I often hear the question come up of “Do you really need to buy all your food organic?” Usually this is while I’m on the phone with my Dad, who sometimes just really wants the amazing looking (non-organic) fruit from Costco. And, while I often say to him “Dad, let’s be real, are peaches supposed to be the size of softballs in January?” the answer to the overall question lies in the gray area, and depends on the type of food you are buying and what your household situation is.
If I could eat in the most perfect, ideal state I would buy everything I served my family from a local farmer who I know and trust; who never sprays their crops, only feeds their animals what they are supposed to be fed (i.e. cows eating grass and chickens able to roam), and who is farming sustainably. That would be my ideal state. Reality sometimes looks quite different. Time constrains and money come into play. I know this is not really an excuse, but I think that’s a reality for most people. Most of us are just trying to do the best we can. Some people don’t have access to farms, and others just can’t spend that extra money. Also, at the end of the day, I would rather you be buying fruits, vegetables and meat (even if it is non-organic) rather than something that comes from a box. So, no matter what your situation is, I have some tips for you.
First off, why is there a need to buy organic in the first place?
- Pesticides- pesticides are used on crops in order to keep crops from being attacked by predators (in the plant world that would be mainly bugs). While this is a good thing for a fruit’s shelf life, these pesticides can be extremely harmful to our health. Pesticides have many negative effects, including hormonal impacts, birth defects, endocrine disruption, chronic illnesses and cancer. (source)
- Antibiotics and hormones- Antibiotics are injected into any meat or dairy producing animal so that they reduce their likelihood of developing viruses. Millions of pounds of antibiotics are used every year. Hormones are also given to these animals to allow the animals to produce more without extra feed (source). These hormones often times are not broken down by the animal and therefore are passed directly on to the consumer (us). Some of the issues linked with this are early onset puberty, tumors, cancer risk, and genetic problems.
- Nutrient Levels- even if you are not concerned with the above (although, I’m not really sure how you wouldn’t be!), organic foods have been proven to be more nutrient dense than their non-organic counterparts- all the way from 15-50% (source). Given that our soil is already very nutrient depleted, we need as many of these nutrients as we can!
The Dirty Dozen
While I would recommend as often as possible buying organic meat and dairy, there are some fruits and vegetables that you can get away with buying non-organic and some of those that you want to make a priority to buy organic. Above is the list of the “Dirty Dozen”. These foods should ALWAYS be bought organic as they are the highest sprayed foods. This is a great list to keep on hand when you are at the grocery store, but if you forget it somehow (or can’t access your phone for some reason), look at the skin of the fruit or vegetable. If it has a really thin skin (think- a blueberry!) then buy it organic. If it has a thicker skin (like a banana or an avocado) then you will probably be safe buying it conventional. This list is great for saving a few dollars at the grocery store since you can prioritize your fruits and veggies.
Meat and Seafood
Again, buying local or organic meat is something I would highly recommend. But, if this is not a viable option for you, I do have a few tips.
- Choose leaner cuts of meat. Toxins can get stored in the fat of the animal, so if you are eating an animal that is non-organic, you want to avoid eating too much of the fat. So I would stick with leaner turkey, chicken breast, and a lower % of fat in ground beef. If you are doing this- make sure to supplement and get your healthy fats in with grass fed butter, ghee, and coconut oil!
- If you can’t afford fresh, wild seafood- eat canned! Wild canned salmon, sardines, and tuna are great, low cost options and wonderful ways to get in your good Omega 3 fats. Farmed seafood is most likely being fed GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) so I would not recommend consuming it.
- Eat your eggs- especially the yolk! Years ago I went through an egg white phase. I now feel very sad for all those poor egg yolks that ended up in the trash. Organic eggs (choose cage free and pasture raised if possible!) are a great source of healthy fat and protein with an abundance of vitamins. Also, at about $5 or $6 a dozen, you can have a healthy meal for about $1.
- Make bone broth- buying grass-fed or organic bones are usually extremely cheap. Or, if you bought an organic chicken, now you can feel a bit better about the heftier price tag because you are getting multiple uses out of it! Bone broth is fantastic for energy, provides a great source of collagen for bones and joints, improves digestion, and tastes absolutely amazing! I will be posting a tutorial for making bone broth very soon!
Thanks for reading! As always, leave a comment for any additional questions!