Be sure to read Part One and Part Two and Part Three of this mini-series if you missed them!
If you’re new to healthy eating, I’d probably recommend that you SKIP this post! :) It can be a bit overwhelming to think of making all these changes. Instead, I encourage you to follow this link, then scroll down to the very beginning of this section of posts where you will find very basic tips on starting to eat a healthier diet!
Today, I’d like to share the foods I feel should be a higher focus for organic purchasing and eating. Please be reminded of my Organic Food Disclaimer and how I don’t think non-organic farmers are evil and all that stuff.
First let me share the list of Produce I try to purchase organically if possible. According to Organic.org, the produce which contains the HIGHEST amounts of pesticides are: Peaches , Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Pears, Grapes (imported), Spinach, Lettuce and Potatoes. Fruit Wash does help remove some pesticides, but it is my understanding that the pesticides are not only on the skin of the fruit or vegetable, but also inside the fruit or vegetable, especially in the above listed foods.
Other fruits and vegetables I do purchase organically if possible, but if I don’t have a ready source, I don’t sweat it. I almost never buy organic bananas, avocados, watermelon, oranges or pineapple because their skins are so thick and they are quite low on the pesticide list!
Beyond produce, I highly recommend that you look into organic Milk and Meat and Eggs from sources you trust. Our family prefers to drink raw milk from cows that are pasture fed. We also prefer our meat and eggs to come from animals that are allowed to roam freely on pasture.
Why? Well, most conventionally raised cows are fed a less than stellar diet of GMO grains, when really, their stomachs were designed to eat grass. In addition, they are usually raised in crowded feedlots and given several rounds of antibiotics to help them survive those crowded feedlots. They are often also given steroids to make their meat more tender. Those antibiotics and steroids become a part of the milk or meat, which means that if we eat (or drink) from these sources, we are ingesting them too. (Here is an article with great information about why Grass Fed is best.)
Conventionally raised chickens are usually cooped up in tight quarters and never allowed to free roam and peck around and do all the normal things God created chickens to do (including but not limited to attacking their egg gatherer – ah, what a memory). Chickens are also often given antibiotics to protect from infection due to their living conditions. (source)
Last but not least, let’s talk about Grains. If at all possible, I encourage you to find organic or “chemical free” grains. Conventionally grown grains are almost always genetically modified (GMO), making them a completely different food than their original little selves. Legumes fall into this same category. Of all the organic food I place as a priority, Grains are the highest. Organic grains are not GMO, making them much safer to eat. I found this page on Seeds of Deception to be very helpful in talking about which foods are usually GMO and best to avoid.
It’s important for me to note that not all organic farmers have an organic certification. The farms around here where I purchase my milk, beef, chickens and eggs are actually NOT “certified organic”. It costs quite a bit of money to acquire and maintain an organic certification, so some farmers choose not to go that route. However, after visiting with these farmers I purchase from, I know that all of them are truly organic, just without the label. It saves them money and it saves me money for them to not have the “organic label”. Does this make sense? (Local Harvest is a great resource for finding locally raised, healthy animals.)
This wraps up my Should I Eat Organic Food? series. I’ll now be moving on to share more about my pantry and freezers, compiling big lists of all my favorite foods to buy. Plus, I plan to share more about how I buy food in bulk, store my bulk food and afford bulk food.
Are there some other questions you have regarding organic food that I forgot to talk about? Did you ever read about my very scary free range rooster encounter? I’m still not over it.
I am trying to begin to eat healthy. I would love a series on were to begin. I can not start making everything at the beginning. I just started making waffles and pancakes (basic recipe). I do not even know what foods to avoid when reading labels. Or if you could point me in the direction of a bog that is for beginners that would be great.
Rachel – This post is probably super overwhelming, I’d encourage you just to ignore it for now!! :) I’ve been writing these things about eating organically to answer some reader questions. But, if you go back to the very beginning of this Simple Steps to Healthy Eating series, you’ll find some very basic posts on where to start: https://www.heavenlyhomemakers.com/category/simple-steps-toward-healthy-eating. You’ll have to scroll all the way down to the beginning of these posts – that’s where I offer very basic, simple suggestions of ways to start eating a healthier diet.
Your waffles and pancakes sound great!
Thank you. Yes very overwhelming.
The farm I get my milk from is not certified organic but they do practice being organic. That label is one that just makes it way to expensive for them and us.
I am starting my food pantry this year and bulk storage and am look forward to hearing how you do things and how you buy in bulk on a budget.
I’ve been buying free range and cage free eggs for a while now. But, is there still a chance (since they are not organic) that the chickens are eating GMO grains???
Randi Millward @ Books by Randi says
YES! Nearly all of the grains are GMO’s. Although they are cage free or free range, they are still given grain, most likely gmo grain.
Thank you so much for this series. I didn’t realize grains were such an issue. That was new to me (aside from corn, of course). I haven’t taken the plunge, but I’m buying a few things organic here and there, and finding it doesn’t have to affect my budget all that much if I make a point of not wasting food and making more things from scratch. :-) Thanks for all the helpful info!
Ok, so looking at some of the links, I didn’t see wheat listed as a GM food. What info do you have on wheat? Thanks!
You’re right, they aren’t listed there. Hmm.. I’d still try to find organic grains if possible, for other reasons (like pesicides and such) IF you can.
Randi Millward @ Books by Randi says
The food product with the highest pesticide content is no-organic butter. IT’s worse than any fruit or vegetable on the dirty dozen list and worse than meat and milk.
Here’s just one of MANY websites that sites that information: http://www.healthiertalk.com/12-foods-you-have-buy-organic-022
Can you explain why non-organic produce is harmful to our bodies? I’m more concerned about the pesticide issue right now. You wrote about which fruits and vegetables contain the most pesticides, but you didn’t discuss why pesticides should be avoided in the first place.
Before pesticides are used commercially, aren’t they tested on animals at doses that are far greater than what we consume on a regular basis in order to find out if there are negative side effects?
That is something I’d like to know more about as well!
Randi Millward @ Books by Randi says
Randi Millward @ Books by Randi says
Randi Millward @ Books by Randi says
The 2 links above touch breifly on the issues, but in short, they cause cancer, infertility, birth defects, kidney damage, tumors, cause neurological problems, have been linked to learning disabilities, and much more. The effects can also be passed on to the next generation.
Yes, they are tested, but no they are not safe. The researchers DO find negative effects in the study but they are approved anyway, sometimes just because they think the benefits to farming outweigh the risks to human health.
For more information, just do a quick online search for dangers to human health caused be pesticides or go to a store and read the warnings on a bottle of herbicide or pesticide. And don’t forget, many of the pesticides farmers use are so dangerous that they are not approved for at-home use.
I hope that helps!
Thank you so much for your blog. I am just starting to learn about nutrition. We’ve been buying more organic produce and even found a great farm where we can get grass fed beef and healthy chicken. However, raw dairy is currently illegal in our state (FL). I’m just wondering about your take on this. Would you do raw dairy if you were in my situation? And also, were you nervous the first time you gave it to your kids? There’s a lot of scary info out there about raw dairy… Thanks again and keep writing! :)
I think I’d still try to do raw dairy if there was a way available. Is it legal in your state if you have a “cow share”?
I wasn’t nervous when I first gave it to my kids because my friends were giving it to their kids and their kids were strong as anything! I also learned my milk source was reliable so I wasn’t concerned.
Were I WOULD be concerned is if I had to drink “regular” milk from conventionally grown cows – if that milk was unpasteurized. I do appreciate that the milk that comes from conventionally grown cows is not raw because that’s where it would be scary to me.
Just as a true fact:
My family and I have grown up on a non-organic dairy farm. We drink our milk raw–straight from the tank and have done so for 3 generations–Grandpa is 85 and going strong… To us, this whole organic milk trend is exactly that–a trend. If you take our raw milk next to organic raw milk, there is not a scientist in the world who would be able to differentiate between the two. However, it is simply a way to sell milk for double of what it is worth. Our kids do seem to have a stronger immune system, which probably comes from drinking unpastuerized milk. There is no facts, just scare tactics to drink organic milk.
I get free range/organic chicken and the breasts are great but they also offer ground chicken. The ground chicken has a strong taste. I assume this is because they add mostly dark meat and skin to it. Would there be another reason for the strong taste? Gerber chicken farms out of Ohio is where the chicken comes from. The family doesn’t like it too much. How much time goes into grinding the chicken myself? Would I need to add fat to it? (I am allergic to beef so that is not an option)
Hmm, I don’t have ground chicken available to me, nor have I ever ground it – so I guess I’m not much help on these questions. Maybe someone who has experience with this will chime in. I’m interested to know too!
I often find that the marked down bags of bananas at my local stores contain organic bananas. Sometimes they are hidden under a layer of regular bananas but they have to get rid of those too. I find that they keep way longer than regular bananas and can be very ripe and still not mushy. They are so much tastier than regular bananas that I am often tempted to spend the extra money on them anyway and since they don’t go mushy in 2-3 days it is probably worth it.
Laura, thanks for all that you do on this blog. I will link your organic posts to my friends. You have already typed out all the reasons my family has made the changes that we have. It is truly overwhelming walking through a conventional grocery store and thinking of all the genetically altered foods and poisons that I have willingly put into my children. Our turning point came when our 1 year old was put in the hospital with a MRSA infection. Upon researching how such a dangerous infection is so contagious and commonly found, I came upon the overuse of antibiotics in food. Thank you for making this journey easier with your ideas for good recipes and reliable sources for food. You are an answer to prayer.
I am usually pretty conscientious about buying organic foods that are high on the pesticide list but I have never worried about grains because I have always read that they are low on the pesticide list so as long as you do whole grain, you’re good. I am confused by your post regarding grains though because the website does not list whole wheat flour on the GMO List but you said almost all non-organic grains are GMO… can you please clarify? And when you say grains are you talking about rice and pasta as well? Or just wheat flour?
You’re right, that website doesn’t list wheat as being GMO. It was my understanding that it was. Wonder where I saw that? I do buy organic rice and pasta, because even if they aren’t GMO, they are likely to be pretty full of chemicals.
Has anyone reading this had any trouble switching to raw milk? We just tried our first gallon last week. My husband and 2-year-old both drank it for about two days and ended up with horrible diarrhea. (I don’t like straight milk, so I didn’t drink any.) We assumed that it should be the other way around — that raw milk should be so much easier on us than pasteurized — and were quite disappointed. Would the upset tummies grow accustomed to it if we kept drinking it? (Though I’m not sure I’m prepared to deal with my little guy’s diapers and the subsequent rash again . . . )
Maybe try a different raw milk source. We have not had any digestive issues with raw milk, but I will say that the first time we tried raw milk we didn’t care for it at all. We found a source that has all Jersey cows and the milk is so great. I did skim off some of the cream off of the gallons initially and that helped ease the transition since the milk was a lot creamier than we were used to. Good luck.
start in moderation–your body is not used to it yet.
Danielle B says
I know I can get locally grown strawberries. Organic apples and bananas are avail at the grocery store. Azure doesn’t deliver to PA. I’m at a loss for getting other org fruits and veggies. Any ideas? No whole foods near us either. I’ve been using a fruit and veggie wash, but you said it doesn’t remove all the pesticides. Growing a garden isn’t not doable at this time. :-( And many fruits can’t be grown in PA… like my fave PEACHES! (did you REALLY have to tell me they have the highest amount of pesticide?????? lol)
Try looking into UNFI buying clubs. I just found them, and they sent me
a list of buying clubs to contact. I know that PA was on the list (I am
in NC) They seem to be a lot like Azure Standard, which does not service
Yemi-Greg Brown says
I have been gradually phasing processed foods from my family’s diet and making most foods from scratch. I recently found a source for brown rice for cheap, but it is not organic or GMO free. Is it better to invest in organic? I was really clueless about the grains aspect. What about flour, I currently use King Arthur, how do they fair. Should I just go organic and nothing else? I know I can get them in bulk at our Whole Foods.
I’d say, if you have organic available to you for rice and wheat flour, do go ahead and get it – it’s much better overall. But I also stand by this post https://www.heavenlyhomemakers.com/should-i-eat-organic-food-part-two that at least eating real food is best, even if organic isn’t a possibility. :)
I’ve been wondering this for a while. If nailed to a wall, what would you say is more important and better for one’s health, buying organic no matter the location OR buying local produce? I realize buying local organic would be the ideal, but this is not always available at a reasonable price. I have found an organic produce co op to be apart of, but the produce comes from all over the U.S and even internationally. So, I know it’s picked before it’s ripened.
THis is the season for local produce, but I haven’t brought myself to buy locally on a regular basis as I’m unsure that the farmers are using organic methods, whether or not their certified.
What are your thoughts on this issue?
Oooh, if nailed to a wall? :) That has always been a tough one for me.
Well, regarding meat, I have a source for local beef about two miles up the road and I refuse to eat it because of the way they raise their cows. On the other hand, when it’s farmer’s market time, I’m usually pretty likely to choose local over organic when it comes to produce.
I’ve learned to talk to the farmer or gardener and just ask about their practices. Many have told me that while they aren’t organic, they use chemicals very sparingly – it’s always great to visit with them to learn more. They love talking about their work!
Interestingly, about antibiotics in non-organic milk, one of my good friends, whose family owns a dairy farm in CA, told me a story once.
They have 400 cows. On this particular day, one of the cows (just 1 out of the 400) was given antibiotics and was accidentally sent to the milking line.
When the truck came to pick up that milk, the trace amount of antibiotics from that one cow (out of 400 milked that day) registered. The entire batch of milk had to be dumped per regulations. So there’s a true story case of how the antibiotics didn’t make it into the milk we drink.
My friend also said that since their cows are their livelihood, they work so hard to take super good care of them. In fact, she thinks they take better care of their cows than an organic farm down the road from their dairy.
I guess we’ve all heard the commercials about CA cows are happy cows. :)
I’m sure there are bad farms out there, but this firsthand story really made me think twice about believing all the negative stories about non-organic dairies.
I am SO looking forward to reading your next series! The recipes we have tried from your site have been delicious, and I am trying to go in a healthier direction. So, gleaning from you will be very helpful. The link to local growers is awesome! I came up with 3 pages of just farms in my area….can’t wait to explore some of them and try their foods! Thanks, again. :)
Do you have a homemade fruit wash recipe? Thanks for your great blog. We’ve been enjoying all the breakfast recipes until I recently went on bed rest. Love your site.
No, I don’t – that’s a good think to look in to! Bed rest, huh? God bless you as you keep those feet up!
Linking up! Tons of great info!!! :)
Heather T. says
quick question, here in Wisconsin, ya know the dairy state it is illegal to buy “raw” milk is your state different? I would love to get some, but they have made it very hard to get, without breaking laws, its wrong I know but any way the government can control things they will. Eggs are ok however which doesn’t make sense, I believe they are trying to make the co-ops illegal also.
Heather T. says
I meant the co-ops for buying raw milk, not veggies
It’s not illegal here in NE, but we do have to follow some rules. I’m thankful to have access to it here. Can you buy a “cow share” in WI? That’s one way I’ve heard of to get raw milk.
Heather T. says
As I understand it this was possible but they are trying to make it illegal also, stating that it may kill you, ya know not being “processed” how funny is that statement! I feel that if this is what you want for your family it is your right, but lawmakers love to push their corporate belifes on us so that is where the problems arise! Its too bad really. I personally cant drink anything more than skim anymore even having grown up on a farm its just what I have gotten used to but hearing stories of those who have lactose problems and then start using “raw” milk the problem goes away that is saying something about unprocessed foods right there! Its great that you have access where you live.