There are two benefits to choosing organic foods – one to yourself (you ingest fewer pesticides) and one to the environment (less of an impact from chemical fertilizers and pesticide runoff to the ecosystem). However, organics’ increased cost and the limited availability are a deterrent to many.
Whether you choose organic or conventional fruits and vegetables, eating more of them is always going to be better for you than eating less. However, the same is not true of products like wheat, meat or dairy. These are things that most of us should probably eat less of, and they cause a huge impact on the environment.
In my holistic nutrition course, we recently saw some videos about the blatantly inhumane conditions at corporate confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). These are a far cry from idealistic farms with placidly grazing cows, pigs and chickens. Here, animals are penned up and held in such horrific conditions that they show crazy behavior from the stress and must be given antibiotics to keep from getting sick. You could turn vegetarian before even starting to think about the slaughtering process.
While not turning vegetarian, I’m voting with my fork and food dollars not to support this kind of business. By choosing organic meat and dairy, I’m supporting farms that are hopefully more humane, where the animals at least have access to the outside air and move around in a natural way.
So, I follow Michael Pollan’s advice, to eat better meat (which was humanely raised) but to eat less of it. Spending more on organic meat and dairy products is a great incentive to cut down on consumption, which is better for your health and for the environment – a win/win!
With that said, I’ll leave you with a super-easy non-cooking recipe that has some protein from black beans and three different produce items from the Clean 15 (the ones that the Environmental Working Group says are fine to buy in non-organic versions because they carry a low pesticide load):
Mango and Avocado Salad
1 mango, peeled and cut into cubes
2 avocados, peeled and cut into cubes
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 of a medium red onion, chopped fine
juice of 1 lime
2 tbs. chopped cilantro
1/2 tbs. agave nectar
Gently mix the veggies and the dressing together in a bowl. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to an hour for the flavors to mix together. Enjoy as a side salad, over grilled chicken/fish, in tacos, on a tostada, or on top of a green salad.
What about grains like wheat, corn and soy? I try to purchase those organic as often as I can because so many of these conventional crops are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that are banned in other countries. For environmental reasons, I try to purchase organic cotton clothing and sheets.
Just remember that while buying organically grown is better for the environment, it is not automatically “healthy.” Organic tortilla chips are still tortilla chips!