know where to start. Okay, those are valid concerns.
The 2 biggest barriers to eating organic foods accessibility and cost
Yes, organic food can be hard to find depending on where you live. But more and more organic options are becoming available to us, everyday, and even big stores that are literally everywhere are carrying more organic lines. Costco, for example carries many organic lines of things like grains, oils, snacks, legumes and even some good meat and dairy options. Most grocery stores now have an organic section or isle and the products that they are choosing to carry is increasing every year. Check out your local health food store as many of them also carry some food products. And then don't forget to hit the local farmers market for the best of the best of local, in season, organic produce and meats.
And Yes, organic foods do tend to be more expensive and that can be prohibitive to some - well, to most as food costs are skyrocketing - but you have heard the saying that while it does tend to be more expensive, is it more expensive than getting sick? And the jury is not still out on this. It has come back and we know that regular consumption of many conventionally grown or raised foods will make us sick.
As for - I don’t know where to start – start here😊 Read on and I will give you some tips to help figure out where to put that extra money to choose organic.
What does it mean to be Organic?
According to Canada’s Organic Trade Association "Organic production is a system of farming that replenishes and maintains soil fertility without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers. It encourages practices that increase biodiversity and reduce negative environmental impacts, while also supporting animal health and welfare."
So why Organic?
From a health perspective, here are 4 pretty darn important reasons why choosing organic foods are so important.
They are prohibited from using synthetic fertilizers and toxic synthetic pesticides
There are no GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in the seed, feed or ingredients
There are no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives
Growth hormones and routing use of antibiotics are prohibited
In the USA more than 1.2 billion - yes, billion - pounds of pesticides and herbicides are sprayed or added to crops each year. The Canadian statistics won't be that far off. These pesticides have been linked to many Cancers - they damage our detoxification pathways and make us more susceptible to Cancers and other diseases.
The fact that buying organics takes the guess work out of whether I need to worry if any of the ingredients are GMO is great for me. GMO product are hidden everywhere and it is just not something I want to be part of my diet. Nor are artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Something that was formulated in a lab doesn't belong in our bodies!
Antibiotics are a real issue. They mess with our gut and kill of all of our beneficial bacteria. If we take them due to an illness then we must make targeted efforts to build back our good intestinal bacteria and heal our gut (more on probiotics and gut health Nutrient News - Probiotics (restoredvitality.ca), but if we are continuously taking in antibiotics in our meat, eggs and dairy then our gut will never have a chance to heal.
From an ecological standpoint it is really important to support organic farming as they cultivate the soil's fertility (rotate crops,
use compost and green manures), produce healthy food and support the welfare of animals.
This is an industry we need to support - for the future of our food, of our soil, of our health. Plus we need to send a message to big agriculture that what they are doing to our food, our soil and our health is not okay. And if we support those trying to do things the right way - with our consumer dollars - then more will see the value in it and there will be more organic farming, more selection of good quality food and maybe someday we can just called organic food, food.
If I can only buy a few Organic things where do I start?
I can appreciate this question. I remember asking this very question to my brother who was in the organic food industry. I had a young family, not a ton of disposable income but I wanted to make the shift.
He told me to start with meat, eggs and dairy. We ate a lot of eggs at the time and I found a store that sold organic eggs. We started there.
Animal fat, meat, eggs, cheese and milk all have a tendency to concentrate pesticides. Commercial meat is often raised using hormones and antibiotics and the feed is laden with pesticides and is often GMO. So this is a good place to start. Organic eggs and milk products are easily accessible and organic meats like chicken and beef are becoming more readily available. And many sustainable farms are marketing their pasture raised beef and poultry to local consumers. These are definitely worth looking into.
If you are buying organic meat at the grocery store, here are some tips to make it more affordable. Organic on a Budget - YouTube
What about Produce?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) - a non-profit organization, focusing on issues related to regulating chemicals, promoting organic food, and opposing modern agricultural practices - has what they called their 'dirty dozen' list. This is a list that they publish annually to showcase the fruits and vegetables that have been tested to have the highest levels of pesticides.
The EWG has just released its 'dirty dozen' list for 2022 and here are the worst offenders:
3. Kale/Collard Greens and Mustard Greens
7. Bell and Hot Peppers
So, let’s start here.
What organic options can you find in your grocery store that are on this list? I know that in my neck of the woods you can always find organic apples, spinach, bell peppers, pears (not year round, but when they are available they are a yummy treat!) and celery. They do cost a bit more that the conventionally grown counterparts, but now that you know the latter is full of harmful pesticides, is it worth it to you?
Eat what is in season
If produce is in season then finding fresh, organic options isn’t too hard and there isn’t too much of a price difference. But it is when you want fresh, out of season, and organic – that is when you will pay for it. So to make that dollar stretch and still make smarter choices for you and your family, try to eat what is in season and can be found more locally. And if you need those berries in the middle of the winter, then grab a bag of frozen, organic berries. I am presently snacking on a bowl of organic, frozen raspberries and the taste is amazing. They will get me though until raspberry season!
The EWG also releases a 'Clean Fifteen' list too - those fruits and vegetables that have the least amount of pesticides. So, these fruits and vegetables I wouldn't put as high on the priority to buy organic.
The EWG's 'Clean Fifteen' List
Sweet Corn *
Sweet peas (frozen)
* these products could be GMO, so make sure that the variety you are buying, isn't.
Look for a symbol ensuring that what you are buying truly meets the standards of organic farming and is not simply a marketing ploy. For example, in Canada we use the logo on the left. In the USA the 100% organic seal, for example means made from 100% organic ingredients but the organic label can mean that there are 95% organic ingredients and the remaining 5% must be from a list of 'allowed ingredients'.
So watch for labels and make sure you know what they mean.
The use of the word ‘organic’ can be confusing. I once purchased a body wash that was called something "Organics". Well, I took a look at that ingredient list and there wasn’t anything about this product that was organic but the name. A trademarked name. This made me pretty angry. The company was trying to deceive me. But it also taught me a lesson to always look a little closer and if in doubt, always read those labels!
The Bottom Line
There are great health and environmental benefits to eating organic foods. There are some barriers to doing this exclusively, so start with a few foods and go from there. It is wise to choose organic (or at least pasture raised, grass fed) meat and poultry, eggs and milk products. Choose to purchase organic fruits and veggies that you eat often and that are on the ‘dirty dozen’ list. Take baby steps if you have to, but start to make the change - You won't regret it!