Be Organic, B-E Organic!

(posted June 6, 2013)  USDA Organic Seal

Perhaps a friend, relative or doctor advised you to migrate your grocery choices to organic brands. Heck, maybe a complete stranger grabbed you by the arm, that lost, dazed look in the eyes, and insisted you “eat organic!” Laugh if you like. It happened to me once.

Personally, I whole-heartedly endorse eating organic. But organic can be a slippery term -- often confused with other, less reliable ones like “healthy,” "whole grain" or my personal fave: “all natural.” Let’s be honest, poison ivy is all natural. Foods that are highly processed are often promoted as "healthy" because they're "low" or "no fat." So, like anything else, you need to make informed decisions and look at things in context.

In my opinion, the USDA is not perfect, but certainly the best place to start. Here’s how the Federal Government answers the question: Does “natural” mean “organic?”

“No. Natural and organic are not interchangeable. Other truthful claims, such as free-range, hormone-free, and natural, can still appear on food labels. However, don't confuse these terms with "organic.” [1]

So what does “organic” actually mean, then? The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) has set the following definition:

“Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.” [2]

What about produce? It doesn't always come in a package. Look at the code label stamped on your fruit or vegetable.  If it's got five digits and begins with the number 9, it's organic! If it has five digits beginning with the number 8, it's genetically engineered (so you don't really know what's in it or what can happen to you if you eat,) if it has only four digits, it will contain pesticides.  If you've been feeling sick, run-down or have been on medication currently or even in the past, you want to be extra diligent about keeping your body toxin free.  Pesticides and GMOs will only complicate your digestion, cause   additional dis-ease or worse--cancer.  Who needs that? You have a full vibrant life to live!

I found a good summary that goes like this:

“Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.” [3]

Sewage sludge? Holy crap! So yes, by all means eat organic. But always check the label for fat content, sugars, sodium and other problem factors that may lurk in unsafe quantities. That can of soup might feel safe in the soothing light of its organic marketing, but if one serving contains over fifty percent of your RDA of sodium, then there’s a problem. And be wary of any foods stamped with slippery terms like “natural” or “healthy.”

So to kick off your new healthy eating habits, be sure to look for that USDA certified organic label when you’re shopping. But don't be confused, there are various levels of organic. Turns out, like many things in life, this isn’t as black and white as the logo suggests. Lucky for us, the USDA has published a nifty chart to help guide us:

Organic farming requires hard work and stratgeic planning.  Farmers and food producers are proud of their efforts to contribute to society in a sustainable, chemical free way. They will display "100% Organic," "Certified Organic," and "Non-GMO" on all of their marketing and packaging. And as far as any strangers grabbing you on the street? Just for the fun of it, I smile and reply: “Yes! Stay Healthy My Friend.”

Happy shopping.

To Your Health! 



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