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A (Quick) Guide to Buying Organic

Over the past few years the organic food craze has reached epidemic proportions. Whole Foods Markets are dotting the country while regular grocery stores are adding organic sections into their floor plan. However college students know that living the chemical-free lifestyle can be costly to the point of impracticality. Luckily there are tips to deciding when to go organic and when to buy regular.

But what exactly does organic mean? A simple definition is any food that has been grown and harvested without the use of pesticides, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or any other chemical additive while recycling resources and being environmentally conscious. Despite the cultivation of a working definition, the word has been thrown around so much that corporations are allowed to use the “organic” label on anything that has at least 70% non-treated components.

Organic 3The best way to determine if a food is entirely organic is to look for the USDA Certified Organic label. However all it takes is the use of water to warrant the exclusion from organic certification. Water is nearly impossible to classify as organic due to the amount of pollution being circulated throughout major waterways. Therefore items such as organic shampoo and lotion are hard to come by and often expensive.

Also, an organic product is no longer considered organic once it comes in contact with non-organic foods. The contamination, no matter the extent, adds the very chemicals the original farmer worked hard to avoid into the mix. This is why a food bar is never labeled as organic.

So when is it important to spend a little more on organic? Well not every fruit and vegetable is raised in the same way; some produce are more harshly treated with chemicals than others based on their susceptibility to pests and rot. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an organization dedicated to providing resources for those interested in living a healthy, clean lifestyle, researched the process of growing and harvesting several popular produce items and came up with the “Clean Fifteen” and the “Dirty Dozen”. The first list is comprised of foods that can be bought non-organic because they are raised with minimal contaminates. The latter refers to items where the buyer should shell out some extra cash and go organic.

 The Clean Fifteen

  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocado
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Corn
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mangos
  10. Mushrooms
  11. Onions
  12. Papayas
  13. Pineapples
  14. Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  15. Sweet Potatoes

 The Dirty Dozen

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherries
  4. Tomatoes
  5. Cucumbers
  6. Grapes
  7. Hot Peppers
  8. Nectarines (Imported)
  9. Peaches
  10. Potatoes
  11. Spinach
  12. Strawberries

And sometimes:

  1. Sweet Bell Peppers
  2. Collards and Kale
  3. Summer Squash and Zucchini

The organic trend is proving to be persistent as it has only been gaining speed over the years. Eating entirely organic results in a clean lifestyle that can have a myriad of health benefits. However when cash is tight these lists can assist in choosing when to go organic and when to pinch some pennies.

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