5 key tips when buying organic food

Renee Myers, nutritionist, gives a presentation at Humana’s Neighborhood Center.

By Jill Davis, MS, CWPM, human health educator

Organic foods can cause a bit of a dilemma when shopping. On one side of the aisle you have a conventional apple, and on the other side you have an organic apple. Both options are firm, shiny and red. Which apple would you choose?

To help you make your decision, you need to have a clear understanding of what “organic” means. It was a topic of discussion during a recent health and wellness class offered at the Humana Neighborhood Center in Winston-Salem.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “organic” refers to how farmers grow and process fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and meat. In the United States, organic crops must be grown without the use of synthetic (artificial) pesticides, bioengineered (GMO) genes, petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers .

To help you be a smarter buyer, here are the five tips shared during the class:

*Avoid the Dirty Dozen™: Some fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes, contain residues high in pesticides, even after being thoroughly washed or peeled.

*Look for Clean Fifteen™: Some fruits and vegetables contain little or no pesticide residues, such as avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sugar snap peas, onions, papayas, eggplant, asparagus, kiwi fruit, cabbage, cabbage. flowers, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms and honeydew.

*Do not neglect dairy products: When it comes to dairy products, including eggs, a key part of organic farming is that livestock raised for these products must have access to the outdoors and eat organic feed. Additionally, these animals cannot receive antibiotics, growth hormones or animal by-products. The same goes for organic meat, so when reading labels, keep an eye out for terms like free-range, cage-free, or grass-fed.

*Look at the label: The USDA oversees an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards for how organic foods are grown, handled, and processed. For a food manufacturer to label a food as “organic,” the product must be USDA certified, which allows the manufacturer to display an official USDA organic seal. Don’t be confused if you see the word ‘natural’ – the term does not refer to how the food’s ingredients have been grown, but rather means that the food does not contain any colorings, flavorings or artificial preservatives.

*Buy on a budget: If you want to buy organic but need to watch your wallet, try to buy what’s in season and shop around. For example, supermarkets carry their own brands of organic stores and, depending on where you live, local farmers’ markets can be a convenient place to get organic produce. You can also consider a food cooperative or community-supported agriculture (CSA), where you pay a fee or buy a share of a farm’s harvest and get fresh produce in return each week during the growing season.

For information on upcoming health and wellness classes offered at the Humana Neighborhood Center in Winston-Salem, call 336-293-0122 or visit the center located at 1045 Hanes Mall Blvd. at Winston-Salem for a free monthly calendar of events open to the public.

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