The Benefits of Organic Food for Your Family
Do the benefits of organic food outweigh the cost?
You've probably heard going organic is good for you, but do you know the actual benefits of organic food? And just what does organic really mean? Food grown organically doesn't use pesticides, hormones or other chemicals. To be legally labeled as organic, foods must meet very specific government guidelines.
"All products which use the USDA organic seal on their packaging have been certified organic by an accredited certifying body accepted by the USDA/NOP (United States Department Of Agriculture National Organic Program) and have been physically inspected by this certifying agency," says Nancy Smithers, the founder and president of Nova Scotia Organics. "Irradiation and genetically modified ingredients are not allowed in organic products." Sound like the right choice for your family? Check out the pros and cons of organic food to help you decide whether to add them to the shopping list for the next time you or your assistant runs to the grocery store:
Benefits of Organic Food
A few studies have indicated that some organic foods, such as blueberries, have significantly higher levels of certain nutrients than their conventional counterparts. Smithers adds that chemicals and pesticides used in producing conventional foods are linked to allergies and ADD, saying, "Eating organic foods can be equated with erring on the side of caution."
Organic foods have been found to contain higher amounts of antioxidants, which reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and other health issues. Organic milk has more CLA (a fatty acid beneficial for heart health), omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. Organic tomatoes have been found to have higher vitamin C and polyphenol contents. All of these benefits of organic food mean more nutrition for you and your family.
All those nutrients may be good news for your taste buds, too. According to Natalia Lukina, a scientist and the founder of Vital Formulas, organic food tastes better. In addition, "Organic food is humanely raised, with respect for the animals and our planet. This is very important for many people," she says. "When you buy organic food, you feel good about your choices and you can teach your children about caring for the land and the animals."
What about the negatives of organic food? Both experts agree that often, it's the price. "I think most families can usually offset these expenses by eating out less and cooking more. It's more work, but if you get your kids involved, food making becomes a great bonding experience," says Lukina.
The food may actually not be as expensive as you think, when you consider the added benefits you receive for a few extra pennies. "What's reassuring is the fact that organics are not really more expensive from a nutritional standpoint because you are getting more of it," says Smithers, meaning more nutrients -- ultimately, more bang for your buck.
You may also have trouble finding organic versions of your kids' favorite processed foods. Though specialty grocery stores may stock organic boxed mac 'n' cheese, your local corner store likely doesn't. Once you do track down organic versions of your family's favorite foods, those extra pennies spent on organic produce can turn into extra dollars when you buy organic boxed goods. If cost is a concern, try focusing your diet on fresh, whole foods that are raised organically. You may find that once you cut out processed packaged food, your grocery budget will have more wiggle room. You can also learn which foods are safest and which ones should always be purchased organic by visiting the Environmental Working Group.
Making The Switch
Converting your entire grocery list to organic counterparts may be a bit overwhelming at first, so take baby steps. "The best way to start incorporating organics into your family's diet is to determine which foods you eat the most of -- such as milk, butter, bread and fruits -- and always purchase those as organic," says Smithers.
You can also check out your local farmers' markets and talk to the growers. You'll quickly learn who practices organic growing techniques, and you'll be supporting local business at the same time. If you want to really embrace the organic lifestyle, consider growing your own vegetables in an organic garden.
And read Is Buying Organic Produce Worth It for Your Family?
Kathleen Marshall is the mother of five who has been growing her food organically for years. She writes about her garden and lifestyle at The Practical Homestead.
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