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Last night when I was watching TV, I saw a commercial about Capri Sun’s new Organic Juice and thought to myself how organic products are becoming a little too trendy for my liking. It’s time we take a look at what organic really means and why buying and consuming organic products doesn’t always mean they are the healthier choice.

What does organic mean?

First off, what does organic really mean? For something to be classified as organic and certified by the USDA, the farmers must not use genetically modified ingredients or crops, they must separate organic from non-organic food, care for the welfare of their animals and preserve natural resources, among other requirements. To get more information on organic agriculture, check out this page on the USDA government site. 

What makes organic products unhealthy?

To use the Capri Sun Organic Juice as an example and comparing it to their original juice, the new organic juice has more sodium, more carbohydrates and more sugar than the original and not to mention more calories. So regardless that you might not be consuming added sugar, preservatives and color, you are consuming more sugar, carbs and sodium, which is not doing anything good for your health.

Let’s take another example. Annie’s has been around for about twenty-five years and is one of those well-known brands in the “natural” and organic world of food. Their New Organic Chewy Granola Bars – Chocolate Chip have 65mg of sodium, 18g of carbohydrates and 7g of sugar. For one granola bar that’s quite a lot of sodium, carbs and sugar, plus all the extra ingredients used to preserve it to sit on the store shelves.

I’m not knocking Annie’s by any mean, because they have been producing organic food long before it was something trendy. However, having these granola bars on a regular basis is not something I would consider healthy. You’re better off making your own or having a bunch of nuts for a snack.

What organic foods should you be buying?

When it comes to produce and if you can afford it, you should absolutely be buying some organic produce. If you’ve ever seen the people that spray strawberry crops for instance, they’re practically dressed in HAZMAT suits, so you should definitely buy organic strawberries.

Here’s a list of other produce you should buy organic:

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Celery
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Corn (unless it’s the sweet kind on the cob, which is usually non-GMO)
  • Grapes
  • Leafy Greens such as Kale and most lettuce
  • Hot Peppers
  • Nectarines and Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Bell Peppers

I realize that buying organic produce can get pricey, but the costs associated with the long-term effects of conventional produce on your health I would argue is more expensive.

If your neighborhood grocery store charges a lot for organic produce, I would shop at Trader Joe’s. You might not get the same variety at Whole Foods or Smith’s, but the prices are dramatically lower than those stores.

You should also consider buying organic dairy, meat, poultry and fish. First off, you should consider consuming less dairy and meat, and the reasons for that will be for another post. But if you must have your cheese fix, buy organic or better yet raw or grass-fed. The same goes with red meat. As for fish, you want to buy wild or sustainably farmed. And finally for poultry, it should be free of antibiotics and fed organic, non-GMO feed.

Bottom Line

As more and more people are becoming aware and educated about how our food is produced, they are looking to buy healthier choices. Some of those healthier choices include buying organic.

However, the word organic has become so trendy, that many conventional brands are jumping on the bandwagon and acquiring some well-known organic brands. For example, the Campbell Soup Company acquired Bolthouse Farms for 1.5 billion. To learn more about this, check out this article by Michigan State University.

I am all for buying, using and consuming organic products, but you need to be mindful of what you’re buying and when it’s actually benefitting your health and when it’s not.

When it comes to dairy, meat, fish, poultry and some produce, yes you should consider organic. When it comes to buying packaged or processed food organic, I don’t think you’re benefitting your health.

Nine times out of ten, organic processed foods will have a lot of sugar, carbs, sodium and calories that you need to avoid or at least consume rarely. If you can, try and make your own snacks. Or, keep snacks simple by having nuts, or sliced carrots, or organic apples.

Remember, organic doesn’t always mean healthy, so don’t just buy something because it’s labeled organic. Always read the labels on everything to truly make the best decision with the food you buy.

Further Reading:

13+ Things You Didn’t Know About Organic Food – Reader’s Digest

19 Foods to Always Buy Organic (Even If You’re On a Budget!) – Livestrong

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