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What to Know About Organic Foods

You have heard all the noise about organic foods and are probably wondering if you should start adding organic products and ingredients to your grocery list. Allow me to give you the lowdown on organics or “natural foods” by answering the most frequently asked questions about them.

What does it mean when a food or product is labeled organic?

According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), “organic” refers to the way agricultural products—food and fiber—are grown and processed. Based on a system of farming, organic food production maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. To maintain the integrity of the food, the use of artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation is minimized or excluded.

What does it mean when a food or product is labeled natural?

Unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), foods with the label “natural” remain undefined, causing an even greater deal of confusion among consumers. Having the definition up in the air exacerbates consumer confusion regarding terms such as “natural,” “free range,” and “hormone free.” At the moment, when you see the term natural on a label, it could be interpreted in many ways–it could mean no artificial colors added, some organic ingredients used, minimal processing, etc. therefore, buyers should be aware that natural foods encompass many conditions.

Are organics really that much better for you?

It depends. If you have a compromised immune system you want to consume more organic foods, which grow in safer soil. Also, if you like to consume a large amount of fruits and vegetables that grow in the dirt such as, lettuce, strawberries, or potatoes, then organics are probably a better option for you. On the other hand, do not feel that non-organic foods are unsafe. Non-organic foods are safe for consumption but know that they are grown differently so it is up to you if organics are worth the extra money.

How can I incorporate more organic foods into my own diet?

Start by switching to foods that grow in the dirt. Here are the top twelve most “pesticide-laden” foods when grown conventionally, according to a study done by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research organization. Because they require more pesticides and artificial efforts to grow conventionally, the following foods are the most recommended organic foods to buy:
• Peaches
• Strawberries
• Apples
• Spinach
• Nectarines
• Celery
• Pears
• Cherries
• Potatoes
• Raspberries
• Sweet bell peppers
• Grapes (imported)

The least “pesticide-laden” foods (and best to buy conventionally) are:
• Sweet corn
• Avocado
• Cauliflower
• Asparagus
• Onions
• Peas
• Broccoli
• Pineapples
• Mangos
• Bananas
• Kiwi
• Papaya
For more information go to the OTA website: www.ota.com.