I tried really really hard to grow an organic garden this year. We even made it up to tomato harvest time before weevils invaded, and I was forced to resort to non-organic treatments or lose my crop.
Now my days are probably numbered since I’ve been stuffing myself with the pesticide- treated maters and squash. I “wrench them off” as my grandmother used to say, but I’m sure some molecules are circulating through my blood stream.
It does beg the question. Should we be paying the extra price for organically grown crops? I’ve made it to the ripe old age of 50-12 which means I’m too old to die young, but could I be tempting fate?
More and more grocery stores are making room for organic products to keep up with increasing demand.
Why are people going organic? Reasons include a growing national concern about the safety of our produce and a general movement toward an organic diet.
The Organic Diet: What Does Organic Really Mean?
Organic foods are thought to be better for your health and the environment because they’re grown in a natural, chemical-free way. Organic produce is grown using natural pest control methods, instead of pesticides, and organic meats don’t rely on chemicals to prevent diseases in animals. Instead of chemicals, organic farmers:
- Rotate crops frequently to stave off insects
- Fertilize crops with manure or compost
- Use chemical-free soils
- Allow animals to spend more time roaming instead of in confined spaces where diseases can spread
- Use organic feed to feed livestock
- Do not use certain medications (including hormones and antibiotics) on livestock
The Organic Diet: What Are the Benefits of Going Organic?
The decision to choose organic produce and other foods is a personal one, based on your own needs and concerns. Some people just don’t want to eat any food that could contain pesticides and other chemicals, says Anne Wolf, RD, a registered dietitian and researcher at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
Another reason: Organic food tastes better, says Wolf, adding that studies have shown organic foods contain more disease-fighting antioxidants. Personally, I can’t tell the difference, unless it is very fresh produce.
In addition to health and better taste, there’s the green aspect of going organic. “A lot of people eat organic for the philosophy of it — to help sustain our earth,” notes Wolf. Organic farming practices are better for the sustainability of land, water, and food.
For most healthy adults, though, Wolf admits, organic foods aren’t necessary for better health — it’s just a preference. Pregnant women and children are more susceptible to the health effects of pesticides (including nervous system damage and behavioral problems), so for them, organic foods are a good health investment.
The Organic Diet: How You Can Tell For Sure?
To be certified as 100 percent organic, food products must meet the standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture. At the grocery store, it’s easy to spot certified organic products because only they will have the “USDA organic” label. Keep in mind that products labeled “natural” or “hormone-free” are not necessarily organic.
At local farmer’s markets, it can sometimes be difficult to verify whether a product has truly been grown organically, but local produce does tend to contain fewer chemicals since it doesn’t have to be packaged for long-distance travel.
The Organic Diet: Is It Worth the Price?
Organic food is more expensive because it costs more to produce it. Are the health benefits worth the price? “If it gives you peace of mind,” says Wolf.
Fortunately, you can still eat a healthy diet without going broke. Organic is organic, whether it has a fancy brand name or is a no-name. Buy generic store brands of organic foods instead of the pricier brands. Purchasing in bulk and freezing extra food or splitting with friends, can also help you save money.
If you do end up paying a little more for organic food, you may also find yourself paying a little more attention to how much food you put in your mouth, which can be a good thing. “When it’s more expensive, you eat less of it,” observes Wolf. She also notes that slowing down to savor and appreciate your food can enhance meal times.
Enjoy your food, she says, “not just the quantity, but the quality of it, and how it’s connected to the health of our environment.”