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What food you should buy organic and how to do it without maxing your credit card

Posted Oct 22 2008 4:37pm
Eating organically grown food is a healthy choice. Finding and affording only organic food is sometimes tough. We do the best we can. I wouldn't knowingly give poison to my family. I made a choice to figure out a way to serve only organic foods whenever possible.

So do you buy less food and go organic?

Pick and choose which organic foods you buy?

Or ignore the current thinking on the harmful effects of eating non-organic foods and buy conventionally?

There are really no easy answers but there are facts you should be aware of and strategies to cut down on pesticide consumption and danger, which can help you to eat organic and remain on a realistic budget.

Ways to afford organic:
- Economize in other areas – we changed our cell phone plan and cut back on renting movies.
- Eliminate all junk food and addictive substances, both of which are very expensive – stay away from the snack isle and fountain drinks from the convenience store (this was huge for my husband.) Think about what you spend on the impulse items.
- Stop eating out - cook and eat at home or pack a lunch for work. You will eat healthier and save on gas because you don't have to drive to get lunch.
- Stop buying processed foods, boxed just add meat dinners and microwave meals. Make your own Hamburger Helper from fresh ingredients.
- Compare the cost and quality of produce at health food stores, farmers' markets, and cooperatives. For CSA's, local farms, and farmers markets in your area check outLocal Harvest
- Grow your own produce. You can grow your favorites even in a small garden.
- Be picky. There are times when I just can't find the produce I need in organic form. I only buy fruit and vegetables that are known to have the lowest amounts of toxins.
- Go to the store with a meal plan in mind so that you are not wasting the food that you buy. Organic produce tends to spoil more rapidly, so keep that in mind when planning your grocery list.
- Eating healthy organic foods are more nutritious so you will actually eat less, and you won't starve!
- Clip and use coupons for things you already buy from the store, like paper towels and cleaning supplies.
- Buy organic with the items you use most often. For me it was meat, coffee, apples and dairy products.

I'll give the good news first. There are a few clean fruits and veggies so if you can't afford to go 100% organic choose these non-organics:
Asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, kiwi, mangoes, onions, pineapples, sweet corn, sweet peas.

The research used to compile the following list was from extensive independent tests run by the FDA and the USDA from more than 100,000 samples of food. The chemical pesticides detected in these studies are known to cause cancer, birth defects, nervous system and brain damage, and developmental problems in children. If you are trying to protect your family and eat "clean food" don't buy it if it isn't organic.

Beef, Pork and Poultry
The EPA reports that meat is contaminated with higher levels of pesticides than any plant food. Many chemical pesticides are fat-soluble and accumulate in the fatty tissue of animals. Animal feed that contains animal products compounds the accumulation, which is directly passed to the human consumer.
Antibiotics, drugs, and hormones are a standard in animal husbandry, all of which accumulate and are passed on to consumers as well. Ocean fish carry a higher risk for heavy metals than pesticides, though many freshwater fish are exposed to high levels of pesticides from contaminated water.

Milk, Cheese and Butter
For reasons similar to those for meat, the fat in dairy products poses a high risk for contamination by pesticides. Animals concentrate pesticides and chemicals in their milk and meat. Growth hormones and antibiotics are also serious concerns and are invariably found in commercial milk, cheese, and butter.

Strawberries, Raspberries and Cherries
Strawberries are the crop that is most heavily dosed with pesticides in America. On average, 300 pounds of pesticides are applied to every acre of strawberries. Thirty-six different pesticides are commonly used on strawberries, and 90% of strawberries tested register pesticide contamination above safe levels. Raspberries trump strawberries with the application of 39 chemicals: 58% of the raspberries tested registered positive for contamination. Cherries are almost as bad with 25 pesticides and 91% contamination.

Apples and Pears
With 36 different chemicals detected in FDA testing, half of which are neurotoxins (meaning they cause brain damage), apples are almost as contaminated as strawberries. Ninety-one percent of apples tested positive for pesticide residue. Peeling non-organic apples reduces but does not eliminate the danger of ingesting these chemicals. Pears rank hazardously near apples with 35 pesticides and 94% contamination.

It's standard practice for more than 30 pesticides to be sprayed on conventionally grown tomatoes. The thin skin does not stop chemicals from infiltrating the whole tomato, so peeling won't help you here.

Potatoes are one of the most popular vegetables, but they also rank among the most contaminated with pesticides and fungicides. Twenty-nine pesticides are commonly used, and 79% of potatoes tested exceed safe levels of multiple pesticides.

Spinach and Other Greens
The FDA found spinach to be the vegetable most frequently contaminated with the most potent pesticides used on food. Eighty-three percent of the conventionally grown spinach tested was found to be contaminated with dangerous levels of at least some of the 36 chemical pesticides commonly used to grow it.

Most coffee is grown in countries where there are little to no standards regulating the use of chemicals and pesticides on food. The United States produces and exports millions of tons of pesticides, some of which are so dangerous that they are illegal to use on American farmland. Foreign countries import these chemicals to cultivate food, which is sold back to the United States. Coffee is an unfortunate culprit in this vicious cycle of malevolent agriculture. Purchasing "Fair Trade" coffee provides insurance that the premium price paid for this treasured beverage supports farms and workers with more equanimity and reward.

Peaches and Nectarines
Forty-five different pesticides are regularly applied to succulent, delicious peaches and nectarines in conventional orchards. The thin skin does not protect the fruit from the dangers of these poisons. Ninety-seven percent of nectarines and 95% of peaches tested for pesticide residue show contamination from multiple chemicals.

Because grapes are a delicate fruit, they are sprayed multiple times during different stages of growth. The thin skin does not offer much protection from the 35 different pesticides used as a standard in conventional vineyards. Imported grapes are even more heavily treated than grapes grown in the United States. Several of the most poisonous pesticides banned in the United States are still used on grapes grown abroad. Eighty-six percent of grapes test positive for pesticide contamination; samples from Chile showed the highest concentration of the most poisonous chemicals.

Conventionally grown celery is subjected to at least 29 different chemicals, which cannot be washed off because, of course, celery does not have any protective skin. Ninety-four percent of celery tested was found to have pesticide residues in violation of safe levels.

Red and Green Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are one of the most heavily sprayed foods, with standard use of 39 pesticides. Sixty-eight percent of bell peppers tested had high levels of chemical pesticide residues. The thin skin of peppers does not offer much protection from spraying and is often waxed with harmful substances.

A national survey showed that 79% of Americans are concerned about the safety of the food they eat but more than 68% do not regularly buy organic products because of higher costs. The price depends largely on the product. Sometimes the difference between organic food and conventionally grown produce is a matter of cents, other times it can be dollars. You may be convinced that organic food is the best option for you and your family. But the reality is that you have only a finite amount of funds to apply towards food every week. Do the best you can.

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