What Exactly Does Organic Mean?

POSTED BY nutritionallyfit | May, 06, 2014 |

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To understand the implications of buying organic foods (or the lack of them), let’s start with a definition of organic.

When meat, poultry, eggs and dairy are labeled organic, it means that no antibiotics or growth hormones were given to the animal that produced the meat, poultry or dairy, and that those animals were not exposed to waste products (believe it or not, but many conventional farms actually raise their animals in unsanitary barns filled with the waste products of those animals!) Organic produce means that the produce is grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and without the presence of animal waste. The bottom line is, if an animal gets sick and is given antibiotics; its meat, milk or eggs can no longer be sold as organic.

Why is it important for food to be free of pesticides, hormones, synthetics and antibiotics? Studies have been done suggesting that pesticides, (currently used on corn, soy, wheat and many fruits and vegetables) are linked to ADHD, obesity, diabetes and learning disorders. Although more research is needed before these results can be conclusive, isn’t it smarter to err on the side of being safe by excluding the culprit foods from our diets as much as we can? Doesn’t it just make sense that the more non-food chemicals, hormones and man-made substances we eat, the more likely that these substances could affect our health negatively?

The many shades of organic

When it comes to organic, the USDA has stringent standards. If a food is labeled “100% organic”, the product has no synthetic ingredients. If labeled “organic”, it has a minimum of 95% organic ingredients. A food labeled “made with organic ingredients” must contain at least 70% organic ingredients. And beware: the terms “free range”, “hormone free” or “natural” are not synonymous with organic. “Natural” meat products may be free of synthetic preservatives and additives, but they may still contain hormones and antibiotics. In fact, the majority of raw meat and poultry we purchase in the grocery store falls into this category.

Also, all conventional (non-organic) are not equal. Some of these foods are grown in much worse conditions than others. So whether you buy organic or conventional food, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Buy local produce whenever possible.

  • Reduce pesticides residues and other contaminants (on organic foods, these can still be caused by shipping, handling, packaging, etc.) on foods by:

    1. Washing and scrubbing all produce (even produce with inedible skin) under water (do not use soap)

    2. Removing the peel from fruits and vegetables

    3. Removing the outer leaves of leafy vegetables

    4. Discarding cut produce if it has gone without refrigeration for four hours or more

    5. Trimming visible fat and skin from meat and poultry, as pesticide residues collect in fat

  • Spend the majority of your food dollars on organics, since these foods are more likely to contain the least amount of pesticides.

Buying organic food for your family is a great thing to do not only for your family’s health, but also for the environment. Less expensive organic produce can be purchased at your local farmers’ markets, or you can even start your own small vegetable garden at home. The latter is a perfect way to introduce your family to the organic world and get them excited about eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

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TAGS : family Glendale Dietitian Health Nutrition organic

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