Ever hear the saying, “you are what you eat”?
With so many toxins and chemicals making their way into our food supply, that’s not a very comforting thought.
But there’s hope. Organic foods are made without pesticides, pink slime, and weird science tricks.
Organic foods are made simply and humanely and are much better for your health, and the environment than conventional foods.
Health Benefits of Organic Foods
The biggest health benefit of organic foods is their lack of pesticides.
Pesticides can cause nerve damage, birth defects, cancer, and other health problems depending on their chemical makeup. Some pesticides can be washed off of produce, but that still doesn’t make them entirely safe.
Organic meat and dairy products have been shown to have higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for your health. They can help reduce inflammation, improve cardiovascular health, fight depression, help with ADHD, Alzheimer’s, and other mental disorders, and even improve prenatal health.
Understanding Organic Labels
The United States Department of Agriculture uses several different labels to let customers know exactly what is in the organic food they’re about to buy. You may have noticed some of these labels on stickers, signs, and food containers. Here’s what it all means:
Food featuring this label is produced with only 100% organic ingredients.
Products with this label must be anywhere from 95-99% organic. The remaining percentage comes with its own set of restrictions, though, and must be approved by the NOP (National Organic Program).
Many shoppers confuse products that have the following food labels with organic foods. Though different from other commercial foods, products with these labels aren’t technically organic:
This label indicates only that the produce was grown at a local farm. This does not mean the product was not grown organically, though; the farmer may have been practicing organic methods but didn’t have the funds to pay for certification.
This label can be applied to company practices as well as food, but it isn’t regulated or certified in any way.
This term isn’t held to any strict standard. The Food Safety and Inspection Service does try to regulate the products given this label by requiring that the product have no artificial ingredients or color and be made with minimal processing. This only applies to edible items.
There is no regulation for this label; ultimately, it’s a statement made by the company producing the product. The only way to actually determine if the label is accurate is to visit the facility itself.
How to Buy Organic Foods on a Budget
Though organic food has obvious benefits, it can be difficult to shop for. These tips can help you fit organic products into your life without straining your budget:
Know what to buy
Some organic products have greater benefits than others; if you want to save money you can limit your purchases to only the most essential organic foods.
Shop at a local farmer’s market
Most farmer’s markets will not charge the premium for organic foods that supermarkets include in their prices, making them easier to fit into your budget.
Know what the labels mean
Keep in mind that foods are given many different labels, and not all of them mean that the product is organic. If you stay informed on these labels, you can avoid purchasing products that are not organic.
Keep an eye out for deals
Supermarkets and other sellers of organic products often have sales and deals which will allow you to save money on your purchases. Keep a close eye on flyers, retailer’s websites, and other media outlets that may advertise deals.
Ask about locally grown products
Local farmers may use organic practices on their products but do not have the extra money to get them certified. If the products are not labeled organic but are locally grown, you can ask about the farming practices – you may be able to save money by buying organic products without the built-in cost of certification.
Grow your own
If you just can’t fit organic foods onto your grocery list, you may want to consider growing your own. This will allow you to eat organic and can cost even less than buying traditionally grown produce.
Although they can cost more than traditional foods, eating organic foods can provide health and environmental benefits that may save you money in the long run. So ditch the pesticides and head down to your local farmer’s market for some organic grub…it’s tasty, good for the earth, and great for your health.
Photo by William Ismael | Willpower LifeForce
Originally published 11/7/12 and updated 8/8/13.