Shopping Organic: Save or Splurge?

I get questions about organic foods all the time and since this week is organic week, I wanted to share some tips on organic foods. Do you need to buy organic? Why do you need to buy organic? The word "organic" has taken off, like a nutrition fad and turned into a bit of a buzz word, but when you understand it's implications, you'll see how that is not the case. 

According to Organics Council of Ontario, "organic agriculture is a holistic approach to production which promotes and enhances biodiversity, protects long-term soil health and respects ecological balance through the use of environmentally and ecologically sustainable practices." Organic production does not permit the use of synthetic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, or growth hormones for animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Overall, organic farming reduces the amount of toxins in organic food and in the environment.

So, how does this impact us? In conventional farming, farmers use a variation of different pesticides, chemicals and sprays on crops to ensure that produce is grown faster, larger and uniform, but that does not mean it is better for us.  The pesticides they use are chemical toxins that our body is not well equipped to manage. Our detoxification systems were not built to detox man-made chemical toxins on a daily basis, especially in excess. So shopping organic simply means buying the most natural option so your body isn’t ingesting un-necessary pesticides and chemicals that may wreak havoc on your skin, liver and organs and your body isn’t absorbing un-necessary hormones that may wreak havoc on YOUR hormones. Studies also found that levels of nearly a dozen nutrients are 25% higher in organic produce.

If you are worried about what you eat, you should most definitely be concerned with what your food eats too, which is why animal products are one area in which, I would suggest splurging on organic. Buying organic meat means that animals have not been fed anything grown with toxic or synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or fumigants. This also means, they have not been given any kind of growth hormone, antibiotic or genetically engineered product, have been conceived by organically raised animals and have been butchered and processed following organic regulations. By buying organic animal products, not only are you not ingesting any of these toxins, but organic milk and meat also have higher nutrient contents than their non-organic counterparts. Studies have shown that organic milk can contains up to 75% more beta-carotene, 50% more vitamin E and 2-3x more antioxidants, and organic meat contains 28% more omega-3s, which are essential fatty acids that are linked to reduced rates of heart disease, depression, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, and Alzheimer's disease. 

When you are on a budget, it can be tough to buy everything organic, so here are some simple tips that can help you eat clean while allowing you to save some money.

 
 

Every year the Environmental Working Group publishes a new list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. These lists are created to identify the 12 dirtiest forms of produce (so, opt to buy organic alternatives instead), and the 15 cleanest (no need to always buy organic). These lists are great tools to help you manage your budget, and choose organic only when the bank account allows. 

Eat in season and visit farmer's markets: buy organic produce when it’s in season, which is when it is most affordable. Not only does your wallet benefit, but so do the local farmers. You're also guaranteed that the produce is fresh and little energy was wasted in its journey from the farm to your kitchen. 

Look for specials and buy in bulk: Buy organic products when they are on sale and freeze any leftovers that you can. Costco carries a lot of organic products, or you can shop the bulk section of the grocery store, as you will save buy reducing packaging costs. 

Avoid Organic Junk Food: Step into any health food store and you're likely to find an organic version of just about everything, including cotton candy. While it's true that organic "junk foods" are better for the planet, they generally aren't better for you. For example, organic soda is made without high fructose corn syrup, but it still contains a lot of calories and zero nutrients. Cutting back on sweets and extra snacks even if they are organic is the best way to get the most nutritional bang for your buck.

Happy National Organic Week!