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Eating Organic: Does It Really Matter?

Apr 10, 2014

Organic FoodOrganic labels are populating every aisle of the grocery store these days, making options to eat chemically free a lot more available than they used to be. But with so many organic options out there, it’s important to consider what eating organic actually means and when it’s more advisable to pick organic foods over traditional options.

To help streamline your grocery shopping trips, the following guidelines can point you in the right direction to start making healthier organic choices for you and your family.  

“Eating organic is a better choice because nourishment for the body comes from foods grown the way nature intended,” explains Gwen Beckcom, personal trainer and studio owner at Fitness Together Mission Hills. “When too many pesticides are in our bodies, it can contribute to the cause of cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity or hormone disruption.”

Understand What Organic Means

The definition of “organic,” according to the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), is that animal products sold or labeled as organically produced aren’t given any kind of antibiotics or growth hormones, are only fed with organic feed and aren’t administered any type of medications except for vaccinations or to treat an illness. Fruits and vegetables that are labeled and sold as organic are grown without using most pesticides or fertilizers with synthetic ingredients, they don’t undergo any irradiation treatments, seeds and transplants are chemical-free, and the fertilizer is natural.

When trying to determine which foods are the most important to buy organic, Beckcom first suggests always sticking to organic when you’re eating produce from the “Dirty Dozen” list. These items include apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, domestically grown summer squash and leafy greens (specifically kale and collard greens).

Beckcom also recommends choosing grass-fed meat for beef eaters, organic chicken, and wild-caught salmon, halibut and tuna versus farm-raised fish. When it comes to eggs, 100 percent organic brands are your best choice.

On the flip side, foods known as the “Clean 15” are least likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues. These include corn, onions, pineapple, avocados, cabbage, sweet peas, papayas, mangos, asparagus, eggplant, kiwi, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and mushrooms.

“I use the rule of thumb that if I eat certain produce most days of the week, like strawberries and apples for instance, I always buy organic to avoid consuming a lot of pesticides on these conventionally grown fruits,” shares Beckcom.  “I also will always go organic if it’s available, especially on leafy greens. Children, pregnant women and nursing moms should always eat organic too as children’s little developing brains and bodies make them especially vulnerable to pesticide residues found on food.”

Overcome the Common Barriers of Expense, Preparation

Two of the biggest barriers to eating organic foods are usually cost and the ability to prepare fresh food in fast and easy ways. Organic produce typically is more expensive than conventionally grown products, but prices are dropping as demand for organic goods is on the rise and more stores are regularly carrying organic options.

If you shop around organically friendly places like local farmer’s markets or discount stores such as Trader Joe’s or Costco, you can find comparable prices on organic food. You also can save money on your grocery bill by having one or two meatless meals each week focusing on vegetables, beans or whole-grain based dinners since meats can be more expensive.

When preparing your meals, make larger portions and freeze some of it so you have meals ready to heat up throughout the week. Additionally, Beckcom suggests portion control to help save money by spreading your food out to cover more meals, which in turn can be beneficial to weight loss goals as you’ll consume fewer calories.

“There is a greater demand for organic as people become more aware of how bad pesticides are for us and how they negatively affect our health,” says Beckcom. Eating clean and healthy is worth the price and will pay off in the long run. Just like in fitness, you can pay now for a personal trainer to stay fit, healthy and prevent illness.  Or you’ll pay for it later in life with medical bills.”

When In Doubt, Grow Your Own

With gardening season just around the corner, it’s a great time of year to start thinking about how you can grow your own vegetables organically. With a little planning and setting aside time dedicated to healthy food, you can have a garden up and growing in no time.

Building an organic garden can be a fun and rewarding family experience that can help you teach your kids about properly growing your fruits and vegetables, as well as ensuring that what you eat comes from the earth and isn’t contaminated with pesticides and chemicals.

To ensure your garden is organic, you need to start with organic compost and find ways to keep bugs and insects away from your plants. Beckcom suggests using natural garden pest deterrents such as crushed eggshells and planting aromatic herbs like mint, fennel and basil.

“I have a small garden and grow my own tomatoes, green onion, parsley and a few herbs like basil, mint, rosemary and thyme,” shares Beckcom. “You can plant marigolds next to your plants to help keep bugs away. I have also used food grade diatomaceous earth to help keep bugs away. Diatomaceous earth is kelp powder that is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. We can eat diatomaceous, as it’s in a lot of grain-based foods to keep the bugs from eating the grain.”

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated if you just go back to your roots and buy or grow foods as naturally as possible. Keep these guidelines in mind so that you can truly live a healthy lifestyle free from the many chemicals that can be found on your food.

“By becoming more knowledgeable and understanding of how pesticides can negatively affect your health, this will change your thinking, which will change your established habits, meal planning, shopping and eating habits,” advises Beckcom. “Everyone deserves the right to healthy, pesticide-free food. Honor the body God gave you by treating it well! After all, it’s the only place you have to live, right?”

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