September 30, 2022 7 min read

By choosing to buy organic, you're supporting a form of farming that adheres to higher standards of animal care and is better for the environment, wildlife, and humans. But is organic food all it’s made out to be, how can you eat organic on a budget? Read on to find out.

What is organic food?

The word "organic" is used to describe how some foods are made. Organic foods are grown or farmed without using chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

For a food to be labelled as "organic," it must also not have any added chemicals. This includes things like monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colouring, and flavouring.

Most of the time, natural fertilisers are used to help plants grow when crops are grown in this way. Antibiotics and hormones are not given to animals that are raised organically.

Organic farming tends to improve the quality of the soil and keep groundwater from being used up. It also cuts down on pollution and is often better for the environment.

Why should you eat organic foods?

Carrot and leafy vegetables at a market.

People have come to think that the word "organic" means "better," especially when it comes to certain foods. But what does that really mean? What makes organic food the better option for our health and the planet? Here are some reasons why we should eat organic foods.

Organic food might be more nutritious

Could produce grown organically contain more antioxidants than that grown conventionally? Well, a 2017 study indicated that organic onions did indeed contain roughly 20% more antioxidants than non-organic onions, as reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Important microbial life exists in our soil but is often eliminated when crops are sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other chemicals. Organic crops may be able to better access the beneficial minerals and nutrients they require from the soil without these synthetic chemicals present, producing food that is more vitamin-rich.

Organic food has less exposure to pesticides

You can lessen your exposure to chemicals like pesticides and antibiotics by eating organic food, at least some of the time. According to a review published in 2017, the use of synthetic pesticides during organic food production is prohibited, resulting in low residual levels in foods and reduced exposure to pesticides for consumers.

While organic farmers are allowed to use some pesticides, they tend to be milder, more naturally occurring compounds than those used in conventional farming. Natural fertilisers are used in organic farming, while synthetic ones are not.

Organic farming is better for wildlife

When it comes to promoting and conserving wildlife, organic farming techniques easily beat non-organic ones. The 31,000 tonnes of pesticides sprayed on Britain annually, which deplete soil fertility and kill bees and other pollinators, are largely to blame for the dramatic reduction in wildlife that has occurred over the past 50 years.

Due to the less harmful nature of organic farming practices, wildlife is 50% more abundant, organic farms typically sustain 75% more plant species, and organic farms have 50% more pollinator species than non-organic farms.

Organic food reduces your exposure to food additives

Another compelling health argument in favour of eating organic is the avoidance of controversial food additives. Fewer than 40 of the thousands of synthetic additives allowed in Europe can be used by organic food manufacturers. Organic food may only contain ingredients obtained from natural sources, such as lecithin and citric acid; artificial flavours or colours are not permitted.

A more trustworthy mathematical formula for estimating the potential "additive" or "cocktail" effects of chemicals, whether they come from pesticides or food additives, has recently been created by the Danish National Food Institute. According to its findings, even very small amounts of chemicals taken together may have greater harmful impacts on our health than previously believed.

This demonstrates why it is a good idea to restrict your exposure to such toxins (by choosing organic foods, for example). Endocrine disrupting substances, which can have harmful effects on health even at very low concentrations and are included in food additives and pesticides, are of special concern.

Organic farming supports carbon sequestration

Carbon sequestration, promoted by organic farming, contributes to lowering atmospheric CO2 levels. The key advantage of organic crop production over conventional agriculture is its emphasis on soil-based production which is based on the concepts of sustaining or enhancing soil quality. Healthy soil can mitigate the effects of global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide. This is akin to the role that prairies and forests play as carbon sinks in the natural world.

With a shift to regenerative organic agriculture practices, we could store more than 100% of present yearly CO2 emissions, according to recent statistics from around the globe.

What foods should you prioritise to buy organic?

A pile of avocados at a food market.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen list every year to inform customers on which products should be at the top of their organic shopping list and which won't make much of a difference. These lists will help you determine when you want to spend the extra money on organic produce as organic fruits and vegetables are frequently more expensive than non-organic products.

On the Clean Fifteen list are the top 15 foods with the fewest pesticides. The following foods are on the Clean Fifteen list for 2022:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Asparagus
  8. Honeydew melon
  9. Kiwi
  10. Cabbage
  11. Mushrooms
  12. Cantaloupes
  13. Mangoes
  14. Watermelon
  15. Sweet Potatoes

The majority of produce in 2022 that is considered to be "clean" has a rough outer peel, husk, or shell that must be removed before consumption. This acts as a protective barrier for your food.

The Dirty Dozen list, on the other hand, lists the products that often have the most pesticides. These are the foods you should buy organic where possible. The foods in the 2022 Dirty Dozen list are below:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard, and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Bell and hot peppers
  8. Cherries
  9. Peaches
  10. Pears
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

The EWG gives each type of produce a score based on how many pesticides were found in the samples that were tested, the average number of pesticides found on a single sample, the average amount of pesticides found, the most pesticides that were found on a single sample, and the total number of pesticides found on the crop.

All of the categories are given the same amount of weight because they all give different but equally important information about pesticide levels on produce. This means that the list shows which crops tend to be treated with the most pesticides, but it doesn't say for sure which ones are the most dangerous to human health. For example, the list doesn’t suggest you buy organic strawberries over organic tomatoes, these are just products it recommends to buy organic.

Organic food buying tips

A woman shops at an organic food market stall.

It's crucial to understand that when you choose to pay a little extra on an organic product, you are voting with your money. You are choosing to participate in a natural, completely traceable food chain, one that places a high priority on animal welfare, encourages wildlife, cultivates living soils, and maintains a healthy ecosystem for future generations.

In light of this, balance is essential! Here is our best advice for shopping for organic food on a tight budget.

Order an organic food box

With so many options available, ordering an organic food box is now simpler than ever. Without any hassle, they can be delivered right to your door. The sort of food you order and the quantity you require affect the price you pay. For instance, eight different seasonal vegetables are offered in a small vegetable box from Abel and Cole. A large fruit and vegetable box will provide you with eight vegetable options and three seasonal fruit alternatives.

Shop local

While organic vendors frequently charge a higher price, you can speak with the growers personally at markets, and learn about the regulars and the nearby farmers. For a greater volume, try negotiating a better price. Or go for cheaper organic vegetables that may have a crooked appearance yet taste great.

Buy in season

This is among the most important actions we can take because it significantly reduces our carbon footprint as well. When compared to out-of-season produce, seasonal produce is frequently significantly less expensive, and there is often a surplus once the season has passed. You may check the organic foods that are available each week by keeping a seasonal calendar posted on your refrigerator. Keep in mind that as the season draws to a close, you can also strike fantastic deals with nearby farmers and growers.

Eat less meat

Compared to organic veggies and non-organic meat, organic meat is significantly more expensive. It will still have a significant carbon footprint because producing meat is known to be energy-intensive. Why not cut back on your meat consumption and substitute organic plant proteins like lentils and beans? A small adjustment in lifestyle can be beneficial for both your health and the environment, even if you choose not to become totally vegan.

You don't need to change your diet entirely to start eating organic food. You can benefit from eating organic food by making small, easy changes, such as switching out conventional versions of the Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables for their organic equivalents.

Eating a lot of conventional produce is preferable to eating none at all, so make sure you get your vegetables in, but aim for organic if you can.

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