As people become more health conscious, the demand for organic food has increased and 2015 had record high sales of organic foods to $43.3 billion. Today almost all grocery stores carry some type of organic food, but you need to be careful because just because a food label implies that it’s organic it, may not be so. Food labels can be confusing and marketer, but it’s important to read and understand it in order to know what you are really putting in your body.
So, what is organic? In order for a food to be labeled “organic” is should meet the following conditions:
It should be produced without:
Now, keep in mind that not all organic food is “certified” organic. When food is labeled as “certified organic” it means that it has been certified by an independent USDA approved agency that verifies the product complies with the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations. There are also times where small producers follow the NOP guidelines but they are not required to have an independent agency verification. In these cases, the foods are allowed to be labeled as “organic” but it will not carry the seal stating it has been “certified”.
When looking to purchase organic food consider using the following as a guide:
Organic label: contains 95-100% organic ingredients
Made with organic: contains 70-95% organic ingredients
Foods with less than 70% organic ingredients can only list this on the back food label
It’s also good to know that there are other types of labeling that may sound like it's organic, but it does not meet the strict guidelines. Here are a few:
In addition to the benefits of not containing any pesticides, GMO’s, antibiotics or growth hormones, recent data also points to the fact that organic products can also be more nutritious too! A 2016 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition provides evidence that some organic produce can contain more key nutrients than in conventional foods. Higher Omega-3 fatty acids are found in organic milk and meat when animals are grass fed. In addition, a 2014 study analysis shows that many organic crops contain higher levels of antioxidants, anthocyanins and flavonols compared with conventional crops.
Although organic may be good for you, the higher cost may not be within everyone’s budget. Make your decisions wisely based on your primary concerns and personal situation. If you are on a tight budget, choose organic when purchasing produce that traditionally has the highest concentration of pesticides and choose conventional produce otherwise and wash thoroughly. Another thing to consider is to try organic gardening yourself. Not only can it be an enjoyable hobby, it could also save your health in the long run.