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Renee Myers, nutritionist, gives a presentation at Humana’s Neighborhood Center.
By Jill Davis, MS, CWPM, Humana Health Educator
Organic foods can cause a bit of a dilemma when you are grocery shopping. On one side of the aisle, you have a conventional apple, and on the other side, you have an organic apple. Both options are firm, shiny and red. Which apple would you choose?
To help you make your decision, you need to have a clear understanding of what “organic” means. This was a topic of discussion at a recent health and wellness class offered at the Humana Neighborhood Center in Winston-Salem.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. In the United States, organic crops must be grown without using synthetic (man-made) pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
To help you be a smarter shopper, here are the five tips shared at the class:
*Avoid the Dirty Dozen™: Certain fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes, have high pesticide residues, even after they’ve been carefully washed or peeled.
*Look for the Clean Fifteen™: Certain fruits and vegetables have few, if any, pesticide residue, such as avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cabbages, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms and honeydew.
*Don’t Discount Dairy: When it comes to dairy products, including eggs, a key component of being organic is that the livestock raised for these products must have access to the outdoors and eat organic feed. Additionally, these animals may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones or any animal by-products. The same holds true for organic meat, so when reading labels, keep an eye out for terms like free range, cage-free or grass fed.
*Look at the Label: The USDA oversees an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet stringent government standards related to how organic foods are grown, handled and processed. For a food manufacturer to label a food as “organic,” the product must be USDA certified, allowing the manufacturer to display an official USDA organic seal. Don’t be confused if you see the word “natural” – the term does not refer to how the food’s ingredients were grown, but instead means that the food contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
*Buying on a Budget: If you want to buy organic but need to watch your wallet, aim to purchase what is in season and shop around. For example, supermarkets offer their own organic store brands, and, depending on where you live, local farmers markets may be a convenient place to get organic produce. You can also consider a food co-op or community-supported agriculture (CSA), where you pay a fee or buy a share in a farm’s harvest and in return get fresh produce weekly during the growing season.
For information on upcoming health and wellness classes offered at the Humana Neighborhood Center in Winston-Salem, call 336-293-0122, or visit the center located at 1045 Hanes Mall Blvd. in Winston-Salem to pick up a monthly calendar of events that are open to the public at no cost.
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