Long gone are the days when eating was as simple as plucking fruit off a vine and popping it into our mouths. Nowadays, most of us are far removed from our food, and many of us would have no idea how to grow and prepare the things we eat every day. This separation of humans from the sources of their food has resulted in several problematic systems developing. Things like pesticides, factory farming, antibiotics, hormone-disrupting animal diets, and genetically modified foods are taking over. It can be hard to know what we can do to help make sure that the food we’re eating is truly food—that it’s good for us, nutritious, and free from toxic chemicals that make us sick.

You’ve probably heard the term organic before but might not fully understand the meaning of it. The following will explore some of the things you need to know about the concept of eating organic.

What Does Organic Actually Mean?

It turns out the term organic doesn’t have as strict of a definition as we’d like it to. The term is often thrown around in casual conversation to refer to foods that were grown without the aid of pesticides. When we look closer at this, we learn that the definition of pesticides is quite awry. There’s a list of chemical compounds included in the list of pesticides, but many chemicals don’t make it on that list. We need to do our research on the organic foods we ingest as sometimes all organic means is that instead of being sprayed with one illegal chemical, the food was sprayed twenty times with sulfur, which also isn’t good for us. Organic doesn’t mean pesticide or herbicide-free. It only means that the food is free of specific pesticides.

What Does Certified Organic Mean?

Certified organic is a much stronger term than just organic. What this means is that a third party has verified the organic claims of the producer. This means someone has checked to make sure that the food in question meets the USDA standards for organic. This includes stipulations on how farm animals are treated, what medications they’re given, and what foods they eat. This is important because whatever your meat ate, you’re also eating.

The Dirty Dozen

For many people, shopping entirely organic isn’t financially feasible. If you fit into this category, don’t sweat it. Every year there is a list of the twelve most heavily pesticide foods, so you can choose to focus on going organic with them instead. This way, you’re avoiding the highest concentrations of pesticides as you shop.

Going Organic Amid Lockdown

For many of us right now, access to food is more limited than ever before. Not only are we having trouble getting safely to sites that sell organic food options, but shipping and transportation have been slowed down considerably, meaning it takes longer to get the things we need. Take a moment to research if there are any organic delivery options from farms in your region like Cleavers Organic. You might be surprised at what you find.

Going Organic Isn’t The Be All End All

On a small scale, in your own life, going organic has lots of benefits. It’s highly recommended. Go for it. But on a larger scale, the pesticides used to produce food are slowly polluting the entire planet—our air, water, and soil is getting more chemical-infused every day. Yes, you can avoid some of the problems by eating organic produce and meat products, but you can’t hide from polluted air. Going organic should be viewed as the first step in a much larger process that involves changing how people think about food production and food systems. This will have particular benefit for those who live under the poverty line or in areas without access to organic options.

Remember Organic Doesn’t Automatically Mean Healthy

Pesticides are just one part of a conscious diet. Organic cane sugar is still sugar, which will have an impact on your blood sugar levels. Don’t assume that just because something is organic, it’s healthy. Be particularly wary of packaged foods that have more than five organic ingredients—whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and non-conventional meat are still going to be better for you than chips made from organic potatoes.

organic vegetables

The above tips should help you navigate the confusing world of organic foods and food labeling. It’s important not to beat yourself up along the way. You didn’t have the information before, but now you do. Apply what you can and save the rest for later—small tweaks maintained consistently over a long period of time will have a much more significant impact than two weeks of hardcore healthy living.