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A balanced diet

Organic, or non-organic—what should you trust as a buyer? Opinions contributor Shelby Rutledge explores myths and facts of organic and non-organic eating, as well as the health benefits and drawbacks from both.

Myth #1: Buying organic is just a money grab.

Fact: Organic products generally cost more than non-organic: depending on the store you could be paying 40 to 50 per cent more. Contrary to popular belief, this price markup is not just a money grab. When you pay for certified organic products you are paying for guaranteed eco-friendly processing with minimal or no use of chemicals, which means the produce must be grown in smaller crop sizes. This process is both eco-friendly and more costly, which registers on the grocery store price tag.

Myth #2: Organic foods are always healthier for you.

Fact: Yes and no. Pop will always be pop, and chips will always be chips, organic or not. Any processed foods are still going to contain chemicals and additives. The health benefits of organic foods are more evident in fresh produce and livestock products. These are grown and raised at least 95 per cent chemical- and pesticide-free, in accordance with Canada Organic standards. In non-organic meat products, farmers feed their cows extra growth hormones, antibiotics, androgen trenbolone acetate, flunixin, testosterone and other chemicals in their food. This means when the meat is processed for consumption individuals will ingest the same chemicals, disturbing your health and the natural hormonal balance in your body. Some negative health effects can include increased likelihood of breast cancer, early puberty and intestinal illness.

Myth #3: Organic labels and certificates are just a marketing feature.

Fact: The key here is to understand the different types of labels and what they mean. A ‘made with organic ingredients’ label indicates that at minimum 75 per cent of the ingredients of the product are organic. An ‘organic’ certificate is usually small and is associated with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic, Canada Organic or Certified Organic. Their logos signify that at least 95 per cent of the ingredients in the product are organic. There is no doubt that companies use the o- word to draw attention to their products and to compete with other companies. However, labeling standards are strict and can be trusted. Companies are fined at least $10,000 if certificates are used without government certification.

Although non-organic food products are cheaper to buy, organic products are the way to go. If you want to start buying organically, start locally: look up health stores like the Planet Organic Market and support Halifax by going to the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market (a great place to try new foods and to meet new people).

Buy organic, buy local, and buy fresh—‘cause at the end of the day, you are what you eat.

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