We began making the switch to buying more organic years ago, almost a decade ago, when things really began to go south with Raleigh’s health. I sought out a bunch of rabbit holes and found myself falling fast like Alice did. I began to know things I couldn’t just un-know. Some may wonder if it’s just better to live blindly. I don’t fall into that camp, not even a little bit, but they do say ignorance is bliss. Perhaps that is how we were all living in the 80’s and 90’s drinking 7-11 slushies and eating hot pockets. Don’t dry heave. It’s okay. We’re all okay.
If you survived the 80’s and 90’s as a child like I did you likely have similar growing-up food stories. I would hide Twizzlers under my pillow in 8th grade. The red ones, not the black. I’m not a monster, calm down! And so many other typical-for-that-time acceptable junky food we all ate because it was “fat free” and therefore healthy. EYE ROLL. So tripping out of that and into married life and then motherhood, not knowing how to cook, not really, and then having a really sick kid was like getting stuck down in that rabbit hole. I was too big, the door was too small. How was I to solve this problem?
Learning about organic vs non organic and all the why’s was a big learning curve for me. Now don’t get me wrong, I was highly motivated for change by having a very sick child on my hands who was suffering from food allergies and eczema at the time. I needed answers. I craved them, in fact. I couldn’t get enough of all of the info at my fingertips. I would research on the internet when my babies slept, wake up early to read as many books on health, wellness and the gut as I could get my hands on to try and find clues that would help me fit through that tiny door. So naturally, making a switch to purchasing organic food felt like a necessary first step.
Even today I feel like organic gets the upturned nose a bit. It’s snooty. It’s pretentious – or so it can come across. I have even felt some level of shame having to tell people we try to only buy certain things organic. That’s crazy, but it’s real. At least it was more real than maybe it is now. I’m not sure, I don’t pay a lot of attention to that side of it as much as I used to. But I remember getting strong feedback from those around me as I gingerly let friends and family into the fold of what we were embarking on.
So my evolution with food, my story, has been a saga. Really, it has. I didn’t grow up with a mom who loved to cook so when she did cook it was out of necessity. I remember eating a lot of spaghetti and red beans and rice. Like a lot, a lot. I’m certain there were other meals but those two claimed space in my long-term memory and I’m sure after my mom reads this she’ll fill in the gaping holes. Hey, mom!Love you! But learning to cook really grew out of a necessity to heal Raleigh.
I do however have some strong memories of both of my grandmothers in the kitchen, specifically my paternal grandmother who might also read this – Hi, Memaw! Love you! and I adore those memories. They bring tears to my eyes and I’ll always cherish the memory of waking up to Memaw in the kitchen making bacon, eggs and homemade biscuits. Or watching her make corn tortillas for tacos, apple butter cookies or homemade ice cream. Shout out to the apple butter cookies: they are magic. Maybe my skill in the kitchen was born from these memories, or perhaps as a gene passed down. I like to think a little of both.
So when I first begin learning about cooking, really learning, was when we found Raleigh’s food allergies and I could no longer trust the entire food system. I began reading labels and then looking up ingredients I didn’t recognize – man, are there a lot of them! From there I realized I can’t trust that this box-of-whatever won’t have a cross-contamination issue so I have to make this from scratch so I can control the ingredients. But also, I don’t want preservatives and natural flavors and Lord-knows-what-else-that-I-can’t-even-pronounce in my kid’s food. So I started buying real food ingredients and I found the Weston A Price foundation.
Weston A Price opened Alice’s door for me. I began to learn about traditional ways of cooking and my world opened up. I also stopped a long cycle of cavities for myself by supplementing cod liver oil and properly preparing our grains. I was on a new path that made sense, one that was helping all of us in unique ways. Weston A Price also led me to the GAPS diet. If you are new to the blog be sure and go back to the beginning to read about Raleigh’s journey to healing his severe eczema on the GAPS diet.
So when should I buy organic vs conventional?
My thoughts on this have evolved quite a bit over the years. I have been a purist. I wouldn’t call myself a purist, per say, now but I do have certain aspects I won’t bend on and others I will allow. But in the beginning, when Raleigh was very sick, I was certainly a purist but for very good reason.
The organic label has a set of standards it must meet. I value it most because it means far less pesticides than anything grown conventionally. Pesticides exposure is incredibly dangerous to our health and can be a contributing factor for many health related issues. So I work very hard to limit our exposure to pesticides. Not just through the food we eat but also in the way we treat our lawn, the fact we do not walk through rock beds where zero weeds are present and so on. Sadly, our modern world is full of toxins, pesticides being one, and to be healthy and avoid these things one has to be very knowledgeable and vigilant.
So when I am choosing produce at the grocery store I will buy most things organic. I do rely on the dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists to help me make more affordable decisions. I will purchase the clean fifteen conventionally and the dirty dozen organically. These lists are produced each year and can be really helpful. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to remove pesticide residue off produce. This is especially true of very soft, porous produce like peaches and berries. Produce, unlike animals, do not have the ability to remove any pesticide exposure. So this is why I will opt for organic produce as much as possible.
Before I go any further I want to say this is an area where stressing over this stuff can cause far more harm than good to the body. I have been there, done that. I have to work really hard at not letting the stress of it all wreck me. So when it comes to making new or better choices do what fits your budget and your family best and let the rest go. When it makes sense to make changes then do that! If it doesn’t make sense financially that is okay. Our bodies are very skilled at removing toxins. You can only do what you can do. So if you are currently working to change a lot of things just remember one thing at a time and don’t stress over what you cannot change or control.
This may be an unpopular opinion but when the budget dictates opt for buying your meat conventionally and your produce organically. Now hear me out. Animals have a built-in detox system. Their bodies have the ability to toss toxins before they have their “one bad day” – if you know what I mean. They have organs, like we do, that are specifically designed to remove toxins, unlike plants who are just stuck with whatever gets sprayed on them. This can be a way to save money while still lowering your overall toxic load.
I always recommend buying these crops in their organic form: corn, soy, potato, sugar, and wheat. These crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides. These are also used in generous amounts in packaged foods. So if you are purchasing packaged foods like cookies, cereal, crackers…and they contain these ingredients I would try to prioritize organic if possible.
A note on the NON GMO label
Anything organic is also non- GMO. But anything non-GMO is not also organic. Non-GMO means it is not a genetically modified organism. Here is a list of genetically modified foods. Reader: Beware! That website paints gmos in a positive light. In my years of research I am not a fan – but I’m not here to convince you either way. Do your own research, come to your own conclusions. This is just a blog with my own personal opinions. A lot of people get their knickers in a twist over this stuff.
So when the label reads non-gmo that simply means those crops that are genetically modified have NOT been used. Which is two thumbs up for me but that doesn’t mean the product is pesticide free. So if it is a bag of potato chips that is not organic but contains the non-gmo label it is most likely a conventionally grown potato, not a genetically modified potato, that has been sprayed with pesticides.
To sum up…
Is the organic label perfect? Far from it. There are still acceptable pesticides sprayed on produce that is labeled organic. Don’t let that ruin you. It’s impossible to escape all the toxins. Believe me, if there was a way I would have achieved it by now! But the organic label does significantly lessen your exposure to pesticides and that is a good thing.
Do what you can within your own budget. Make better choices when it makes sense. Pray over your food. Seriously. And try to let the stress of all you cannot control within this toxic world go. You’ll be healthier and happier. And this is me taking my own advice. Bonne chance!