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Which Foods Are Most Important To Buy Organic?

Most people know it’s a good idea to buy and eat organic foods whenever possible. Even those who aren’t particularly health-conscious are aware of this. However, it’s all-too-common for consumers to stare blankly at their kitchen’s subway tile backsplash, trying to make a shopping list filled with organic options that don’t empty their wallet. Healthy organic foods are almost always more expensive than nonorganic items — often dramatically more expensive. This can leave many people wondering if it’s even possible to be health-conscious and budget-conscious at the same time.

Fortunately, it’s absolutely possible, as long as you know which foods to buy organic and which you’re safe buying from the regular aisles.

Some foods aren’t much different, whether they’re organic or not. However, the foods on this list should always be purchased organic to avoid accidentally ingesting nasty chemicals. Knowing which foods are most important to buy organic will help you stretch your dollars as far as possible, helping you stay healthy and save money.

Coffee

Coffee is the third most sprayed crop in the world, just behind tobacco and cotton. And while neither cotton nor tobacco ever makes its way into our diets, 30% of the entire population drink coffee occasionally. For many people, two or even three cups of coffee is a part of their daily routine. So if you’re only going to buy one organic food regularly, you should make it this one.

Pesticides used on coffee plantations are supposed to be partially neutralized during the roasting process, but even worse than the effects they have on your body may be the effects they have on nature. These herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides can have negative long-term effects on farmers and the environment. If more people choose organic coffee, however, this won’t have to be a problem forever.

Dairy Products

The right dairy products are an essential part of a balanced diet. They are also important in having strong teeth and a healthy smile, which 99.7 percent of adults believe is socially important. Don’t settle for the cheapest butter, cheese, or jug of milk on the shelf, though. Nonorganic dairy products usually come from cows that received antibiotics, growth hormones, and a grain-only diet. What goes into the cow eventually makes its way into the milk and unhealthy animals can only produce poor-quality products.

And as if that wasn’t enough, animals in conventional industrial farms typically aren’t treated well and don’t enjoy lives that are healthy or pleasant. Not only does this ultimately mean poorer health for those who consume the animals or their milk, but it also means the animals themselves suffer needlessly while alive. Buying high-quality organic dairy products is a better option for you and our animal neighbors.

Grapes (and Wine, Too)

There are a lot of reasons to buy organic, but when it comes to grapes and products made with grapes, the reasons become even more convincing.

Many people enjoy a glass of wine now and then, especially at celebratory events like weddings and anniversaries. Even if you don’t drink wine, you probably eat grapes at least once in a while. Unfortunately, grapes have been found to contain multiple different types of pesticide residues. To make sure that your healthy treat or relaxing drink doesn’t carry any adverse effects with it, always buy organic grapes and wines and try to wash your grapes well before eating them.

Apples

As we all know, you should visit your doctor at least once per year and you should eat an apple a day so you don’t have to see them more often. One reason apples are so famous for being healthy is that they’re a good source of fiber, which helps keep your digestive tract in shape. But if your apples aren’t organic, you may want to reconsider: most apples contain residue from at least one pesticide.

Besides washing your apples before eating (which is something you should do with just about any fresh food you buy), try to find apples that are organic. This also applies to products like apple sauce and apple juice, which can be even worse than nonorganic apples because they’re so highly concentrated.

Tomatoes

If you love topping hamburgers with tomato slices or adding grape tomatoes to salads, you’ll want to make sure the tomatoes you’re buying are organic. The USDA Pesticide Program showed that tomatoes can carry 69 different pesticides. And since you always eat them with the skin left on, you’re even more likely to get those pesky chemicals in your system. When you’re looking for tomatoes for your next barbecue, go organic.

Peppers

Peppers are fascinating fruits. Not only do they possess an unusual flavor spectrum, from mildly sweet to intensely spicy, but they’re also known for a variety of health benefits. That’s because peppers contain a chemical known as capsaicin, which may help relieve nasal congestion and even fight off cancer.

Unfortunately, nonorganic peppers are likely to contain other chemicals that aren’t so helpful. Conventional grocery store peppers can carry up to 75 different pesticide residues, including recognized carcinogens and neurotoxins. No matter what kind of budget you’re on, when you buy peppers, they should always and only be organic.

Sadly, organic hot peppers aren’t as easy to find as other organic options, especially in smaller grocery stores. If you can’t find or can’t afford hot peppers, try using onions instead. They offer a similarly spicy flavor and they’ve been shown to be fairly clean, even when they’re not organic.

Leafy Greens

Dietary experts recommend that you eat five servings of vegetables every day and for many people, those servings come from tasty salads. From spinach to kale, leafy greens are worth splurging on to get organic. This is because the leaves offer a wider area for chemicals to stick. Considering that you can’t peel leafy greens and you need a lot of them to make a satisfying salad, the result is a concentration of pesticide residue on your plate. To avoid this problem altogether, go organic and be diligent when you’re rinsing or soaking greens as you prepare them.

And there you have it: these are some of the most important foods to buy organic. Even if you’re on a budget, to enjoy the best health possible, try to always buy these foods in the organic section.

Veganuary, A Resolution We Can Skip

I never got the point of a vegan diet. I dislike its cultish mindset. And I regard New Year’s resolutions as prelude to failure. That gives Veganuary three strikes and an out as an obsession to commandeer my January.

The push to adopt a strictly vegan diet for the month of January speaks volumes about English-speaking peoples’ rocky relationship with food and affection for movements. Veganuary started in Britain.

A vegan diet is like a vegetarian one — no meat, fish or fowl — but it also bans animal byproducts, such as cheese, eggs and milk.

There’s always a new diet. There’s keto, a diet of very few carbs and very high fat, seen as a fast way to lose weight. There’s the paleo diet, based on what the earliest humans supposedly ate. It permits organic produce, naturally raised meats, wild-caught fish, eggs, nuts and seeds — but not dairy, processed foods and sugar. Oddly, both the keto and paleo diets forbid grains and legumes. (Rules are rules.)

Asked her opinion on the paleo diet, a nutritionist on Doctor Radio (a SiriusXM channel) responded that she had no idea what cavemen consumed. I know from a reliable source, however, that Fred Flintstone ate brontosaurus burgers.

I get vegetarian diets. I understand the reluctance to kill animals for food. I don’t share it, though I want the animals to have been treated as humanely as possible. After all, Rusty, my sweetheart mutt, wouldn’t hurt any creature except for rabbits, but he and I were given canine teeth for a reason.

Dietitians maintain that vegetarians who don’t load up on fatty vegetarian grub can be very healthy. And a lot of us should be eating fewer burgers and more cauliflower than we do.

But it’s harder to achieve good nutrition with veganism. In particular, vitamin B12 is found only in animal sources, so vegans are advised to take supplements, according to Harvard Women’s Health Watch. How natural are pills?

From an ethical standpoint, the vegan banning of eggs or milk makes no sense at all. The cow that provided milk for my coffee is doing just fine, and the chicken’s life was in no way shortened by the eggs that went into my omelet.

The vegan movement argues that industrialized dairy or chicken farms are bad for the environment. Thing is, crops such as soybeans, corn and grains are also industrially grown and produced with high use of chemical fertilizer, fungicides, pesticides and herbicides.

In a piece last year in the Guardian, Isabella Tree, who runs a “sustainable” livestock farm in England, makes the above point and others in questioning veganism. She endorses “traditional rotational systems, permanent pasture and conservation grazing” that actually “restore soils and biodiversity, and sequester carbon.”

Tree’s cattle graze on wildflowers and grasses. The pigs poke around for rhizomes and dive into ponds. All this animal action creates opportunities for other species of small mammals and birds. Animal dung, Tree explains, “feeds earthworms, bacteria, fungi and invertebrates such as dung beetles, which pull the manure down into the earth.”

Out of curiosity, I visited Veganuary’s UK-based website. It asked visitors to take the Veganuary pledge. I clicked “Take the Pledge.” Then it asked for my email address, which I also provided. But then — before letting me see the recipes and meal plans — it demanded more information including gender, age and telephone number. Could requests for money and sales pitches for products be far behind? I was out of there.

My diet for January will be restricted to meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, nuts, yogurt, cheese, milk, fruits, beans and grains, with the occasional cookie sprinkled with sugar. Hope I can stick to it.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: Via Flickr by Ella Olson. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ellaolsson/42019058960