Reframing How You Think About “Organic”

“Organic,” how do you feel when you read that word?

Certified Organic SmallHealth Food? Over-priced? Scam?

I recommend that you feel all of the above when you see the USDA Organic label. Beware and be aware of what it means, what to buy, and when to pass.

Organic Food ≠ Health Food

Organic means:

  • Grown without the use of most chemical pesticides and fertilizers (some more natural sprays are considered okay for humans and the environment)
  • Often contains more micro-nutrients (there is a hot debate on this)
  • No genetic modification
  • Livestock must be fed organic food or grass fed and cannot be injected with hormones or antibiotics.

That’s it. Organic does not automatically mean healthy. If you are eating a processed food with organic ingredients, it’s just as bad for you as inorganic processed foods, minus the pesticides. An organic granola bar is not better for you than an inorganic granola bar. They usually have the same amount of sugar and fat. The biggest difference is often just the price (that’s when it’s over-priced).

The biggest differences in organic vs. inorganic is with fresh produce. The Environmental Working Group does annual research on which inorganic vegetables and fruits contain the most pesticides and chemical fertilizers. EWG is testing the amount of chemicals inside the plant which cannot be washed off. They call the worst offenders the Dirty Dozen+ and the produce containing the least amount of chemicals the Clean 15.

2013 Dirty Dozen +
(buy me organic please)

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Nectarines
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Potatoes
  11. Cherry tomatoes
  12. Hot peppers
  13. Domestic Summer Squash
  14. Leafy Greens- Kale & Collards

2013 Clean 15
(organic if possible, but not crucial)

    1. Mushrooms
    2. Sweet potatoes
    3. Cantaloupe
    4. Grapefruit
    5. Kiwi
    6. Eggplant
    7. Asparagus
    8. Mangoes
    9. Papayas
    10. Sweet peas – frozen
    11. Cabbage
    12. Avocados
    13. Pineapple
    14. Onions
    15. Corn

Considering chemical pesticides and fertilizers have been attributed to many diseases, including cancer, diabetes, alzheimer’s, birth defects, and more. Plus, we still don’t know how bad genetic manipulation might be (in the most of the US, food companies do not need to tell you if their products have been genetically engineered, unless it is labeled organic).

Organic as a Scam

Food companies exist to make a profit (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and the higher prices on organic foods can turn a huge profit…as long as it’s a processed food.

If you are an organic farmer, your operating expenses are many times greater than a conventional farmer. The sprays that you are allowed to use are often more expensive and the risks you run by letting mother nature dictate your harvest can cripple a business. Not to mention the mountains of paperwork you must complete annually to maintain your organic certification. Red Fire Farm in Granby, MA speaks well about this topic.

My Recommendation When It Comes To Organic

Fresh Produce: Use the Dirty Dozen+ and Clean 15 to guide your buying

Processed Foods: Avoid anyway, but when you buy organic it’s not good for you, it’s just not as bad!

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