A decade ago, organic ingredients were available only in a few high-end supermarkets. Today even discounted grocery stores carry them. Despite the higher prices, people still rush to buy organic ingredients believing they are more nutritious and less likely to contain dangerous chemicals. But is cooking with all organic ingredients worth the extra cost?
Find out what organic really means, when you should buy organic, and when you should probably save your money.
What Does Organic Mean?
"Organic" does not describe the food itself but how farmers produce and process it. The USDA determines what is and is not organic food in the US. Farmers can not grow organic fruit and vegetables using synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge, and organic food must not undergo irradiation or genetic engineering. There are additional restrictions for meat producers, including not using hormones or antibiotics.
Is Organic Really Organic?
Food producers can get tricky regarding how they label their food. Do you think foods labeled "Organic" or "Made With Organic Ingredients" are entirely organic? If you do, you are wrong.
According to the USDA guidelines, food using the "Organic" label must only contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients by weight. And it only gets worse.
Foods can claim they are "Made With Organic Ingredients" when they have just 70 percent organic ingredients by weight!
Is Organic Food More Nutritious Than Non-Organic Food?
The jury is still out when it comes to whether organic food is more nutritious than non-organic food. There is little evidence that organic products contain more protein or fiber. But some studies should organic food may have more antioxidants and micronutrients.
Based on nutrition alone, organic ingredients may not be such a great deal. However, when you look at what is not in organic food, things start to look better. Organic products contain no pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, or genetically modified organisms.
So Which Organic Foods Should You Buy For Cooking?
If you have a limited budget and want to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to organic foods, buy these foods:
- Milk, cream, and butter. There aren’t any recipes that call for antibiotics or bovine growth hormones. So, why would you want them in your dairy products?
- Meat. The same reasons that make drinking organic milk better apply to meat as well. In the US, livestock is subjected to a wide range of chemicals and medications. It’s not good for them and not good for you either.
- Eggs. Since you should already be buying organic chicken, you might as well make sure the eggs are organic as well.
- Corn and corn products. The majority of the corn in the US is genetically modified. Many people have concerns about the health risks that genetically engineered foods pose.
- Fruit without a peel. Soft fruit like peaches, nectarines, and berries are particularly susceptible to pesticides. However, it is also worth buying organic apples, cherries, and pears.
Knowing more about organic products leads to better choices when shopping and cooking.