Things are tough these days. The economy is terrible, everyone is stressed, and just making ends meet often feels almost impossible. Times like these, when we need to pinch every penny, also happen to be the times when we let our health slip. Buying food is expensive, and when there's barely enough to go around, it's tempting to buy the least expensive items in the grocery store, regardless of whether they're the best option.
Usually, the "least expensive option" isn't organic, but there are a select group of foods that it's absolutely essential to pay a little bit more for.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) certifies foods as organic if:
- The ingredients used to produce them are at least 95% certified organic
- Farmers limit the use of chemical pesticides
- Animals used for food production are provided with natural feed
In a perfect world, all our meat would be free-range, our produce organic, and our dairy unpolluted by growth hormones or antibiotics. Unfortunately, we don't live in that world. Agribusiness earns billions of dollars a year and as demand goes up, companies are developing newer pesticides to create more resilient produce and hormones to fatten up poultry and cattle.
If you're able to purchase all your groceries organic, I urge you to. And it is possible to find inexpensive organic food. If you're strapped for time and cash and eating healthy is your goal, keep in mind the following foods that you should always buy organic.
- Apples: Everybody's heard some variation of the joke about a worm in the apple. It's both gross and an indication that people aren't the only animals concerned with eating healthy food. Still, to combat the pests who want your Red Delicious, farmers spray apples with dozens of pesticides. Research has shown that apples are one of the most sprayed fruits out there, and it's tough to remove all pesticides by washing.
- Leafy greens: Spinach and kale, and other leafy greens, are diet staples for people dedicated to eating healthy meals. They also have a large surface area for pesticides to seep in. Plus, the class of pesticides most frequently used on leafy greens, organophosphates, have been shown to interfere with hormones and may even lower the IQ of children exposed to it.
- Bell peppers: Eating healthy approved? Check. Super absorbent? Check. Plus, many bell peppers are imported from countries with standards more lax than the US.
- Meat: It's absolutely essential that you buy your meat organic. Not only do you have to worry about your family eating healthy foods, you also have to make sure the chicken and beef you buy was eating healthy too.Non-organic cattle and poultry - to take the two most common - are fed feed injected with growth hormone and antibiotics to keep them healthy and fat. These additives can be absorbed into the tissues of beef and chicken and can be impossible to get out. The same goes for animal products like eggs. If your eggs have pesticides, so does every meal you cook with them.
- Baby food: This may not apply to everyone, but it's important. Babies are particularly susceptible to pesticides in food. Add to that the fact they eat baby food exclusively, and it makes sense to go organic.