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Budget-friendly tips to go organic

Karen Hawthorne is a health and lifestyle writer and producer in Toronto, Canada. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications including Glow, Homemakers, BestHealthMag.ca and the National Post.

Going green on the cheap

With rising food costs and a slow recovery from the recession, you may be wondering if those organic grapes and apples you've been putting in your grocery cart are worth the extra cash. They are, many nutritionists say, for your long-term health and the environment -- and you don't have to break the bank to reap the benefits. Learn how to go green and follow an organic diet on the cheap.

Cute girl at farmer's market

Organic foods are a healthy choice

The growing trend toward buying organic products appears to make a lot of sense. Studies show organic foods have more nutrients and, consequently, deliver certain health benefits. Research by the UK's Newcastle University's School of Agriculture found that rats fed an all-organic diet had stronger immune systems, lower weights and less body fat. The "clean diet" animals were calmer and even slept better.

organic foods are a natural detox

Buying organic or growing your own food helps you avoid gulping down the thousands of toxins found in conventionally-produced produce, meats, dairy and grains. "Organic" means that a food or ingredient is grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers, and is not genetically engineered.

The caveat of conventional agriculture

Though factory farms can produce large yields of produce or meats cheaper than organic farms, conventional commercial agriculture can be toxic to the environment. In addition to the use of pesticides in food production, conventional farming leeches heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, into the food supply through the industrial pollution of soil and groundwater. Additional pollutants are created through the use of machinery for food processing and packaging. Further, the solvents used to dissolve food components and produce food additives get into the environment and have been linked to cancers and other illness.

The dreaded dirty dozen

Fruits and vegetables are especially vulnerable to toxins from non-organic farming practices. The not-for-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed the results of nearly 51,000 tests for residues on produce between 2000 and 2005. They created a "dirty dozen" list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. The top offenders include: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes. Even if you can't buy the organic varieties of these foods all the time, consider organic for the fruits and veggies you eat most frequently.

The foods you choose affect your body

"The food and products we put into and onto our bodies have a huge impact on our health and that's one area I'd prefer not to compromise on," registered holistic nutritionist Andrea Donsky says. Donsky had digestion problems and turned to holistic medicine after ruling out everything medical. She was able to determine the cause and heal herself with food and supplements, and went back to school to study nutrition in 1998. "After learning about the importance of healthy eating and holistic nutrition, I knew I wanted to work in that industry." She embraced the lifestyle with her husband and two children, and co-founded NaturallySavvy.com to demystify and sell natural and organic products.

Organics are environment-friendly

According to Donsky, there is a strong connection between buying organic and helping the environment. Organic farming uses less energy, fewer resources and no harsh chemicals that later pollute the water supply. "Simply put, healthy, non-polluted soil grows healthy crops and minimizes contamination to our drinking water supplies," the holistic nutrition expert says. "People who choose to buy organic are absolutely doing something for the planet because they are supporting the cause."

Shop organic on a budget

According to Donsky, organic produce doesn't always cost more.

The key is to do your research and follow these tips:

  • Shop around as prices vary from store to store.
  • Take advantage of sales. Look for them in your local grocery store flyers.
  • Head to the farmer's market and buy in-season, preferably local, organic produce when it's most affordable – usually at half the cost. The local farmers benefit and you're guaranteed that the produce is fresh and little energy was wasted in its journey from the farm to your kitchen.
  • Grow your own! Plant organic fruit, vegetable and herb gardens right in your backyard, or in planter boxes and containers on your condo balcony.
  • Use coupons as much as possible. Ask the store where you shop if they hand out coupons or look for e-coupons online.

Armed with these tips, your thoughts on "why buy organic" will shift to "why not buy organic" in no time. Now that's something delicious you can feel good about.

More reasons to eat organic

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