Before I had my first daughter I was blissfully unaware of many of the hidden dangers lurking in our food. Sure, I often bought organic, didn’t microwave in plastic, and tried to buy hormone-free dairy and meats, but you know, I was living my life (mercury-infused tuna, pesticide-laden blueberries, BPA-lined tomato cans and all). Thanks to the internet, my first pregnancy unleashed a torrent of fears, foods to avoid, containers to avoid, and chemicals to fear. It was pretty overwhelming. With a limited budget the challenge of keeping your family safe can seem insurmountable, so instead of feeling like a protector, I felt really inadequate. The other day I heard another mother say to her toddler in the market, “That’s not organic. We don’t eat that–it’s yucky.” I glanced anxiously at the conventional (and on sale!) chard in my basket, and once again a familiar feeling of guilt set in.
So, does organic matter? The fact is, it does. If you’re on a budget, these can be tough words to hear since organics can be expensive and hard to come by. But there are solid reasons to choose organic products, especially where kids are concerned. Here’s the lowdown on why organic is important, so you can make educated decisions while shopping for your family. And, I hope, breathe in a sigh of (temporary) relief.
For more on being a smart organic shopper, check out 10 tips for eating organic on a budget.
Organic food tastes better 1 of 8
Organically grown foods are better for the environment 2 of 8There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about the pesticides we ingest, but there is also reason to be alarmed about the pesticides that don't make it into our food supply. Pesticide runoff can pollute any number of waterways, destroy fragile ecosystems, and create toxic algae blooms or dead zones in our oceans.
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Organic dairy is more nutritious 3 of 8
Organic meats and milk are free of added hormones 4 of 8Conventionally raised livestock is often dosed with hormones to either increase the speed with which it grows or, in the case of cows, to increase the amount of milk they produce. There's no question this is bad for the animals which can develop painful infections, pass on birth defects to their young, and become malnourished from overproducing milk. Less clear, but still important, is the effect on humans. Milk from cows given hormones has higher levels of Insulin Growth Factor-1 which in turn has been linked to colon and breast cancer.
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Organic meats and milk are free of antibiotics 5 of 8Fully 80% of antibiotics in this country are given to animals, mainly as part of their feed as a way to keep the animals from getting sick in the crowded and unsanitary conditions they are kept in. The problem with abusing antibiotics is that it leads to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria which is bad for the animals and bad for humans when a super-bug jumps over to humans, as a drug-resistant form of staph infection recently did.
10 tips for eating organic on a budget
Organic food is better for those who work on farms 6 of 8The harmful chemicals used to raise conventional crops can really add up when you're eating them, but when you're exposed to them in large quantities every day as farm worker, the effects can be devastating. Eating organic can reduce the human toll of agriculture.
10 tips for eating organic on a budget
Organic farming supports small farmers 7 of 8Sure, organic produce costs a little more, but it's also one of the ways small farmers can compete with the big guys. It's true that there are plenty of industrial farms that use organic techniques (and that's a good thing), but a lot of us have a soft spot for the independent farmer making a go of it on his or her own, which is increasingly difficult. Because organic farming relies less on expensive inputs like synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, and GMO seeds and the higher prices commanded for the results, it's easier for a farmer to make a living.
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Organic foods are free of GMOs 8 of 8Though genetically modifies organisms (GMOs) are in wide use, the jury is still out on their safety. GMOs can contaminate non-GMO crops, may be impacting the biodiversity of the soil and environment at large, and because they're unlabeled, can cause allergic reactions when allergens are blended with other foods.
Learn more about GMOs in food
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