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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

What you need to know about organic foods

Nov 03, 2016 05:53PM ● By Scott Rollins

What does “organic” really mean? It usually means free of fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones, food additives, genetically modified organisms and irradiation. To be considered organic, the producer must keep detailed production and sales records, maintain strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products and undergo periodic on-site inspections.

Products made entirely with certified organic ingredients and methods may be labeled 100 percent organic, while those with at least 95 percent organic ingredients may use the word organic. Both of these categories may display the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic seal. A third category, containing a minimum of 70 percent organic ingredients, can be labeled "made with organic ingredients." Products made with less than 70 percent organic ingredients cannot advertise this information to consumers and may only mention this fact in the product's ingredient statement.

Prioritize what you buy organic

Organic foods are usually higher priced, so you might find it helpful to prioritize what items you should purchase organic. The following foods are known as the “dirty dozen" because they typically have between 30 and 60 pesticides detected on them. Consider the dirty dozen among the foods you eat frequently. For example, I eat berries and apples daily so these are foods I buy organic.

Is organic healthier?

There is an old argument against organic, mostly from large profit driven companies such as Monsanto or Dow chemicals, that organic production is not as efficient as the synthetic chemical supported agriculture. This complaint has been well-refuted in large studies at the University of California, Davis, and by the Rodale Institute, which show that organic farming is just as productive and more resistant to stressors such as drought, all the while using less fossil fuel-based energy.

But is organic really healthier? According to more than 100 studies, its nutritional superiority is confirmed. Organic foods contained higher concentrations of important polyphenols and antioxidants. Meanwhile, plenty of studies link various pesticides to cancer and recent research is showing genetically modified foods are linked to organ damage and higher rates of food allergies.

Keep organic in perspective. The average American gets 7 percent of total daily calories from the sugar in soft drinks, which is more calories than they are getting from fruits and vegetables. Clearly eating organic is relative if our diet is overloaded with sugar, high-glycemic carbohydrates and saturated fats that drive inflammation, insulin and other unhealthy hormones. Eating more plant-based foods and whole grains, combined with eating less processed and prepared foods, is a big step toward a healthier diet.

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The "Dirty Dozen"

• Apples

• Bell peppers

• Celery

• Cherry tomatoes

• Cucumbers

• Grapes

• Hot peppers

• Kale

• Nectarines

• Peaches

• Potatoes

• Spinach

• Strawberries

• Summer squash

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