Do you buy organic?

Do you buy organic? I do. Some items – dairy and some produce. Most of the time. I would love to buy all organic foods if I could, but the prices seem to be so much higher that I have had to make some rules for myself. I always but organic milk – my kids drink it every day (well, two out of three), and a news story stuck with me a few years ago talking about how girls were physically maturing at an earlier age because of the hormones used in some dairy products. So that’s a pretty standard rule for me – no growth hormones in dairy. Then when I’m in the produce aisle I will buy produce that is organic if I can , but if I look at the price and the organic apples are twice as much as the regular apples, I have to stop and think about it. And when it comes to cookies, crackers, etc., I skip abiding to the organic label and check the label for ingredients instead – if it’s longer than my arm with words I can’t pronounce, I skip it. Most of the time I try to make homemade cookies and treats as much as possible that have all of 6 or so ingredients – all recognizable.

I don’t know about you but I’m also confused by the labels – organic, grass fed, all natural, no hormones, etc. Is it better to buy something organic that comes from Chile or a local product, not specifically labelled organic, but that did not use a lot of natural resources to get to my kitchen – plus it supports my local farmers?

A book was recommended to me recently on just this topic – “To Buy or not to Buy Organic: What you need to know to choose the healthiest, safest, most earth-friendly food” by Cindy Burke.  A-ha. Just the book I’m looking for. Sadly, I have not had a chance to read the book cover to cover but it does have charts – which I love.  I have gleaned two important concepts from this book: #1. The thinner the skin of the produce you are buying, it is more important to buy organic. The pesticides penetrate the produce more easily. Thicker skin, (like bananas and avocados) do not absorb much of the pesticides and non-organic can be ok. #2 concept is bugs are like kids – they are more attracted to the sweeter fruits and vegetables and not as attracted to the bitter-smelling ones like broccoli, onions, etc., meaning less pesticides need to be used.

The book also has a great list called “The Dirty Dozen” which the author terms the “Twelve Foods to Eat Only if They are Organic” (ranked by how likely they are to contain pesticide residue after harvest):

1. Strawberries

2. Red and green bell peppers

3. Spinach

4. Cherries

5. Peaches

6. Nectarines

7. Celery

8. Apples

9. Pears

10. Grapes

11. Raspberries

12. Potatoes

Yikes. I don’t know about you, but strawberries, apples, grapes and potatoes are all on my weekly shopping list. I have, since learning this info, started buying organic for these items.

Conversely, she has a “Clean Fifteen” list of the produce least likely to contain pesticide residue, even if they are not organically grown:

1. Asparagus

2. Avocados

3. Bananas

4.  Blueberries

5. Broccoli

6. Cabbage

7. Garlic

8. Kiwi

9. Mango

10. Onions

11. Papaya

12. Pineapple

13. Shelling peas

14. Sweet corn

15. Watermelon (domestically grown)

So, I’d love to hear from you guys – do you buy organic? Why or why not?

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Rachael Ray