We're all trying to be better, live better, and eat better, but it's hard when there's so much out there. Nutrition labels don't make much sense to the casual observer, and there's so much conflicting information on the internet that there's just no telling what's the truth and what isn't anymore.
That's why we've begun this Simple Food Terms series; we want you well-informed and ready to take on any grocery store with confidence and know-how. Today's topic is the term "organic." What does it really mean for a food to be considered organic? What does organic even mean? Read on to find out why it's such a huge buzzword in the world of healthy eating!
If a food is labeled as organic, it means that the product has never come into contact with pesticides, genetically modified organisms (or GMOs), synthetic fertilizers, or ionizing radiation. Growth hormones and antibiotics are also off-limits for organically raised animals that provide eggs, dairy, meat, or poultry. That means they're free of those dangerous chemicals and modified ingredients you've been hearing about.
Organically raised animals produce milk that contains 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than inorganic, and that's not all! Organic produce contains about 50% more anthocyanins and flavonols, which are what give the fruits and vegetables their bright colors. Take a look in the produce aisle next time you're shopping, and you'll see what we mean!
Not only is organic farming beneficial for your body, it's also a step up in protecting the environment! Organic farms practice water management and crop rotations along with environmentally friendly pest control. These practices protect the soil and biodiversity of the land, which actually helps the produce to grow better and healthier!
It isn't easy to grow organic produce; there are quite a few regulations when it comes to the organic certification. The prohibited pesticides and GMOs make successful farming a lot more difficult. Farmers keep a detailed record-keeping system to prove their organic produce growth, and even create a buffer of land between inorganic farms to avoid contamination. It takes a full three years for a farm to convert to organic status!
Once the rank is achieved, a farm must maintain this certification with careful consideration of the US Department of Agriculture (or USDA)'s regulations along with a detailed farming plan. Farms also undergo annual inspections through an accredited certifier to make sure they're keeping up with the plan and following all regulations laid out by the USDA and National Organic Program (NOP).
Organic Meat, Poultry, Eggs, and Dairy
The regulations regarding organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy are just as strict as the rules for organic produce. Organically raised animals have required outdoor access for a certain number of hours each year and are fed 100% organic feed. Humane housing, herd size in reference to overgrazing, and quality of life are all kept under close watch on an organic farm.
Much like produce farms, farms that raise animals are also held to higher standards when it comes to the organic label. They're also compelled to follow USDA regulations when it comes to raising animals and maintaining the lifestyle and happiness of their charges.
There you have it: what it really means for a product to boast that little green "organic" sticker. It's more important now than ever to really pay attention to the food you eat and feed your family; more and more "foods" grace our shelves every day, and it's not easy to tell the difference between wholesome, whole foods and their cheap imitations. Watching what you eat means more than choosing the lower calorie option; it's about health, happiness, and a lifestyle you'll love living.