Do You Have To Eat Organic?
Hi darlings! If you're like most of my clients and community, you've probably asked yourself one of these two questions:
“Do I really have to buy organic?” and
“How can I still eat healthy if I’m on a budget?”
And I'll tell you what I believe right off the bat:
Organic is not a fad. If you’re truly trying to feel your best and think about your health long-term, then buying organic is crucial to your success.
There have been many times when people give me a look of disappointment when I respond with the above answer. But here’s the truth: the foods you choose to eat can either degrade your health, or—what we’d all prefer—take you to that next level superwoman status (#healthyeah!).
When it comes to the financial commitment of buying organic produce and products, I have just one question: what’s your health and happiness worth to you?
We nonchalantly spend money on coffee, dinners out, shoes (definitely my weakness…), clothes, and other guilty pleasures. Yet, we’re unable to budget the extra $100 or so per person each month that would be necessary to completely transform our diets by purchasing certain things organic.
According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), Americans spend less on groceries than any other country in the world, coming in at 6.6 percent of their overall income. Countries such as Brazil, Japan, and Greece are well above 10 percent. Seems like we need to get our priorities straight…
Yes, eating organic is a bit more expensive. But, we can pay the extra money now by choosing nourishing foods that heal us from the inside out, or pay later in ridiculously high medical bills. It’s a choice we make each and every day. Your health is in your hands!
The good news? You don’t have to have a cabinet and fridge that is 100% organic to make strides in your health (phew, right?!). Thanks to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), we have a list to go by for foods to purchase organic (The Dirty Dozen) and foods that are okay to buy conventional (The Clean Fifteen). The EWG lists will help you put your money where it matters. Print these out and take them to the grocery store with you as a resource! Regardless of whether or not your produce is organic or conventional, make sure to always wash your fruits and veggies before consuming.
Why should you buy organic?
There are so many reasons, but I’ve listed what I believe to be the most important here:
- Keep chemicals off your plate. Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are poisons designed to kill living organisms (think bugs, fungus, and mold). Wouldn’t it make sense that these chemicals would then be harmful for us to consume? Many approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. A high percentage of herbicides and fungicides are known to be carcinogenic. Organic agriculture is a way to prevent any more of these chemicals from getting into the air, water and food supply.
- Protect future generations. Children are four times more sensitive to exposure to cancer-causing pesticides in foods than adults.
- Protect water quality. Pesticides pollute the public’s primary source of drinking water for more than half the country’s population.
- Organic farmers work in harmony with nature. Three billion tons of topsoil erodes from croplands in the U.S. each year, and much of it is due to conventional farming practices, which often ignore the health of the soil. Organic agriculture respects the balance necessary for a healthy ecosystem; wildlife is encouraged by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fencerows, wetlands and other natural areas.
- Save energy. More energy is now used to produce synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate and harvest all the crops in the U.S. Yikes.
- Help small farmers. Although more and more large-scale farms are making the conversion to organic practices, most organic farms are small, independently owned and operated family farms. USDA reported that in 1997, half of U.S. farm production came from only 2% of farms. Organic agriculture can be a lifeline for small farms because it offers an alternative market where sellers can demand fair prices for crops.
- Support a true economy. Organic foods might seem expensive at first. However, your tax dollars pay for hazardous waste clean-up and environmental damage caused by conventional farming.
- Promote biodiversity. Planting large plots of land with the same crop year after year tripled farm production between 1950 and 1970, but the lack of natural diversity of plant life has negatively affected soil quality.
- Nourishment. Organic farming starts with the nourishment of the soil, in turn producing nourishing plants. Well-maintained soil produces strong, healthy plants that have more nutrients than conventionally grown produce. There are more and more studies coming out showing that organic produce is far more nutrient-rich than conventional produce. You should be able to tell on your own by assessing a food’s…
- Flavor! Organic produce simply tastes better. Conduct your own taste test with strawberries and tell me what you think!
Eating organic on a budget
If you take the time to research your area and discover what’s available that’s local and organic, I bet you’d be surprised to learn about all of the organic options just around the corner. Most shops nation-wide now have a section (for both produce and packaged products) devoted to organics.
Here are a few more tips to help you out:
Shop the bulk section of your grocery store to avoid paying higher prices for the labeling of packaged goods (think grains, dried beans, and nuts).
Coupon clipping isn’t a thing of the past! Make sure to pick up your local grocer’s latest magazine for extra savings.
Eat less animal protein (see below). High quality animal protein tends to be on the pricey side because of the enormous expenses farmers who treat their animals properly have to deal with (ridiculous, I know). Choose veggie-based dishes for most of your daily meals, and one or two high quality animal protein options per day.
What about meat and animal protein?
The same rules apply when it comes to choosing organic and sustainably-raised animal products. I believe this to be an even more important discussion, because we aren’t just considering our health—but the health and wellbeing of thousands of animals as well.
This topic deserves a separate post completely, but for now know that purchasing organic meats keeps you free of any antibiotics, steroids, or hormones that factory farm-raised animals are treated with.
Whatever your animal ingests moves right along to you.
You can choose to support factory farming and let these poor animals continue to suffer, or you can give that industry the middle finger (my choice, obvi) and choose to work with local farmers. If that option isn’t available to you, there are websites such as US Wellness Meats that offer nation-wide shipping.
Going organic doesn’t have to be an overnight transition. Take your time and learn more about the practices of organic farming and how animals are raised. This is all a part of the process of learning how to truly care for yourself. I started with produce and the few packaged foods that I buy, then moved to animal products, and even swapped most of my beauty products out for chemical-free versions. The change that I feel in my body now from ten years ago is phenomenal, but it took time to get here. Don’t get overwhelmed. Just go with what feels right and works with your budget. I’m always here to help!
Do you purchase organic now? If not, are you thinking of following the Dirty Dozen list? Have you noticed a difference in taste between organic and conventional foods? Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
If you know someone who’s been wanting to eat organic but is concerned about whether or not it’s necessary or the cost, please share this post with them and help spread the word! xo