Guide to Organic 5

Hormone free, grass-fed, non-GMOs, and pesticide-free are just some of the organic jargon at supermarkets, farmers markets and local restaurants across Charlotte—but who really knows what these labels mean and whether or not those extra pennies on the price tag are justifiable?

So, what exactly is organic? Foods are labeled USDA Organic if: crops are grown with natural fertilizer and free of toxic pesticides; livestock are fed organically—no hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs); disease is prevented through healthy diet, clean housing and access to the outdoors.

And what are the benefits of eating organic? Allergy relief, improved mental and emotional health, and lower risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease are just a few reasons why people are switching to organic foods.  

And how do you do it? Here are a few easy tips and tricks to make your greens even greener (and to help you save a little green, too). 

  • Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) identifies produce containing the most and least exposure to dangerous pesticides labeling them the “dirty dozen” or the “clean 15.”  Foods that should be purchased organic include strawberries, spinach, apples, grapes, celery, peaches, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. While the “clean 15,” or foods that are safe without those organic labels, includes avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, cabbage, frozen peas, onions, and asparagus.
  • When buying multi-ingredient foods (in other words, pantry foods), purchase foods without artificial preservatives, colors and flavors and avoid foods that contain harmful GMOs such as corn syrup, soy lecithin, and especially glyphosate, which is possibly carcinogenic to humans.
  • Beef should be purchased organically due to an estrogen-like hormone linked to breast cancer in humans. Grass-fed beef contains high omega-3 levels that improve overall health.
  • Poultry/pork can be purchased organically or conventionally as long as the fat is trimmed off (that’s where dangerous pesticides hide). 
  • Seafood is safe conventionally as long as it is low in mercury and purchased in a smaller size, such as mini versus 
jumbo shrimp.
  • Milk is safe organically or conventionally.  Organic milk has higher omega-3 fats, but not enough to make a difference. Although conventional milk does contain a bovine growth hormone (BGH) and recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), these hormones are unlikely to survive pasteurization.
  • Eggs have a high omega-3 level, but this can be found in both organic or conventional eggs as the level is based on a hen’s diet and can change during pasteurization, making  organic eggs no different than conventional eggs.  
  • A great way to save money when buying organic foods is to buy produce when it is in season. Buy in bulk and shop at local farmer’s markets where organic produce is a fraction of the price of local grocery stores.  
  • Local organic fare can be found at Wise Acres Organic Farm in Indian Trail, Earth Farms in Dallas or at Healthy Home Market in one of its three Charlotte locations.