e-Wise Woman: Health tips for women on the go | Issue 1 | Fall 2010

Organic 101

"It is important to try to minimize our exposure to pesticides and other contaminants," explains Diane Edwards, R.N. with the HAP Worksite Wellness program. "Think of all the contaminants our bodies face every day -- gases from carpet, furniture, our cars and the outside air. Our bodies have to fight a lot of contamination, and it's beautifully designed to do this, but it can only do so much. People are becoming more aware, and I think that's one reason the organic industry is growing about 20 percent every year. Most major grocery store chains are now offering organic foods, and the prices aren't that much different from conventional products."

Deciphering the Labels
Here's what those grocery store labels really mean:
  • 100% Organic: contains only organic ingredients. No antibiotics, hormones, genetic engineering, radiation or synthetic pesticides.
  • Organic: Contains 95 percent organic ingredients; the rest come from ingredients on a USDA-approved list.
  • Made with Organic Ingredients: Contains at least 70 percent organic ingredients (three must be listed on the package), and the balance are on the approved list.
  • All Natural: Free from artificial colors, flavors and hydrogenated oils, but it may still contain pesticides, and may not necessarily be healthy.
Buy Local
"If you're buying produce at a farmer's market, you may see farmers advertising their produce as 'no spray,'" adds Diane. "That simply means they haven't gone through the costly process of getting organic certification. Buying at a farmer's market gives you a great opportunity to talk with the farmers about how they grow foods."

Organic Meat and Dairy Products
"Most meat and dairy are injected with antibiotics and hormones, and when we consume them, we're ingesting those hormones and antibiotics given to the animals," Diane notes. "It's better to choose meat and dairy from grass fed, free-range animals."

Improving health. Enhancing lives.

When Organic Matters Most

With certain fruits and vegetables, buying organic is more important than others. Some fruits and vegetables, like strawberries and peaches, have projectiles to which pesticides can cling, and their pesticide levels stay high, no matter how much you wash them. Others have very thin skins that absorb pesticides. The Environmental Working Group, a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993, has developed lists of the 'Dirty Dozen' and the 'Clean Fifteen' which identifies the fruits and vegetables most and least contaminated by pesticides. It's a good list to download and take with you when you’re shopping, to help you decide which fruits and vegetables to insist on organic. Download the shopping list