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Organic: Protecting your body, community and environment

  • Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Eating organic food can help reduce your exposure to pesticide residue and antibiotic resistant bacteria and positively affect your overall health.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines “organic” as a labeling word for food that is produced through methods that promote the conservation of natural resources and eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers, conventional pesticides and genetic engineering.

Organic fruits and vegetables can be higher in nutrient content than those at the supermarket that are produced through conventional farming methods.

For a farm to label its products as organic, the farm must undergo an extensive and costly certification process through the USDA. Many small farms that follow organic growing practices are unable to receive this type of certification because of its cost.

Head to your nearest roadside farm-stand or farmers market, such as the one next to Moultrie Middle School in Mount Pleasant, to speak with local farmers about their growing practices. By supporting local farmers, you are supporting your community's economy.

To save money when buying organic food, prioritize produce items that are most likely to have been exposed to pesticides. You may hear that produce referred to as the “dirty dozen,” which includes peaches, bell peppers, strawberries, lettuces and celery.

It's less important to buy organic produce that you peel, such as oranges or bananas. Pesticide residue is not likely to pass through the outer layer that will be discarded. Other ways to reduce the cost of eating organic food are finding sales, buying from local businesses and shopping seasonally.

Finally, it's important to remember that some food products are labeled organic but aren't necessarily healthy. An organic brownie is made with organic ingredients, but it still will be high in sugar and fat.

Stick to eating healthy, fresh food such as fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, and whenever possible, eat organic food for a healthy body, community and environment.

To learn more about the U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic guidelines, visit www.usda.gov.

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