That is the question. You would think this was a no brainer. But in reality, it’s becoming more and more in to question. I say that not because of what organic stands for, which is naturally grown, chemical and pesticide free, hormone and antibiotic free, etc. etc. Unfortunately it’s becoming more apparent that things like GMO, genetically modified organisms, are IN not only our food, but our organic foods as well. And with lax or non-existent regulations on what can be labeled “organic,” “natural” or even healthy, we really don’t know what we’re buying anymore.
What I really want to get to though is organic as it relates specifically to weight loss. Now I’m not a trained scientist or certified nutritionist; this is simply my opinion from reading and learning what I can about healthy eating.
Buying and consuming organic generally speaking is the better choice. But not always and I hope to explain how I look at this. As it relates directly to weight loss, let’s look at fruits and vegetables. In my opinion, organic fruits and vegetables provide no additional value as it relates to weight loss. We all want to avoid chemicals, pesticides and herbicides on our food. But that’s a health and safety concern, but doesn’t change any weight loss efforts. BTW, I’ve found bugs and “stuff” in organic foods I’ve purchased, AND I’ve also found organic fruits that are actually cheaper than non-organic. Go figure. So, in the end again, it’s about choices, organic fruits and vegetables probably won’t help your weight loss efforts any more than regular non-organic fruits and vegetables. Always thoroughly clean your fruits and vegetables no matter where you got them or if they’re organic or not.
That was the easy one. Here’s where things can get confusing. Let’s talk about dairy. The big picture is, always buy and eat the products from the healthiest animals you can find and afford. But how do we know what is the best? I still think about this question and I readily admit my answer may or may not be the best solution.
Let’s consider cheese. I love cheese. On the Diet Solution program it’s considered a fat, and of course cheese does contain animal fat, with essential fatty acids our body needs that cannot produce on its own. Clearly, and scientific evidence bears this out, foods produced from healthy, grass-fed cows produce more nutritious and healthy meats and dairy than grain-fed and/or unhealthy cows loaded with growth hormones and antibiotics. I’ll revisit this grain-fed thing in a minute.
To get to the benefits of healthy meat and dairy as it relates to weight loss, there IS a difference in your weight loss efforts by eating the best possible quality meats, dairy and eggs. The higher the quality you consume, the better and faster your body will metabolize the fats, burning them as energy, burning fat rather than storing it. The Omega3-6 ratios are much better the healthier the animal.
Here’s the conundrum. You buy “organic” beef from the grocery store thinking it’s the best you can buy. In general, that may be true, but in peeling the onion back, we find that “organic” beef might only mean they were fed organic corn, a grain, and not grass-fed. Organic may be a better choice if USDA certified and may be free of antibiotics and hormones, but organic does not necessarily mean grass-fed.
Cow’s may be raised grass-fed, but they are most often “finished” with grain for their last few months of life at the stock yard. All, still while the final product is labeled “organic.”
I started this with cheese, let’s go back to this for a minute. And let’s introduce the term “raw.” Raw milk is simply cow’s milk(or goat or whatever) that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. I would encourage you to read up on raw milk here or simply research on Google. In a nutshell, back near the end of the 19th century they began cooking milk(pasteurizing) in order to kill germs, bacteria, viruses, etc. Raw milk back then was a health hazard. Today, with sanitized processes and certainly massive regulations, raw milk production is safe, and actually healthier for you than processed milk. But, as regulations and government often do, raw milk and raw milk products are more difficult to find. Regulations can be a blessing and/or a curse….
So, choices, organic, raw, what to do? Again, make the best possible choice you can with what’s available and what you can afford. My choice for the best possible choice in cheeses would be raw milk cheese from grass-fed cows, who’s diet is healthy and not grain fed. Next best would be organic cheese knowing that there were no hormones or antibiotics used on the animals. But organic could mean they’re fed with organic corn or grains or some other certified feed. That’s not necessarily the best.
So what if you have raw cheese vs. grass fed, with no other information? Not certified organic and you don’t know the source of the milk. I posed this question to Isabel on Beyond Diet and I think the answer makes sense. Cheese that is from healthy, grass-fed cows may be better for you than plain, raw milk cheese where the cow’s milk could be tainted with “stuff,” and from unhealthy cows, we have no idea. If you can find raw milk cheese from grass-fed cows, that would be the best choice.
How about chicken and chicken eggs. Here’s another conundrum. We see “organic,” “free range,” and “cage free” chicken labels all the time in the grocery store now. Which is best? Again, we have to do our own thinking and research because unfortunately labels don’t tell us the whole truth, or any truth for that matter.
“Organic” in chickens applies the same as it does to cows and other animals. It means they are not routinely injected with hormones or antibiotics and they are fed organic feed. Repeating that, organic feed. That means that the chickens are being fed grain-based products; they can be labeled and certified organic, but doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best for the chickens and ultimately for our consumption.
Here’s the gotcha. It’s my understanding from local farmers, that the label, “free range” and “cage free” is NOT regulated. Cage free can simply mean that the door to the chicken cages are left open. Free range simply means the barn door is left open. But in reality the chickens spend their life in the cages eating grain. A true “free range” chicken forages outside and eats bugs, worms, etc. – protein, not grain. At the same time I guess I should be practical and understand that we can’t feed billions of chickens on the open range and they must be fed in a manner for mass production.
Oh, did I mention that “organic” foods can and DO contain, GMO foods? That’s right, it’s not yet regulated so organic farmers are free to use any vegetable food source that is genetically modified. Those grains end up in our processed food, “natural and organic” health food bars, cereals, etc. AND in the feed that go to chickens, cows and all other animals. So, this is just another reason to be very vigilant in reading labels and packing. If the packaging says “organic, made from NON-GMO….” then those food items should be a better choice. But at this point it’s all a voluntary labeling system – specifically regarding GMO. Ultimately, if it simply says “organic,” then you are not guaranteed it’s GMO free. You can be more assured if the label actually says Non GMO, and/or it actually says “100% USDA Organic.”
Having said all that, “organic” chicken is probably a better choice than generic unlabeled chicken for at least you know there was some regulation and the chickens are healthier than others. Your best choice is from a local farmer with true, free range chickens. That gets really pricey though at $6-12 a dozen, which is not practical for most folks.
To wrap things up, I’ll stress the point one last time, make the best possible choice that is available and you can afford. Consider organic, but understand that just because something is organic doesn’t make it the best choice. Often it is, but not always. And lastly, buying organic has more to do with simply trying to buy and eat the healthiest, chemical free food we can, eating as natural as we can. But eating organic has less to do with our weight loss efforts. The choices you make choosing natural, whole and raw foods over processed foods, fast food, sugar, etc., have a much more direct impact on losing weight.
One last note. I’m note a conspiracist and I don’t care for “they sky is falling” stuff. I have no problem eating a piece of chicken or hamburger. The crap that is put in our food is not good for us, but serious side effects are really from long term exposure, repeated use over a long period of time, etc. So I’m happy in knowing I’m making the best choices I can on a daily basis, but don’t freak out if something isn’t organic, contains nitrates or doesn’t say “free range” on that package of chicken thighs we just picked up at Safeway.
Your comments, suggestions welcome.