Organic vs. Non-Organic Foods

Like anyone who is trying to begin their journey towards a healthier lifestyle, I too have sometimes become confused with some information when it comes to buying food.  It is hard to know these days what truly is the ‘best’ for our bodies and it is challenging to know how to find those products when we enter the grocery store. Today we will discuss organic vs nonorganic and in the weeks following we will look into food labelling, the gluten-free craze and some other debates that influence the way we might eat or purchase foods.  As we become exposed to media and technology, there are many things being thrown at us from various platforms making it confusing for the consumer, which causes people to be led down misinformed pathways.  

So let’s talk organic.  As an undergrad student, (or anyone trying to be financially conscious), the ‘O’ word is something that makes me cringe! Once the cringe has subsided, my wallet begins to get a little nervous seeing the price stickers in the produce section.  It seems the whole healthy lifestyle thing has become trendy…eat organic, go gluten-free, again, leading people blindly into some lifestyle choices.  Now, let me get one thing straight, I am not saying eating organic or gluten-free is a bad thing, I feel that we as consumers need to become more educated ourselves so we understand why we are choosing to eat a certain way and understand the health benefits.

So what does organic mean?
When we talk organic, it means that it has not been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides.  These are often used to kill off diseases and pests, which often leaves me wondering what they could do to humans! Organic foods have also been grown in well-maintained soil, which results with foods having more nutrients and flavour.  Buying and eating organic means that we are fuelling our bodies with the highest quality foods.

How can I begin this journey on a tight budget?
Many nutritionists and interested ‘foodies’ use the following lists, which have been revised by the Environmental Working Group, to provide consumers some guidance when it comes to eating organic. The first is called the “Dirty Dozen” and the second the “Clean 15” to help us manage which foods we can focus on when deciding when to buy organic or not.  Ultimately, using organic as often as you can is ideal to ensure the highest quality of food, but not always financially doable. So use the following lists as some guidelines.

The Dirty Dozen Plus:

  1. apples
  2. celery
  3. cherry tomatoes
  4. cucumbers
  5. grapes
  6. hot peppers
  7. nectarines
  8. peaches
  9. potatoes
  10. spinach
  11. strawberries
  12. sweet bell peppers
  13. +kale and collard greens, summer squash 

These foods were found to have the highest levels of pesticide residue on the produce; therefore organic options are best for the Dirty Dozen.  Take note that most of these food items often have the skin consumed, exposing the exterior that was in direct contact with the pesticides.  Just remove the peel? Removing the peel causes us to lose some valuable nutrients so you might as well spend the extra few dollars, eat the skin and get the nutrients and best quality foods.

The Clean 15:

  1. asparagus
  2. avocados
  3. cabbage
  4. cantaloupe
  5. sweet corn
  6. egg plant
  7. grapefruit
  8. kiwifruit
  9. mangoes
  10. mushrooms
  11. onions
  12. papayas
  13. pineapples
  14. sweet peas (frozen)
  15. sweet potatoes

Now, the Clean 15 have been found to have the least amounts of pesticide residue, making nonorganic options of these foods safe enough to eat and will make your wallet happy! Not all, but some of these have peels that you don’t typically consume anyways, removing some of the pesticides.

Hopefully this overview of organic foods has given you some insight into what it means to eat organic and nonorganic.  Now, with more knowledge, you can make educated decisions next time you are in the produce section to provide you the most nutritious foods without emptying your wallet.  

Be fierce. Be strong. Be vibrant. Find your QueenDOM.