Getting to the root of organically-grown foods

Why are organic foods so popular? Is this trend just a fad, or are these consumers really onto something? And, should you jump on the bandwagon?

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  • For most of my life, I didn't think much about the food I was putting into my body. Then, I came down with a chronic illness. My doctors told me that I'd need to eat healthier if I hoped to have a chance for improvement. I decided to look into organic foods.

  • Year after year, organic foods have been gaining in popularity. BusinessNewsDaily.com says that in 2011, annual sales in the U.S. grew by over 9 percent and have surpassed $30 billion for the first time.

  • Why are organic foods so popular? Is this trend just a fad, or are these consumers really onto something? And, should you jump on the bandwagon?

  • What does “organic” mean?

  • CNN says that in order for a food to be labeled organic, it must be grown and processed according to specific federal guidelines. Organic produce should be grown without synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering. Organic farmers must rely on natural or mechanical methods for pest control rather than using chemicals.

  • Meat and dairy can be labeled organic if the animals are raised under specific welfare guidelines, are given no antibiotics or hormones, have access to the outdoors and are fed with 100 percent organic feed.

  • Organic eggs must come from certified organic farms. The hens have to be fed organic feed. Additionally, the hens must be raised without hormones or drugs. Antibiotics can only be used if there is an outbreak or specific disease. They have to be kept in a cage-free environment and given access to the outdoors.

  • Should you buy organic?

  • The Mayo Clinic points to a recent study indicating that organic foods may be no more nutritious than non-organic foods. And they certainly cost more than non-organic groceries. How can you decide if buying organic is worth it to you? Here are some reasons you might choose to buy organic.

  • You are concerned about pesticide residue

  • . Organic produce contains significantly less pesticide residue than non-organic produce. Although residues on most products don't exceed established safety thresholds, some people are concerned about the cumulative effect of eating foods with pesticides.

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  • You are concerned about food additives

  • . Organic regulations don't allow the use of food additives such as preservatives, dyes, artificial sweeteners or flavorings and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

  • You are concerned about the environment

  • . Organic farming practices limit their impact on the environment. They reduce pollution, conserve water and help maintain soil quality.

  • You are concerned about animal welfare

  • . Organic farming practices are often much more humane toward animals.

  • You are concerned about genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

  • . GMOs are crops that have been modified in the laboratory to increase their resistance to pests and disease. WebMd.com says that 60 to 70 percent of processed foods in the U.S. contain GMOs. Although the U.S. government is confident in their safety, there have been few studies done on their effects.

  • If you would like to buy organic, but the cost is too daunting to commit to it fully, you may want to start out with the “Dirty Dozen.” DailyGreen.com says these 12 foods have the highest pesticide residue and you should buy them organically when possible.

    1. Apples

    2. Celery

    3. Strawberries

    4. Peaches

    5. Spinach

    6. Nectarines

    7. Grapes

    8. Sweet bell peppers

    9. Potatoes

    10. Blueberries

    11. Lettuce

    12. Kale or chard

  • Organic foods might be costly, but you may decide that their benefits are worth the extra expense for you and your family.

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Shelli Howells is a creative fiction writer, and a mother of six.

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