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Organic: The healthy choice?

You see organic fruits and vegetables in the grocery store, but you still wonder what it means and if you should make the switch.

What does it mean, anyway?

Organic farmers use natural fertilizers and give their animals organic feed. Fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products can all be organic if they’re produced without hormones, pesticides, chemicals or antibiotics.

All organic products have to meet certification standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA recognizes three types of organically grown food. The first is 100 percent organic. Most organic fruits and vegetables fall into this category, and often have the USDA “organic” seal on them. Products that are at least 95 percent organic also get the seal. If a product is 70 percent to 95 percent organic, it may be labeled as “made with organic ingredients.”

Is it healthier?

No conclusive studies have shown that organic produce is healthier than conventional food. According to the USDA, all food, whether it’s grown organically or conventionally, must meet the same standards. Some people believe that organic food tastes better, while others find no difference.

If you’re thinking of going organic, read food labels carefully, and look for the USDA seal. To ensure the highest-quality produce, buy foods that are in season. Be aware that organic food may be more expensive and may spoil more quickly or look different than conventional produce. If you’re worried about pesticides, but don’t want to make the switch to organic, try peeling your fruit or vegetables carefully to reduce any lingering chemicals. For leafy vegetables like lettuce or spinach, trim the outer leaves. And whether you’re eating organic or conventional fruits and vegetables, always wash them before you eat!