We hear so much all the time about “organic this” or “organic that.” In conversations I have with others, it is clear that many people don’t know where to start with organics and why it is so important to go organic in their clean eating diets. Here are a few basic reasons of where to start and why.
What Does Organic Mean?
Organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones when the meat is considered organic.
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows:
Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.
1o Simple Things For You to Do to Start Going Organic:
1. Drink and Eat Organic Dairy
Non-organic dairy cows are given growth hormones, fed pesticide ridden feed or grain and given antibiotics; all of which we in turn ingest. The non-organic cows that have had the antibiotic injections promote the adaptability of viruses to the increasingly stronger antibiotics, which in turn leads us to need stronger antibiotics ourselves to fight infections.
2. Eat Organic Meat
Non-organic poultry are fed antibiotics which aid to create new strains of bacteria organisms, resistant to current antibiotics which is creating new problems instead of solving them. Cattle and sheep are fed in addition to antibiotics, hormones & tranquilizers. The hormones (usually testosterone and estrogen) are to promote growth; no small wonder it’s hard for people eating non-organic produce to lose weight! There are 6 different steroid hormones approved by the FDA for use in food production; steroid hormones are the ones that are able to stay active in the body when eaten. Hormone residues in food can increase the risk of several diseases in both men and women. So instead of eating to nourish your body, you are eating a product that is potentially giving you very little nourishment and actually deteriorating your health. Organic meat is proven to have higher levels of vitamins and minerals without the risk of ingesting antibiotics & growth hormones. They also tend to have superior flavor and texture.
I say, instead of eating non-organic meat 4-6 times a week, try switching to organic meat and only having it 2-3 times a week. It will cost you the same in the end while allowing your body to actually benefit from the meat your eating. On non meat nights, aim to get your protein from other sources such as beans and quinoa. B balancing it out this way, you also end up spending the same amount of money; although you are spending more per pound of meat, you are purchasing and consuming less of it. Beans and quinoa are very inexpensive!
3. Avoid Irradiation
Many non-organic items of produce are irradiated which alters the genetic composition. By doing this the food becomes virtually nutrition-less, as vitamins, good bacteria and enzymes are destroyed. Irradiated food also has chemical byproducts that are proven mutagens and carcinogens. Organic food isn’t irradiated and therefore maintains nutrients which we can ingest to fuel our bodies effectively, utilizing it’s nutrients to maintain energy levels and improve our overall well-being.
4. Avoid Pesticides
Organic vegetables, fruits and grains should be a staple in your diet. Besides being sprayed with pesticides, some non-organic crops have even been engineered to produce toxins to ward off insects. Pesticides have caused bugs to build up a genetic resistance which has caused an increase in crop losses. Researchers don’t yet know the effects on humans of tampering with crop DNA.
While chemical abuse in the US appears to be declining as some of the more hazardous chemicals are no longer available to American Farmers, these rules don’t apply to trade and imported produce. Chemicals that have been banned in the US for years are still being used routinely elsewhere; around 20% of our fruit and vegetables are imported. The USDA estimates it only tests around 1-2% of these for pesticide residues, but these tests can only detect around 50% of pesticides used worldwide. Recent testing also still shows the highest level of the most toxic residues from chemicals, approved by the EVA and FDA, on domestic (US) produce.
A new federal law will ensure every chemical in use and proposed for use will be tested to determine its effects on our health. Why wait for the testing to be conducted when you can start eating clean, nutrient rich, organic food right now. Another way to also ensure you are eating non chemical produce is to shop local. Research the farms you are purchasing from and know what they use to grow and maintain their crops.
5. Avoid Toxins and Multiple Health Concerns
The toxins in non-organic foods affect us at a cellular level and the side effects from eating non-organic produce include obesity, heart disease, cancer, and reproductive, behavioral and hormonal disease. In fact, most modern illnesses. Children are generally far more vulnerable to toxins than adults, so teaching them good eating habits while they are young helps to establish their eating habits and to make informed decisions as they grow. It often takes many years from illnesses associated with toxins to become apparent, so your food choices as a parent have a huge impact on your child’s future health.
6. Conserve Air and Water Quality
Organic food doesn’t pollute the environment by releasing toxins like regular farming does. They are also prohibited from being point sources of nitrate. The problem with non-organic farming using pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer and soluble solutions is it infiltrates our surface and groundwater. Dangerous concentrations are consumed in water supplies by millions of people. Testing of municipal water systems revealed that the principal sources of drinking water for around 50% of the population has been infected. The herbicides and pesticides also get into the air and can drift for miles, many of which bind to dust particles which we inhale.
7. Protect The Environment
Organic farmers are legally bound to have a soil building program in place that prevents soil erosion and/or improves soil quality. They practice crop rotation; cover cropping and composting which protects the land. Buying organic supports this movement; as well as biodiversity. Another cost to us of buying conventional, non-organic products is that soil erosion costs us around $44 billion a year as they are prone to use mono-cropping which depletes the soil of its nutrients. Organic farming also uses less energy as there is less processing and transportation than in non-organic farming. Many organic farmers also use alternative and renewable energy sources in their farming.
8. Decrease Cancer Risks
By eating Organic foods you are potentially avoiding:
Hormone residues in food that can increase the risk of different types of cancer.
Pesticides that are known carcinogens.
Toxins that affect us at a cellular level.
Further unknown risks which develop over time and over long term consumption.
9. Increase Your Energy
Eating organic foods will help prevent your body becoming overwhelmed with toxins which are stored in the fat tissues of your body. Those of you who have done a detox or elimination diet, will have recognized the benefits of eating organic and by continuing to do so, the results of your hard work can be maintained for longer. You also always know what you are eating when you buy “organic chicken breast” for example. It’s 100% chicken which is free of antibiotics, hormones and additives. Compare that to Taco Bell’s “Beef”. They currently have a lawsuit against them as their beef only contains 35% beef. So what’s the other 65%? Define ‘filler’? Is it fat, cartilage, scraps, cardboard, bone? So yuck!!
10. Support Smaller Farming Communities and Fair Wages
Buying organic foods supports smaller farming communities, the environment, public health and animals. Organic foods really aren’t more expensive as there are so many hidden costs involved with buying conventional products. Billions of dollars go into federal agriculture, big company energy subsides, chemical regulation testing, hazardous waste disposal, cleaning up environmental damage, illnesses and hospitalization. Low costs are also a sign that the farm workers did not receive a fair wage.
I know some are still saying that organic produce is “to expense.” As I don’t know individual situations, I understand that it may be. However, I do encourage you to think about what the price on medical bills could be in the future. Also, is there a price on adding years to your health? If going organic still sounds overwhelming, I encourage you to start small. Start with the important things mentioned above: dairy, meat and produce.
When it comes to produce, you can even start smaller by going organic with the fruits and vegetables with the thinnest skins – these are the MUSTS! Things with leafy greens (think kale, lettuce, spinach) and thin skin (think berries, zucchini, peaches, mango’s) are impossible to clean fully to rid the pesticides. Things with thicker skins (think bananas, oranges, watermelon) are less likely to have absorbed as much pesticides with their skin protecting them so these would be okay if you had to wait on them to go organic. If you up the whole grain content in your diet (again, whole grains are inexpensive!) you can get away with purchasing less of the organic items. Another tip with produce, buy produce you plan to use for cooking frozen. Many times it is less expensive and it can still be organic.
By eating organic, we are overall supporting the environment by encouraging farming methods that produce less toxic byproducts, supporting small farming communities, looking after animal welfare and probably most importantly, being responsible for our own health by making the right choices that affect our health from the inside out. Take your clean eating diets to the next level and go organic!
Good luck on integrating organics into your clean eating diets!