Healthy Living Magazine

8 years ago
Organic or not?

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Should we buy organic? Is it really worth it? This is definitely not a question our grandparents asked, says Shawn Nisbet as she sorts through the pros and cons, and offers hints on saving on organic produce.

Buying Organic: Start with the 'Dirty Dozen'

Just how much more expensive is it to go organic and why? You can expect to pay more for organic foods because they tend to be more labour-intensive, and without the help of pesticides, the yield is not always as favourable.

To maximize your organic food dollar, the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., recommends going organic on the ‘dirty dozen’ – produce that is most susceptible to pesticide residue, which will not occur in truly organic produce.

The ‘Dirty’ Dozen: Go Organic

• celery

• peaches

• strawberries

• apples

• blueberries

• nectarines

• bell peppers

• spinach

• cherries

• kale/collard greens

• potatoes

• grapes (imported)

Foods with least pesticide residues 


And which organic produce is probably not worth the added expense?
 The Group lists these 12 items as having the least pesticide residues: 


• papayas

• broccoli

• cabbage

• bananas

• kiwifruit

• sweet peas (frozen)

• asparagus

• mangoes

• pineapple

• sweet corn (frozen)

• avocados

• onions

How to Save Money When Buying Organic

Incorporating organic food into your family’s diet can be an important part of eating healthily, even if you can only purchase organic foods selectively.

1. Purchasing foods in season is healthier and can save you money, too. For example: buy strawberries at their peak in late spring or early summer, or try to find an organic ‘pick your own’ farm. You can then freeze them to eat later when they are not in season.

2. Cooking from scratch can also save you money. Purchasing whole ingredients can be less expensive than buying packaged foods, and you can use the ingredients for multiple dishes. Nourishing soups or slow cooked meals can be enjoyed in the evening after only minutes of preparation the night before or in the morning. When you cook your own food, you can control the amount of salt, sugar, fat and additives. You can also decrease the amount of artificial colouring, artificial flavouring, MSG, texturizers, preservatives and dyes, just to mention a few.

3. Look for store brand organics. Many large chain stores have their own private label organic brands.

4. Look for coupons in your store flyers or visit your favourite organic brand online before you head to the grocery store.

5. Go for bulk. Purchasing beans and grains from the bulk section can save you a lot of money. Do a price comparison the next time you shop.

6. Go meatless at least one day per week. You can save a lot if you take meat, seafood and dairy products out of your food choices a couple times per week. Meatless meals are not only cheaper – they can be very nutritious! The money you save on meat can be put towards the purchase of healthy organic produce and grains. For some great meal ideas and recipes, visit www.meatlessmonday.com.

Three Myths about Organic Food

Myth #1: You don’t have to wash organic produce
All produce, whether purchased from a grocery store or your local organic farm, is susceptible to nasty bacteria such as E. coli. Soil and run-off water that’s contaminated with E. coli-harbouring animal poop can get onto any produce, whether organic or not. This is especially true of produce that grows close to the ground, such as melons, squash, zucchini, strawberries, lettuce, sprouts, spinach, green onions and all root crops. Your best defense is to wash everything thoroughly. When cutting melons be sure to remove all the skin, then rinse your melon, knife and cutting board before cutting into it.

Myth #2: Purchasing organic means you are supporting small farms
Organic food is now being sold by large companies, not just smaller farms. Our demand for organic food is now big business. Recently, the market for organic milk outstripped supply by 10%. With increasing demand for organic items, large companies are importing organic ingredients as cheaply as possible – often from other countries. So with all the CO2 spent in transport, some organics have questionable eco-virtues.

Myth #3: All organic food is healthy

Eating more vegetables and fruits is always healthier, but if your cart is full of organic chips, organic soda or organic cookies, your diet may not be healthier. Cane sugar is still sugar, and fried chips may be fried in healthier oil but when that oil is heated it can become unhealthy. Even Agave syrup is now being questioned as to whether it is truly lower on the glycemic index.

Shawn M. Nisbet, RHN, CFA, is a registered holistic nutritionist, certified fitness consultant and master Nordic pole walking instructor. Tel: 416.804.0938; www.shawnnisbet.com; info@shawnnisbet.com

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