Healthy Living: The best foods to buy organic

If you've ever been stuck in the produce section of the grocery store wondering whether you should spend the extra cash on organic, you're not alone.  For many of us, the difference is costly and can be confusing.

Nutritionist and wellness coach Deborah Enos says when it comes to organic, do your homework.  According to the USDA, which oversees the National Organic Program

They define "organic" and provide certification of which agriculture ingredients have been produced under conditions that meet the definition.  They also include labeling standards based on the percentage of organic ingredients found in found.

Enos says... the term "organic" has the most specific criteria and legal meaning.  As defined by the USDA, organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are give no antibiotics or growth hormones.  Organic plant foods are produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bio-engineering or ionizing radiation.   A government-approved  certifier must inspect the farm to ensure these standards are met.  In addition to organic farming, there are USDA standards for organic handling and processing.

The Environmental Working Group has put out a list of what it calls the "Dirty Dozen".  It's a shoppers guide to the foods they say contain the most pesticides... basically the foods they suggest you should spend the extra money and buy organic.

View the Dirty Dozen here:

They also came out with a "Clean Fifteen" list of the foods with the least amount of pesticides:

When it comes to labels, you may see the term "Natural" on packaging.  We asked Enos what that means.  She says research has shown that people will buy something labeled "natural" thinking that it's similar to "organic" but less expensive.  Enos calls this a food trap.  She says the term "natural" is an organic impostor.  In fact, according to the FDA, it is difficult to define a food product that is "natural" because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth.  For that reason, the FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term "natural".

Enos says skip foods with the natural label because you might end up paying more for something that has no added health value.