Beginner’s guide to eating organic

I’m a firm believer that when it comes to nutrition, your focus should be on the quality and the source of your food more than anything else – and eating an organic diet is one of the best places to start.

Why eat organic food?

Avoid pesticides. The toxic residue of pesticides used on conventional (non-organic) vegetables and fruit can make their way into our bodies. Studies also show pesticides are linked to cancers and a host of other ailments, while commonly used pest control ingredients atrazine and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) have been linked with increases in body mass index (BMI) in children, and insulin resistance in rodents.

Avoid GMO. I’m with award-winning geneticist and broadcaster Dr David Suzuki on this one, who says “Anyone that says, ‘Oh, we know that GMOs are perfectly safe,’ I say is either unbelievably stupid or deliberately lying. The reality is, we don’t know. The experiments simply haven’t been done, and now we have become the guinea pigs.”

Avoid hormones, antibiotics and drugs in animal protein.

Protect our earth. The environment where contaminated food is grown suffers too, wind and water runoff carry these toxic chemicals from farms to rivers and surrounding areas, and have been found in soil decades after their use was halted. Organic produce is farmed using sustainable practises.

Better taste and more nutrient-dense. Organic produce is grown in nutrient-dense soil, which means it tastes better and studies have shown that organically grown vegetables contain more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micro-nutrients than conventionally grown produce.

Clean up your shopping list

Base your shopping lists on the below principles, research where to buy these items – and then you’re on your way to eating organic!

  1. Fresh produce: Use the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean Fifteen’ lists
    The USA’s Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes annual lists of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean Fifteen’ which provide great guidelines for where to spend on organic food, based on which has the most pesticide residue, and which are the safest foods to buy conventionally.
    You can also use this rule of thumb for buying organic produce:
    a. Thin skin (think peaches, plums, strawberries)
    b. Grown underground (think potatoes, carrots)
    c. High water content (think lettuce, celery)
    Fresh produce with thicker skins and which can be peeled (e.g. pineapple, avocado and onions) tend to be less contaminated with pesticides.
  2. Buy whole foods
    Go for foods that are not processed, or minimally processed – that way you’ll be able to make sure that the ingredients are organic. Only have grains and beans if you can tolerate them – most people have gut issues and don’t digest these well, amp up the greens, good fats instead.
  3. Go for high quality animal protein
    Buy organic meat, poultry, egg and dairy products that come from animals that are pasture-raised, roam freely and receive no growth hormones or antibiotics. When it comes to fish, wild caught is best and it should be on the SASSI green list.
  4. Avoid ALL GMO
  5. Nuts and seeds Buy organic, make sure these are activated


Tips for beating the budget

Invest in yourself: always choose quality over quantity, eat seasonally, go to source and eat less in general. However, there are ways that you can be strategic with how you source your food to keep costs down.

  • Focus on priority foods Identify a few of the foods that you eat often, and choose organic versions of these – that way you’ll be increasing the percentage of organic food in your diet without any drastic spikes in your grocery budget.
  • Go to the source Research what you can buy locally, and which farmers and suppliers sell directly to the public. I get my organic fresh produce from Sans and choose Farmer Angus as my source for animal protein. The Oranjezicht City Farmers Market also has a good range of organic produce, although some of their stock is also conventional, so be sure to check.
  • Buy seasonal produce You’ll save money thanks to the law of supply and demand: seasonal produce is more abundant, so it costs less per kilo. If you are buying produce that is out of season, there are the added expenses of travel, time and growing it in a greenhouse.
  • Buy in bulk Organic meat, poultry, fish and certain fresh produce can be bought in bulk and frozen
  • Grow your own You don’t need a garden, a few pots of your favourite herbs and vegetables takes minimal effort and can be so rewarding
  • Don’t forget about food swapping – where home growers share their oversupply with each other, it’s a great way to keep yourself supplied without spending – make contact with other growers on your local community Facebook page.
  • When in doubt, opt for organic first, least pesticide-contaminated next and of course non-GMO and non-processed foods too.

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