Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Did You Know ~ When to Choose Organic

Did you know which foods provide the most benefit when bought organic? First, let’s start with a little review of the word “organic”. The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don't use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease, but instead conduct sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay. An organic certification program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards.

If a food bears a USDA Organic label, it means it's produced and processed according to the USDA standards and that at least 95 percent of the food's ingredients are organically produced. The seal is voluntary, but many organic producers use it.
Here are some other terms or labels you may see on products:

  • 100 percent organic. Products that are completely organic or made of all organic ingredients.
  • Organic. Products that are at least 95 percent organic.
  • Made with organic ingredients. These are products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. The organic seal can't be used on these packages.

Given the higher price of organic foods as compared to conventionally grown products, it can sometimes be difficult to know, which products are the most important to buy organic. When making the decision ‘to buy or not to buy organic food’ consider these top 10 organic choices. They are in order of importance, so replacing #1 will bring the most health benefits for you, your family, and the planet. You don’t have to change all 10 items at once, even changing one of the items on the list to organic can have a positive impact on your health. Today we will share the first 5 on the list...

  1. Choose Organic Milk: Given the large amount of milk that tots drink, replacing conventional milk with organic milk should be at the top of your list. Organic milk is free of antibiotics, artificial hormones, and pesticides. Moreover, organic cows must be allowed to graze on pasture during the growing season, which leads to healthy organic cows.

  2. Organic Potatoes: Potatoes are consistently on the list of most (or even the most) pesticide-contaminated vegetables even after being washed and peeled. Yet, potatoes (including French fries) are the most commonly eaten vegetable by tots.

  3. Peanut Butter: Peanut butter is a staple in many homes and most kids love it. However, if you look at the ingredient list of a jar of peanut butter carefully, you will notice that in addition to peanuts, it often contains corn syrup, sugar, partially hydrogenated and/or fully hydrogenated fats, mono-and diglycerides, the pesticides ferric orthophosphate and copper sulfate. In contrast, organic peanut butter has a short, natural ingredient list often only containing peanuts and a pinch of salt.

  4. Organic Baby Foods: Dr. Greene states that the most important time to eat organic is from conception through age 3. The bodies and brains of out tots grow faster during this period than at any later time. Also, babies and tots are more vulnerable to environmental toxins than adults.

  5. Catsup: Tomatoes are the #1 source of the important nutrient lycopene, one of nature’s most potent antioxidants, known to help prevent and heal cell damage and to reduce cancer and heart disease risk. Most tots love catsup and are happy to eat it with many foods (if we let them). An analysis of different catsup brands found that organic catsup is on average 57% higher in lycopene and have double the antioxidant power than conventional catsup brands. You may even decide to switch to organic marinara and pizza sauce at the same time!

Check back later this week to see the remaining 5 as well as a bit more info on this topic.

Please read our Did You Know ~ disclaimer.


One Pretty Girl and Her Mama said...

Thanks so much for this post! I always wonder what is most important when it comes to organic. YAY!

Erika said...

One question...does Organic milk taste different? My two tots love milk and I wonder if they would still love it if it was organic. Thanks.

Carisa said...

Erika-NO it does not taste different at all. We recently switched our whole fmaily when our local Shoprite began carrying their store brand of 1%, it was finally within price range for us :). I couldn't afford the fancy brands!!!

Nobody even knows it's different!

:) Carisa

PisecoMom (Mom's Marbles) said...


On the taste question - personally, I think it tastes *slightly* different - like the difference between, say, 1% and 2% of your regular milk. BUT... my family likes the taste of organic milk BETTER and we can always tell if we're at someone's house and the milk isn't organic!

I also wanted to ask, Carisa, if there are other reasons to eat organic peanut butter besides the additives. Is it important to eat organic peanuts, too? Are they laden with pesticides like potatoes?

The reason I ask is that we eat Skippy brand NATURAL peanut butter, which is also just peanuts and a dash of salt... but it's not organic.


Carisa said...

Thanks for adding your opinion about the milk taste-I know we're all different, and honestly my fmaily hasn't been drinking it long so maybe we just haven't noticed yet, I just know I drink glasses myself per day and I like it-maybe I like it better too :).

I am beating Laura to her answers :), but I do know the answer to the PB question, only because I researched the exact same thing recently and I found out that YES the US peanut crop is one of the most highly pesticide laden crops. I read extensively on it and will try to find the link(s) and possibly add them to the post. But I know for me, after reading it, and learning the cost (at least at Costco for us) wasn't all that different-we switched immediately and haven't looked back! That was one of the easiest changes for us!

I will say the Skippy tastes a bit better than Costco's organic, but it's one I just don't care on and we are used to it now.

Hope that helps-
ps-Laura...feel free to jump in and give more info when you get online since this is your GREAT post :).

This might be a good post to subscribe to comments or check back, as we can keep the conversation open here for questions and such. The 2nd part of this post will go up in a couple of days so be sure to check back and have your brain filled even more!

LadySnow said...

This is a great post. We, up until my husband lost his job, bought organic and unhomogenized milk. I also buy organic peanut butter. I agree that these should be at the top of the list. I guess I never thought about organic catsup.

Becca said...

wow. ive never heard the info on catsup before...i think we'll switch.
for sure we'll be getting the organic milk too. at 19 months we have finally convinced our daughter to drink milk!

Laura said...

Thanks Carisa for answering the peanut question. You're exactly right, peanuts in general belong to the crops that are most highly pesticide laden. So, when eating peanuts it is always wise to choose organic. You can now get organic peanut butter at most stores, including costco and Trader Joe's, and yes, the price difference is not very big.

Regarding the taste of milk, I actually also prefer the tast of organic milk. Horizon tastes excellent, and costco carries the 1%. Many other stores have added an organic version to their own store brand (i.e. Trader Joes, Fresh and Easy).

I am glad the post has been helpful :)

Laura said...

Thank you so much, Laura! This is inspiring.

I was thinking about the Peanut Butter issue and thought I'd offer the idea of using other nut butters instead. Although it may take some getting-used-to, organic almond butter is more nutritious and delicious! Of course, it's much more expensive, but it's worth a second glance.