Organic Food Primer: Why Purchase Organic Foods On A Budget

Should you choose 100% organic foods? To me, it depends on which foods, your time and budget. There is no question, as described by Cindy Burke in her book, To Buy or Not to Buy Organic, that many foods are too “dirty” or contaminated with pesticides and additives, to be considered healthful even if nutritious, unless purchased organically, while others are relatively “clean” and are considered more healthful even if not-organic.

For most of us, organic foods are generally less available (i.e. not carried at large chain supermarkets) and more expensive (if you only look at the price at the register) than conventional, non-organic foods. When they are not more expensive I urge you to also consider buying local whenever possible to enhance your community food self- sustainability, but that’s another topic. When purchasing food you must be very clear on why purchasing organic makes sense and when it does not.

Three reasons why you should buy organic over conventional foods:

Better health
Better for the environment
Right thing to do

By definition organic foods are grown or produced in a way that reduces chemicals in foods particularly pesticides, additives and drugs (which cause “dirty” foods that you don’t want in your body). In simple terms we’re talking growth hormones, antibiotics, and many other nasty chemicals. Research generally documents that compared to conventional foods organic foods are more likely to have higher nutrition and phytochemical value. This translates into health value for your purchase, improved nutritional status and hopefully, over time, improved health and reduced medical costs. However, organic foods need to be eaten as fresh as possible for optimal value. Because organic produce does not have the additives that many conventional foods contain to maintain freshness, many items don’t travel as well, and will likely spoil faster than conventional products. So, buying locally-grown organic foods is best.

Why is eating organic (when you can afford it) the right thing to do? By definition organic practices are more nutritious, humane, sustainable, better overall for our planet and the human race. By choosing organic foods you are a more responsible citizen and a better role model for our children. Furthermore, because production of industrially-farmed animal products are generally more energy intense (take more oil, more calories) and not needed to meet our nutritional requirements, almost everyone can and should eat less animal products, and choose organic animal products when they can.

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