What Should You Buy Organic?

This week, a participant in my Fertility Foods class at the Reproductive Health Center, commented that she appreciated my explanation of the importance organics and non-genetically modified (non-GMO)  foods. I found this noteworthy and since this is practical information for everyone, here are the basics of what to buy organic. This post contains links to more resources.

Why Buy Organic Food?

The benefits of organic foods are numerous. Ranging from improved antioxidant concentration, higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids, reduced exposure to antibiotics, and the avoidance of the inflammatory impact of genetically modified foods to the impact on the environment, including water supply and soil nutrient content, in addition to reducing our exposure to chemical pesticides and herbicides. No matter who you are or what your nutrition and health status is, organic foods and food production will positively impact your health.

Producecertified organic

Chemical pesticides and herbicides act as endocrine disruptors and neurotoxins. To avoid chemical pesticides and herbicides choose organic fresh and frozen vegetables and fruits. To prioritize your choices, consult the Environmental Working Group’s list of produce that are highest in pesticide residues, which are listed below.

  • Buy organic produce as often as you can, and always buy organic apples, imported nectarines, peaches, cherries, strawberries, grapes, collard greens, spinach,  kale, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, hot peppers, sweet bell peppers, zucchini and summer squash, potatoes and corn.

Dairy & Beef

Dairy cows and cattle are administered antibiotics and growth hormone to promote growth. Yes, antibiotics promote weight gain in animals, and probably humans too as a result of the impact of antibiotics on bacteria throughout our body. Not only do the trace amounts of antibiotics that we consume through dairy and other animal products impact our weight, but the resulting changes in bacteria affects our immune, digestive, hormone and nervous systems.

Additionally, dairy cows and cattle are conventionally fed a corn- and soy-based diet, which lead to high levels of aracidonic acid in the foods that we eat. This type of fat is pro-inflammatory and should be limited when possible. Pastured dairy products and grass-fed beef products come from animals that have been fed a diet of predominantly grass, which leads to higher levels of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids in the foods we eat.

  • Choose organic dairy products. When possible, seek out pastured dairy products, such as milk, cream, butter and yogurt.
  • Eat grass-fed beef products (ground beef, steak, roast beef, etc). If grass-fed beef is not available to you, choose organic and limit red meat intake to less than once per week.

Poultry, Eggs and Pork

Chickens, turkeys and hogs are legally not allowed to be administered growth hormone, thus the primary concern for poultry, eggs and pork are antibiotics and the feed of the animals.

  • Choose omega 3 enriched eggs and/or choose organic or antibiotic-free eggs.
  • Seek out pastured poultry. If that is not available, choose organic poultry and poultry products (deli meat, ground chicken/turkey, turkey burgers, turkey bacon or sausage, chicken sausage), and if not organic then choose antibiotic-free poultry and poultry products.
  • Seek out pastured pork products, and if not available, choose organic pork and pork products (tenderloin, chops, sausage, bacon). I have not found antibiotic-free pork that is not organic, but if available, that would be an alternative option to organic.

Packaged Foods (cereals, breads, crackers, sweets, etc)

Packaged foods introduce numerous health variables that can be addressed by opting for organic. When choosing an organic version of a processed food, you will automatically avoid GMO’s and slew of other unhealthy additives and ingredients. Only certain ingredients can be added to organic processed foods and while not all of the allowable ingredients are healthy, at least it’s a shorter list of additives. Click here for a complete list of non-organic ingredients that can be in an organic food. Ingredients like hydrogenated oils, synthetic food dyes, caramel color and high fructose corn syrup are not found on this list and thus cannot be found in an organic food.

GMO’s have been linked to a variety of negative health outcomes, and most recently have been found to increase inflammation in the GI tract and reproductive organs of animals fed diets containing GMO’s.

non gmo verified

GMO’s are not required to be declared on a food label, so there’s no way to tell if a food contains a genetically modified ingredient unless you choose organic or non-GMO. In our food supply, nearly all corn, soy, canola, cottonseed and sugar beets (sugar) is genetically modified. Therefore when a food contains an ingredient that is derived from any of these, the assumption is that it is genetically modified unless the food is organic or labeled as non-GMO.

  • Click here for a searchable list of non-GMO foods.
  • To avoid unnecessary additives and genetically modified ingredients, choose organic or Non-GMO Verified processed foods.
  • Always choose organic or non-GMO foods that contain corn, soy, canola, cottonseed and sugar, unless the sugar is specifically cane sugar. Learn more about genetically modified foods from the Institute for Responsible Technology.
  • When choosing organic animal products you will also avoid genetically modified feed given to the animals.

Local Resources

If you have additional resources please post a comment.

Happy Shopping!

Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for personalized nutrition or health advice or healthcare. Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read or accessed through this website.

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