Organic. Pastured. Grass-fed. Non-GMO. Glyphosate. Gly-pho-WHAAA??? If you get confused scanning labels and cruising the aisles of your local grocery store, you’re not alone. These buzzwords in the 21-billion-dollar organic food industry can leave you with more questions than answers. This is especially true when you’re finding out how to start an organic food diet. (By diet, we’re talking “lifestyle” not quick-fix) So, is organic healthier? Is it more expensive? What are the benefits for you and YOUR family’s health? Let’s break it down and start with the basics.
What is organic food?
Earning an organic label in the United States means crops must be grown without using synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (also known as genetically modified organisms or GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
Additionally, organic livestock that’s raised for meat, eggs, and dairy products, animals must have access to the outdoors. If feed is used, that also must be organic. Livestock cannot be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal by-products.
According to the Mayo Clinic, potential benefits include increased nutrients, Omega-3 fatty acids, less exposure to toxic metals, less exposure to pesticide residue and less bacterial contamination.
Why should we be eating organic food?
Studies vary on actual nutrition levels of organic produce versus conventionally grown produce. However, many people choose to buy organic because there is less pesticide residue on organic produce. In 2018, a man dying of cancer won a lawsuit
In addition, two more verdicts against Bayer, which now owns Monsanto, followed. There are more than 13,000 U.S. lawsuits against the company.
So why does this matter to you?
A recent study showed 100 percent of non-organic oats in the United States tested positive for glysophate residue.
There are countless studies and information that document the potentially-harmful effects of pesticides. Some of those include dermatological, gastrointestinal, neurological, carcinogenic, respiratory, reproductive, and endocrine.
This seems like a lot of information to digest. Where’s the simplest step to start an organic diet? Each year, the Environmental Working Group comes out with a list of the fruits and vegetables that most commonly have pesticide residue. Typically, anything that has thin skin or a peel that you consume, you may want to buy organic. The Dirty Dozen list includes the fruits and vegetables with the highest concentrations of pesticide residue. On the other hand, the Clean Fifteen have the lowest measurable levels of pesticides, so you don’t necessarily need to buy organic. Here are the lists for 2019:
The Dirty Dozen
- Sweet Corn*
- Frozen Sweet peas
- Honeydew melons
How to Start an organic food diet: What’s Next?
You’ve mastered the produce aisle. Next, we’ll tackle meats and/or dairy. There may not be a huge NUTRITIONAL difference between organic and conventionally-grown produce. However, livestock and their by-products are a different story. New research is showing big benefits for choosing organic meats and dairy products. There is definitely a big price discrepancy between organic and non-organic meats, but the health benefits and TASTE make this choice an easy one for our families.
According to a 2019 published report in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, organic beef does contain more antioxidants than conventional. They found organic beef had 17% less cholesterol, 32% less fat, 16% less fatty acids, 24% less monounsaturated fatty acids, 170% more α‐linolenic acid, 24% more α‐tocopherol, 53% more β‐carotene, 34% more coenzyme Q10 and 72% more taurine than conventional beef.
Where to buy organic beef
We would definitely suggest buying local first if possible. Check local farmer’s markets, producers, co-ops, community-supported agriculture programs, etc.
Next, nearly all national grocery chains are starting to carry organic, grass-fed beef. Kroger, Aldi, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Publix, etc.
There are also several online options. Where you can you buy organic beef online? Here are a few options. Some of these may be affiliate links, which means Fourganic Sisters may earn a small percentage of what you purchase (at no extra cost to you.)
FarmFoods sells 100% grassfed and finished beef online that comes directly from local family farms. (Shipping is free for 10+ pounds.) They have options to get 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 or whole cow or hog shares, or individually-priced cuts. FarmFoods also has pasture-raised chicken and chicken bundles, and seafood available.
Looking for organic chicken options?
Again, local would be the best option. Most grocery stores have organic chicken options ranging from whole chickens to thighs, breasts, tenders, and drumsticks. Organic chicken nuggets and/or tenders are also way easier to find now!
Perdue launched an online marketplace in late 2019. If you can’t find organic chicken close to home, they have several organic chicken bundles and products available!Perdue Farms’ most popular organic chicken products are now in one handy pack! Order here today.
They have some awesome sustainability practices in place too. All material used in shipping is recyclable. Plus, for every order shipped, Perdue makes a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation. They also include a reusable and recyclable grocery bag in every box, PLUS a pollinator seed packet. (Why seeds, you ask? Perdue says pollinators like bees and butterflies help to make one out of every three bites of food we eat.)
Check out their full line of products here. (Be aware of lengthier shipping times. They PROMISE they are working as hard and fast as possible to fulfill orders.)
P.S. You’ll get…FREE Shipping for U.S. orders over $119
Be Wary Of “Natural” Claims
There is a big difference between “organic” and “natural”. The term “natural” has virtually no regulation in the food industry. However, USDA-certified organic has been through a slew of tests, regulations, and certifications.
Greenwashing is a popular marketing tactic for non-organic products. Terms like “all-natural”, especially for meat, are common. The USDA definition for “natural” meat labels: “A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. More…) “Natural” meat products can still include those raised with hormones and/or antibiotics.
Your best bet: read ingredient labels, not packaging.
Organic vs. Non-GMO
Another potentially misleading label is the Non-GMO label. Even if something is “Non-GMO verified” or claims to be “Non-GMO”, that doesn’t mean pesticide or chemical-free. (We’re not saying all chemicals or pesticides are evil here.)
Some companies use “Non-GMO claims” as a marketing tool. For instance, there is no such thing as a genetically modified oat seed (on the market yet). However, look at some popular brands of cereal containing oats, and you’ll likely see a label proclaiming it “Non-GMO”. As mentioned previously, if it’s not organic, chances are, it contains
P.S. Organic is ALWAYS Non-GMO.
Where Do We Go From Here?
You may not have the hours needed to research each and every risk/benefit to eating organic and how to start an organic food diet. It’s not something you need to decide overnight. Pick one category or food group and start from there. Slowly but surely, we’ve made the switch to mostly organic over the course of the past decade. Yes, DECADE. In that time, the choices for organic have grown and we’ve noticed more affordable prices on organic products as well. Hopefully, that trend toward affordability and accessibility will continue. In the meantime, please don’t forgo fresh fruits and veggies if you can’t afford organic ones. The nutritional value for these is way too important.
In conclusion, our goal here at Fourganic Sisters is to continue to seek out the most affordable current options and keep you in the know! We’re all doing the best we can with what we have, so let go of any guilt you may be carrying about past, present or even future choices. We invite you to check out our tips to save on organic food. Take our meal plans out for a test run. Finally, tell us in the comments, is eating organic food a priority for you and your families? Why or why not?