They say, “You are what you eat.” So, if you eat non-organic foods, what is it that you’re made of exactly?
Since guidelines don’t really restrict the additives, preservatives, and chemicals entering our foods unless they’re organic, it’s much easier to explain what makes something non-organic vs. organic and whether it’s really worth what might be an extra cost.
First, let’s talk about what’s not in organic food.
Organic foods never have any artificially-made components
Plants are grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Animals are never given food that have chemicals or pesticides, nor are they treated with antibiotics, or growth hormones. In essence, organic food systems are considerate of the environment, the animals, the consumers, and biodiversity.
The production of organic, non-food related items such as shampoo or linens are also considerate of the same things in their design and manufacturing.
But you probably see a lot of options at the grocery store besides “organic.” There’s “natural,” “antibiotic-free,” and many more. What do they mean and are they all the same?
Foods labeled “certified organic” are unlike any others
But companies have taken to writing adjectives on their packaging that may confuse you.
A great example of this is “natural,” which doesn’t necessarily mean organic. Natural products are natural in the sense that their ingredients are not artificial, and are not treated with preservatives.
However, since the word “natural” is not regulated like the USDA Organic label is, there aren’t set rules of what makes a product “natural,” which means any company could use that word and those plants or animals may have been fed chemicals, hormones, or antibiotics throughout their lifetime.
And it gets even more confusing with dairy, eggs and meat
When buying meats or dairy, you may see “free-range”, which means that the animals involved in the process are allowed to roam free for at least a portion of the day, instead of being confined in an enclosure most, if not all, of the day. It does not necessarily imply anything about the integrity of the animal’s diet or healthcare.
“Cage-free” means the animals involved in the food production are reared without cages, but again, not necessarily antibiotic or hormone-free. And it also doesn’t mean they get time outdoors, it just means they’re outside of the cage. Animals can even consume pesticides under these conditions and never see the outdoors. Even “antibiotic-free” and “hormone-free” animals may be exposed to adverse situations in the vein of living conditions and healthcare.
If the labels can be so misconstruing, who are you to trust?
There are 2 answers to this question.
1- You can buy from companies you know and trust, companies you have looked into and that you know don’t use ingredients you don’t approve of.
2- Or you can buy products that have a certified label, such as the USDA Organic Label or even the non-GMO label.
We prefer the USDA Organic label, especially when it comes to foods and things we put on our bodies.
These certifications come with extensive set of rules and regulations, so you can trust that if you buy a product that is certified organic, you are indeed buying a product that is organic.
Here’s a list of ingredients that are NOT in organic certified products:
This page is an ad from the New York Times paid for The Organic Trade Association.
But let’s face it, it’s not always easy to have a 100% organic. When you can’t buy organic, make sure you stay away from the following ingredients:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Artificial colors (often labeled FD&C or D&C)
- Sodium nitrites and nitrates
- Monosodium Glutamate
- Growth hormones such as rBST & rBGH)
- ‘Fragrance’ (often a misnomer for toxic chemicals companies don’t want to name)
Does it really matter if we consume organic or not?
Studies have found the long-term ingestion of high quantities of antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides can be linked to hyperactivity, decreased brain development, certain types of cancers, and many more health disorders. In fact, some non-organic products even contain endocrine disruptors!
And when plants and animals are left to grow free of all synthetic chemicals, their nutritional content tends to be greater. It’s even been found that organic foods contain a larger amount of antioxidants than their chemically-inspired counterparts.
So, not only do non-organic foods have more harmful ingredients, organic ones have healthier ones. Thus, although the exact long-term health benefits of organic foods are hard to detect exactly, it can be assumed they are almost infinite.
But why are organic products more expensive to purchase?
Generally, taking better care of crops and animals is more costly. Whether the animals involved with the food industry are offering a byproduct (such as milk or eggs) or their meat, the care administered is much greater, and therefore, the cost of this care is greater too.
Everything related to living or growing conditions, healthcare, and even the processing of the products costs the farm or factory more. Even in terms of plants and beauty products. It’s more expensive to avoid the preservatives and chemicals that could make production or maintenance easier and cheaper. Thus, whatever products cost more to make, generally cost more once they hit your shelves.
If you’re still not too sure organic farming is more costly, check out this interview from a organic dairy farmer.
So, is it really worth to buy organic?
Absolutely! The cost difference between organic and non-organic foods is often not drastic. That, combined with the fact that the health benefits may be infinitely greater, makes going organic a great decision for your family. You might even save money on future medical bills, because after all, we are what we eat.
To top it off, investing in organic food systems, farms, and factories is an investment in a better future. It’s better for the farms, animals, plants, our environment, planet Earth, and even us.
How to eat organic on a budget?
You might have some hesitancy to purchase all organic foods, as the cost can add up. That’s why we wrote this guide on how to eat organic on a budget because it is possible to eat a mostly organic diet without breaking the bank!
Amy B. Chesler is an author & award-winning blogger from Southern California. She has contributed work to many popular publications – from five different non-fiction stories to six different best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, as well as content for the DVD Netflix blog, Life of Mom, Home & Family TV, BluntMoms, Elephant Journal, TODAY Parents, & more. Her first solo book was released in 2017 and can still be purchased on Amazon.
While not blogging and parenting, Amy is cooking, eating, traveling, reading, and healing. Feel free to follow her on social media (@amybchesler) or visit her blog.
Original post written by contributor Amy Chesler under Mama Instincts guidelines.
Updated and edited by Carolina King.