4 Easy Ways to Go Organic…

Dear Reader,

Going organic is a good idea… Organic foods are higher in nutritional content, from vitamins and minerals to antioxidants.

They’re also free of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other toxins that cause hormonal imbalances, many kinds of cancer, birth defects, and other serious illnesses.

But organic food isn’t always easy to find and the labels can be confusing.

To make it easier for you, I have a few suggestions…

#1: Know What the Labels Mean

Trying to figure out which foods are really “organic” can be difficult because there are so many different labels. Anything carrying a seal 100% Organic means the food contains only organically produced ingredients. It must carry contact information for a USDA certifying agent; it usually bears the “USDA Organic” seal.

If the label says Organic, it means 95% of the ingredients that went into making the food are organic. The remaining 5% must be on a national list of accepted ingredients. These products also have to contain contact information for the independent, USDA-regulated certifying agent.

Made with organic ingredients means the food contains at least 70 percent organic ingredients. They also have to provide the certifying agent’s contact information. But the remainder of the ingredients aren’t necessarily organic. And they can’t carry the “USDA Organic” seal.

Foods with less than 70 percent organic ingredients may include any organic ingredients on the ingredients list only. They also aren’t allowed to carry the “USDA Organic” seal.

#2: Buy Local

Farmers’ markets are popping up in a lot of communities these days. Look for one near you. Locally grown produce is often more nutritious than store-bought, simply because you’re getting fruits and vegetables that are in season, and they don’t need to be transported over long distances. That means they’ve ripened closer to harvest, which makes a big difference in nutritional content.

#3: Avoid These Hazardous Foods

• Milk: Commercial cattle are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. They eat grains laced with pesticides. And they’re simply diseased animals. All of that stuff gets concentrated in their milk. The USDA performed analyses of commercial milk in 2004 and found pesticide residues in all samples tested.1 Organic milk is readily available in most supermarkets. Make this a priority purchase.

• Peaches/Apples: These two fruits contained the highest concentration of pesticides of 45 kinds of produce the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit consumer health organization. They used the USDA’s own analysis to rank food safety. Avoid commercial versions of these fruits. Even washing won’t offer you (or your children) enough protection.2

• Peanut Butter: Kids love it. Unfortunately, more than 99 percent of peanut farmers use conventional farming techniques in this country, including fungicides and other toxins.3 So skip the Skippy – it’s bad for you and your children.

• Imported Produce: Many fruits and vegetables out of season in our hemisphere are in season in South America. Blueberries, tomatoes, grapes and other produce often come from Chile, Argentina, or Peru during the winter months. Steer clear of them. Many have far more pesticides and other dangerous chemicals than domestic varieties.

#4: Explore Your Options

Here are a few web sites to find out where you can get healthy, nutritious foods. If you’re interested in finding grass-fed beef (which I strongly recommend over commercial beef), check out www.localharvest.org and search for healthy ranches according to your zip code. My personal favorite is US Wellness Meats: www.grasslandbeef.com.

The Environmental Working Group also offers sound advice and information on food safety: www.foodnews.org. They offer a great list of fruits and vegetables and the amount of pesticides they contain, along with free guides and news updates.

You can also look for a farmer’s market near you. Use this web site hosted by the Community Alliance with Family Farmers: www.caff.org.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

1 Benbrook CM. “FAQS on Pesticides in Milk.” Organic Center. December 2006. Calculated from USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, 2005.

2 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Environmental Working Group.

3 Tara Parker-Pope, “Five Easy Ways to Go Organic,” New York Times, October 22. 2007.