A Practical Mom’s Guide to Buying Organic Food
Read this helpful guide from mommy Jing Lejano to get started on shopping Organic – the practical way!
I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear the word “organic”, the first thought that comes to mind is “expensive”. While the price of fruits and vegetables have been spiraling up since last year, the cost of organic can be painful to the pocket. Organic eggplant, for example, is ₱295 per kilo. However, before you stop scrolling down, let me just say there are distinct advantages to choosing organic, and a couple of ways to go about shopping for them smartly.
Why choose organic
It’s all about nutritional value. Apparently, plants grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers level-up their production of vitamins and antioxidants to strengthen their resistance to weeds and pests. The glorious thing is that this defense mechanism results in fruits and vegetables with higher nutritional value. Indeed, certain types of antioxidants, which lower risk of heart disease and cancer, have been found in organic fruits and vegetables.
It should be noted, too, that chemical pesticides in food have been linked to a wide range of health issues from headaches to cancer. By choosing organic, your family is less likely to be exposed to pesticides and all the possible complications they may bring. In the case of meat, the concern is about the use of antibiotics in farm animals. Again, by choosing organic, you have one less thing to worry about.
A look at the big picture gives you a more significant reason to choose organic. Organic farming is the more earth-friendly option. Not only does it take 50% less energy than conventional farming, organic farming reduces pollutants in groundwater and creates richer soil.
Know your terms
Get yourself acclimatized. A healthy lifestyle comes with a whole set of classifications, and you have to start learning the terms if you want to shop smart in the supermarket.
• Organic refers to food items produced with renewable resources without using antibiotics, hormones, chemical pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers.
• All Natural doesn’t necessarily mean organic. It only means the product doesn’t contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.
• Pasture-raised may sound like the animals spent their lives grazing on pasture, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t fed supplemental grain.
• Grass-fed cows are healthier than those which count on corn and soy for sustenance. Meat from grass-fed cows are also leaner and contain higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
• GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. When a product is labeled GMO-free, it means the genetic materials of the ingredients have not been altered in a laboratory.
• Cage-free usually means chickens are kept in a barn as opposed to free-range where they are free to roam outside.
• Locally grown means the fruits and vegetables come from farms in nearby communities, but are not necessarily organic.
There are a lot of fancy-sounding terms out there. But here’s the only thing you have to remember: Unless you see the label “organic”, then don’t mistake one for the other.
Do your homework
One of the more wonderful things about technology is that it has allowed families to get closer to farmers. In recent years, a number of online stores have sprung up offering organic produce whose origins are clearly transparent. So instead of reaching for a bunch of plastic-wrapped produce in the supermarket which came from you don’t know where, you may enjoy vegetables wrapped in newspaper, from farmers in Batangas, Benguet, or Bukidnon. You may also compare prices from online stores like Session Groceries (sessiongroceries.com), The Green Grocer (thegreengrocermanila.com), Real Food (realfoodph.com), and Down to Earth (downtoearth.ph), make the best choice, and then have the goods delivered to your doorstep.
Get updated on the Dirty Dozen
If your budget doesn’t allow for your family to go full organic, then you might want to acquaint yourself with the Dirty Dozen. This is a list drawn up every year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) referring to fruits and vegetables with the most amount of pesticide residue.
In 2019, the produce which made it to the Dirty Dozen List include strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes. If any of these are on your grocery list, it’s best to get them organic.
There is also another list you should take note of: the Clean 15. These are produce with the least pesticide residue including avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cabbages, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms, and honeydew melon. Here, you are assured that your family’s exposure to pesticide is at a minimum, whether you buy organic or not.
But I guess the best reason to choose organic is this: It tastes better!
About The Writer
Jing Lejano is a single mom of four, lula of one, writer, and editor. She started out as a reporter at The Business Star, became editor in chief of Good Housekeeping Philippines magazine, and now manages social media for a local government unit and a couple of communities. After a lifetime of chasing deadlines, she is trying to live slow by practicing tai chi, taking care of her garden, and playing with her tween granddaughter.