I’ll be honest. As much as I advocate choosing certified organic foods with high priority, going organic has been a work in progress for me.
We all know it costs more to make this choice and all have differing budgets, but as I learnt, it’s about taking one step at a time. It’s a transition that gets easier as you go along once you learn a few tricks. For me, it was a decision I made at a time I felt there needed to be a shift towards a more health promoting lifestyle. But is it worth it and how far do you go?
Not only is growing and harvesting food big business, it’s in very high demand. When you consider that we live in a day and age where more and more people live on this planet, and more and more food is required to feed all these people, it makes sense that crops need to be protected. The problem is, this comes at a cost. Unfortunately that cost is usually the environment, or our health and wellbeing.
It’s no secret that conventional farming practices require the use of chemicals such as artificial fertilisers and pesticides. This is what keeps bugs at bay and helps to feed the soil and plants. I’m sure most of us can relate to the frustration of seeing our beloved herbs come under a caterpillar or aphid attack! When those pesky creatures get in, it’s all hands on deck to find something to deter them. So it makes total sense that this is being employed on a much, much bigger scale on farms across the globe. However, over time we are seeing that this practice is not only ruining the integrity of the soil, it is messing with the final product.
Since the industrialisation of food, we are being fed ‘beautiful’, big and better versions of fruits, veggies, grains and meat. Some are genetically modified, otherwise known as GMO (genetically modified organism) and a lot of us don’t question it. But more and more research is showing the effects of consuming such foods and how it could be playing havoc on our bodily functions. One of the biggest health concerns related to the consumption of GM foods are allergies and how the genetic interference messes with the food we eat, creating a capacity to create new allergens.
But back to organic. I’m not here to tell you to start buying everything organic. That would be awesome, but let’s be realistic. It’s expensive. Why? Because organic farming is labour intensive, production costs are higher, the farms and harvest are generally smaller and therefore the time to produce crops is longer. I find the best way to get around this conundrum is to take a look at the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen or Clean Fifteen lists. These guys have done the research and are continually updating this list. It doesn’t change a whole lot but you might find some foods move up and down. Basically, the lists can assist you to choose what organic foods to budget for according to which foods contain the least amount of chemical residue. For example I am a Kale lover, and know that Kale generally has more pesticide exposure, so will always try to get the organic variety. This is a priority for me and where I choose to invest.
So why is this important? Is it worth it? Yes, yes, yes! Because although these chemicals are regulated for use in conventional farming, there are so many that research has shown to be harmful. This study links pesticide/herbicide exposure to non-Hodgken’s Lymphoma. Others have found chemical residues in the urine of exposed farmers and their families. There are also concerns about toxicity and in my opinion, we are still yet to see what effects this has in the future…
So with all that being said, here are my top 5 tips for going organic:
A good tip to remember is that the thinner the skin, the more likely it is to be dirty. A thicker, protective layer of skin, usually means less chemical spray and is cleaner.
2. Prioritise your spending.
Cut back on other things you might usually sneak into the shopping basket like magazines which are a nonessential item, and save it for foods that will nourish you.
3. Buy in bulk.
There are plenty of Co-op and bulk buy whole food stores around such as Scoop Wholefoods or The Source Bulkfoods which are a great way to manage your costs and consumption! I find I am more likely to buy only what I need rather than purchasing a massive bag of something I will hardly use if I go to a bulk bin.
4. Visit a local farmer’s market.
Doing so not only supports local business and is a great way for you to meet the grower, but can also be a lot cheaper than buying ‘organic’ produce at the supermarket as they also tend to have what’s in season. To find your nearest market go to the Australian Farmer’s Market Association.
5. Plan your meals.
This goes without saying. If you don’t plan ahead, you’re more likely to go over budget. Weekends are my time to sit and think about what we have on for the week ahead, and what I can cook up in bulk to store in the fridge, or freeze as leftovers for ‘lazy’ meals during the week.
Last but not least, don’t make the mistake I did and fall into an analysis paralysis! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the information out there. Keep it simple. If your budget only allows a few organic items, then use the dirty dozen list. Organic foods are so much more accessible these days which is great news! And if you can’t buy organic, don’t despair…you are already winning if you choose fresh REAL whole foods over the packaged variety!
So, what do you think? Will you make the switch to organic?