The world is crawling with fad diets and buzzwords: intermittent fasting, keto diet, whole grains, vegan, plant-based, and so on. When the health craze started, one of the first terms you heard was the phrase "organic." While organic diets are no longer the main buzzword of the decade, the diets themselves are still quite effective. If you've been looking for a way to eat better foods, help the environment, and to feel healthier in your own body, perhaps incorporating organic meals into your diet is the best idea. Check out this guide to get you started.
Defining Organic Food
Before you can start eating an organic diet, you need to understand what the word "organic" even means. Organic is a term that refers to foods (both plants and animals) grown with natural products. This means the farmers who grew them didn't use chemical fertilizers, pesticides, artificial growth hormones, or antibiotics. Organic farming instead focuses on reducing pollution and saving water and soil by rotating crops and using natural fertilizers.
The United States Department of Agriculture has specific standards for a food to be labeled as organic. To be considered organic, a food must be at least 95% organic. If it has between 70% and 95% organic ingredients, it is instead labeled as "made with organic ingredients." Anything less than 70% cannot use the word organic on its label. Keep in mind that while the USDA governs most food, fish cannot officially be labeled organic as it isn't part of that governing. If you eat a lot of fish, look for items shown as "wild caught" and not farmed. The Monterey Bay Aquarium provides a Seafood Watch guide that can further assist with this.
The Benefits of Organic Food
Organic food is touted as healthier, but is it really? Studies show that while no food is a miracle food, eating organic is healthier for the body overall. This is because they are higher in antioxidants than traditionally grown produce, and antioxidants are known to help reduce the risk of heart disease and other diseases. Additionally, because organic food is not grown in pesticides, it is less likely to stunt the brain development of children. Other benefits include higher levels of fresh nutrients and no GMOs in your produce. Finally, organic meat and dairy products have more omega-3 fatty acids. The animals also have more room to roam and live, which means a better quality of life for them and a higher lean meat ratio for you.
Eating Organic on a Budget
Many people choose not to eat organic because they think it's too expensive. The truth is it's entirely possible to have an organic diet, even on a budget. Start by finding recipes you'd like to cook, such as those on the Gundry MD Instagram. Once you create a meal plan for a day, week, or even longer, you can start looking for ways to save money.
Organic coupons are a thing! Do you have specific favorite products that you know are organic? Check their websites for manufacturer's coupons. Sometimes, these companies offer exclusive coupons on their social media pages as well, so make sure you're following them. Other places to look for savings include coupon sites dedicated exclusively to organic products, or on the store websites where you like to shop most. If you live near a Kroger (or any of its subsidiaries), the Simple Truth brand is an excellent source of affordable organic products.
You can also save money by making the most of your space in the kitchen. Do you have a deep freezer? Take advantage of organic meal sales. You can also make large batches of organic meals and freeze them for later consumption. Do you love local produce? Some of them freeze well. For example, you can make a summer spread of berries on a sheet pan, freeze it overnight, and then switch it to jars for the winter months. Organic cookbooks, weekly budgets, and making your own organic snack food are other ways you can save money and still eat an organic diet.
Finally, it helps to know what you can buy without needing an organic label. There are just over a dozen fruits and vegetables, known as the Clean 15, that aren't grown with a lot of pesticides and can be purchased without an organic label if you prefer. These include avocado, mushrooms, sweet corn, mango, onion, pineapple, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and several others.
Making the Switch to Organic
For many people, the hardest part of eating an organic diet is making that initial switch. If you do it a little bit at a time, it may be easier for you. Start by cutting out the processed white stuff (sugar, then caffeine and alcohol). Next, switch out your pasts for organic or whole grain options. When looking for new products to try, remember that the fewer ingredients listed on the label, the better. Try finding variety with the things you do have and like. Do you like quinoa? Mix it with roasted vegetables one night and hard-boiled eggs the next morning. If you're a condiment lover, consider what alternatives are available to you. Extra-virgin olive oil, sesame oil, hot sauce, cinnamon, and maple syrup are all excellent alternatives to over-processed sauces and dressings.
A true organic diet is one that relies on real ingredients, not chemical preservatives or flavoring. Even if you only switch some of your foods, you'll be making a positive impact on the environment and on your personal health. If you aren't sure where to begin, consider consulting your doctor. He or she may be able to recommend products or even a nutritionist who specializes in organic diets.