Three Myths and Seven Tips for Going Organic

photo by: Julie

A guest article by Stefanie, founder of the Focus Organic website. Stefanie is, like many of us, trying to live a more green life herself. She shares what she’s learning with the visitors to her site, and also learns from them. She believes that, in our quest to be more eco-friendly, we can better ourselves, our lives, and the planet. Implementing even just small changes into our daily lives can make a big difference. Welcome, Stefanie!

In spite of tough economic times, people are still slowly realizing that switching to an organic lifestyle may be an important decision. While the growth of the U.S. organic food industry has slowed, down from 18.3% growth in 2007 to 15.8% growth in 2008, reaching a sales total of 22.9 billion USD, it is still growing, and seems it will continue to grow. The organic industry as a whole, including non foods, grew 17.1% in 2008, while organic non-food sales alone grew 39.4%. Organic food sales now account for 3.5% of all food sales in the U.S. (Source: Organic Trade Association )

Says something, doesn’t it? In spite of tough times, more people are still willing to pay a bit extra to ensure their health. We’ve heard it all when it comes to naysaying the organic lifestyle – "There’s no proof organic food is better for you," "We don’t know the chemicals are doing us any harm," "Organic food tastes like dirt," etc. I’m calling the nonsense police on these claims.

"There’s no proof organic food is better for you"
Besides the obvious chemical problem traditionally grown food has, which we will get to in a minute, there have also been studies done comparing nutrient value of organically grown to traditionally grown foods. One study, whose results were published in March of 2008, says, "There were 236 valid matched pairs across the 11 nutrients. The organic foods within these matched pairs were nutritionally superior in 145 matched pairs, or in 61% of the cases, while the conventional foods were more nutrient dense in 87 matched pairs, or 37%. There were no differences in 2% of the matched pairs." Want to read the full (53 page) report? "New Evidence Confirms the Nutrititonal Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods"

"We don’t know the chemicals are doing us any harm"
Isn’t it just common sense to understand that a food product grown without proven harmful chemicals is going to be better for us than foods grown with those chemicals? I’m not understanding the problem here. Proven carcinogens are being used on our foods, isn’t that enough to say, "Hey, there’s a problem here!" If not, please educate yourself on pesticides and their effects on not just those of us who eat the foods, but those of us who grow the foods, and the environment as well.

Consider a farmer who is exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis. It boggles my mind to think that their are people out there who don’t find this scenario scary! Consider these studies before you affirm the safety of pesticides for the farmers who use them – Chemical Predictors of Wheeze among Farmer Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study : "Pesticides may contribute to respiratory symptoms among farmers;" French farmers exposed to pesticides more prone to Parkinson’s disease .

"Organic food tastes like dirt"
Ok, being that this is a solely opinion based claim (or load of hooey, if you ask me), I can only refute it based on personal experience. And in that experience I have learned something great – organic foods taste the same, if not better (and usually better) than their conventional counterparts. Take orange juice, for example. I stopped liking orange juice a long time ago, when Sunny D was still called Sunny Delight. My husband insisted I try it again, and brought home some organic orange juice. To make him happy, I tried it, and fell IN LOVE.

So poo poo the flavor if you will, but don’t say it tastes like dirt because you THINK it will taste like dirt.

Need more reasons to go organic? How about cleaner water, cleaner air, and more humane treatment of animals, to start? Search the internet for why going organic is important, and start with our article at Focus Organic .

Whether you agree with the claims that organic food is better for you or not, it is becoming more mainstream. Want to take a ride on the organic train, but worry about the cost? Here are a few ideas for going organic on a budget –

  1. Eat out less. Most restaurants, unless they market themselves that way, won’t carry organic foods, anyway. Besides that, it is always less expensive to make your own food at home, and you’ll know what’s in it.
  2. Eat less "junk" food. Yes, you will find organic potato chips, organic cookies, etc., and while these may be good for an occasional snack, they will also probably cost more than better-for-you foods, simply because they are snacks.
  3. Shop farmer’s markets and co-ops. Many farmer’s markets and co-ops will carry not only organic food, but organic local food to boot. In addition to that, they may even be less expensive than standard grocery stores, and you’ll be supporting your local economy. Find your local market with Local Harvest ‘s great search function.
  4. Buy in season. This is an obvious suggestion for freshness, but produce that is in season will cost you less than out of season foods.
  5. Use coupons. Your favorite organic brands may list coupons on their website, so check that out. You might also want to pay attention to any store fliers you might receive in the mail, they will tell you when organic products go on sale. Visit Focus Organic for more coupon resources.
  6. Start small. If you want to ease into purchasing organic, you can start with the produce that is most important. Certain produce items have been found to hold more pesticides than others, even after being washed, making them the most important to purchase organic. Check out the dirty dozen and clean fifteen and shop accordingly.
  7. Grow your own. The most obvious way to save money on organic food is to grow your own. This option will give you the most control over your food – you will know, without a shadow of a doubt, that your food is safe for you and your family.

We can’t forget about non-food organic items, either. Clothing, bed sheets, children’s stuffed animals, etc., may all be holding onto those pesticides their fabrics were grown with. The purchase of organic non-food items (and food items!) is especially important for infants – consider their bedding and imagine how much time an infant spends sleeping on it. Would you want all that time spent with your baby absorbing harmful chemicals into his or her body?

Do the research and learn more about the organic options available to you because they aren’t going away any time soon.

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