Organic foods are usually good for the environment. But they're often hard on your wallet: The USDA found the costs of organic fruits and vegetables typically run more than 20% higher than conventional produce. Sometimes the difference is much higher, especially for things like organic milk and eggs. Are they worth the extra expense? In some cases, yes. It may lower your exposure to chemicals and artificial ingredients. In others, it may not be healthier than buying conventionally grown products. Some basic information can help you make the smartest choices for your budget and the health of your family.
Its thick, bumpy skin protects this creamy fruit. That means pesticides rarely reach the flesh. In fact, when scientists analyzed 48 different fruits and vegetables, they found that avocados had the least pesticides. A rule of thumb: Produce with thick skins that you peel or toss, such as pineapples and melon, have lower levels. Just wash them well before slicing.
As part of CNET's Made in America series, I want to lift the fog on the food that's being grown in the US. From health to costs, there are a lot of rumors floating around about the concept of "organic" that may seem simple. It required some personal experience and research to find out the truth. According to a 2019 report from the Food and Drug Administration, domestic farmers provide about two-thirds of the vegetables we consume and just less than half of the fresh fruit.
Standards for growing organic produce, a $62 billion industry in the US as of 2020, include a set of cultural, biological and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promoting ecological balance and conserving biodiversity. And yes, studies have found that there are higher antioxidant levels in organically grown foods. There's also evidence that organic food has lower toxic, heavy metal levels and less pesticide residue, with organic eggs, meat and dairy products containing more good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids.
But that's not always the case. Even processed foods, snacks and junk food labeled as USDA organic should still be consumed in moderation. The green label doesn't automatically make a food healthy. For example, organic peanut butter cups still have high sugar and fat content.
Though studies show the higher nutrient and antioxidant levels in organic food may be linked to having a more distinct, signature taste, food production is much more complex. It spans the entire globe, and different places bring different weather, soil and farming methods. Those variables are more likely to bring a vast range of quality and flavor. Rely on personal preference or experience instead of just looking for a label.
It's not just produce that you'll see labeled as organic in the grocery store. You can find the label on things like organic pancake mix, as well as crackers and other snacks. But even though a bag of chips has the green USDA stamp of approval, that doesn't mean every crumb has organic origins.
For a processed product to be certified organic, a minimum of 95% of the product (excluding salt and water) must be made from organic ingredients and the remaining portion must be made from USDA-approved substances. These nonorganic additives can be approved by the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for two common reasons.
First, some nonagricultural additives may be necessary for some foods, such as citric acid or baking soda in chocolate chip cookies. Also, some additives aren't commercially available in the form producers need them. In that case, a nonorganic alternative can be used instead, but only as long as it's on the USDA's list of approved ingredients (like carrot juice coloring or fish oil).
If you're an avid organic shopper and think absolutely everything has to be organic, think again. Though major stores may sell organic and conventional versions of the same product, sometimes the organic label isn't worth the extra cents or dollars, especially if you're on a budget.
Foods with thick or inedible skins don't have to be organic because they'll have little pesticide residue, as I mentioned earlier. And just as the USDA washes produce before testing, so should you at home before eating. Every year, the Environmental Working Group, a third-party organization that conducts annual tests on a variety of foods for pesticide residue levels, reports which have the most residue (the Dirty Dozen list) and the least (the Clean Fifteen).
Many of the largest grocery chains have their own generic brands of organic products, such as Publix's Greenwise, Walmart's Great Value Organic and Safeway's O Organics. They still have the green USDA seal as independent organic brands, but they generally cost less. So, if you're on a budget, they're a good swap to make.
There are also companies that deliver organic produce and products to your door, like Misfits Market and Thrive Market, at a discounted price. And as I said, buying only from the Dirty Dozen list will keep more bills in your wallet.
After two summers of selling produce, I'm a firm believer that people of every lifestyle can budget to shop organic -- from fresh whole foods to packaged goods. I met regular shoppers of every background and budget. Shopping organic isn'tan exclusive club for the wealthy; it's for whoever gets there first before the shelves and stands are raided!
However, the guidelines for what's truly "organic" as we know it today were only really established in 2002 when the OFPA board members wrote in finalized rules and regulations. Now there are strict standards a producer must follow to brandish the green seal.
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Boxed Greens is making your low-carb shopping easier with this great new box! For years low carbohydrate consumption has been recommended for those wanting to lose a few extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight. Included is a great selection of crisp greens and vegetables with easy to prepare recipes. A small sampling of seasonal fruit may also be included. Ideal for a 3 - 4 person household.
Organic livestock raised for meat, eggs, and dairy products must be raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (such as the ability to graze on pasture) and fed organic feed and forage. They may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal by-products.
How your food is grown or raised can have a major impact on your mental and emotional health as well as the environment. Organic foods often have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally-grown counterparts and people with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives may find their symptoms lessen or go away when they eat only organic foods.
Organic food is often fresher because it doesn't contain preservatives that make it last longer. Organic produce is sometimes (but not always, so watch where it is from) produced on smaller farms nearer to where it is sold.
Organic meat and milk can be richer in certain nutrients. Results of a 2016 European study show that levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50 percent higher in organic meat and milk than in conventionally raised versions.
As mentioned above, one of the primary benefits of eating organic is lower levels of pesticides. However, despite popular belief, organic farms do use pesticides. The difference is that they only use naturally-derived pesticides, rather than the synthetic pesticides used on conventional commercial farms. While natural pesticides are believed to be less toxic, some have been found to have health risks. That said, your exposure to harmful pesticides will likely be lower when eating organic.
Rinsing fresh produce reduces but does not eliminate pesticides. Peeling sometimes helps, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the skin. The best approach: eat a varied diet, wash and scrub all produce thoroughly, and buy organic when possible.
According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that analyzes the results of government pesticide testing in the U.S., the following fruits and vegetables have the highest pesticide levels, so are best to buy organic:
Shop at farmers' markets. Many cities, as well as small towns, host a weekly farmers' market, where local farmers sell their produce at an open-air street market, often at a discount to grocery stores.
Remember that organic doesn't always equal healthy. Making junk food sound healthy is a common marketing ploy in the food industry but organic baked goods, desserts, and snacks are usually still very high in sugar, salt, fat, or calories. It pays to read food labels carefully. 59ce067264