Did you know the average supermarket stocks more than 40,000 items on their shelves? It's mind-boggling. Labels are confusing enough before you get to the side panel to read the ingredients and nutrition profile. If you're new to buying organic, you may find yourself even more confused. Organic food has come a long way from wheat germ and alfalfa sprouts. You can find an organic version of almost every conventional food, but what does it all mean, really?
Here's a few of the biggest myths about organic, debunked:
Organic Is Just A Marketing Gimmick: Not true! In 2002, the USDA created standardized rules that must be adhered to in order for any company to make organic food claims. These include growing conditions, soil composition, proximity to run-off, pesticide use and a host of other factors.
Organic Means 100% Organic: While any organic ingredient is better for you than not, and it is certainly way healthier for the farmers, consumers can be misled by clever packaging tricks to think that an entire product is organic when they see labels such as "contains" or "made with organic ingredients." The truth is it's possible only one ingredient is organic. Here's the rub: there are four categories of the organic label: "100% Organic"--you guessed it, is 100% organic. "Organic" means 95% or more of the ingredients are organic, "Made with Organic Ingredients" means at least 70% of ingredients are organic and anything less than 70% can make no claims except listed in the ingredients panel. Body care products do not have the same set of organic standards, they actually have none, currently. Fear not though, plenty of folks are working to get those regulated as well. So, read the ingredient label of any product you are considering purchasing to find out how much of it is truly organic, for your benefit, and the farmers!
Organic Food Tastes Bad: Guess again! Research studies and consumer polls conclude that many organic foods rank higher on the flavor charts. This is especially noticeable in produce because of factors like growing methods, smaller sized farms and seed selections; organic fruits and vegetables are often riper and more flavorful than non-organic options.
Organic Food is Healthier: Ok, so you eat right, you work out and work hard every week. There's nothing wrong with a little healthy reward for your efforts. And even though you may choose organic-double-triple-chocolate-creamy-gooey-goodness, remember the cardinal rule: everything in moderation. This hurts me just typing it, but YES, you can overdo it, even if it's organic.
Organic Food Costs More: The really good news is that you can spend wisely on organic food choices. While Whole Foods has earned the nickname "Whole Paycheck" organic doesn't have to cost you more. Buying seasonal fresh vegetables and fruits are much cheaper than bananas flown in from Ecuador. You'll be supporting your local farmers, too. Choosing wisely and steering clear of the organic pop tarts, you'll spend less, eat better and feel healthier!
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Photo: Jill Ettinger