Replace plastic jars with glass, swap skincare with parabens for green alternatives, and remove shampoos with SLS for those that have SCS—new information requires that all your systems, routines and purchases require a complete overhaul. The most expensive, yet convincing proposition of the new green lifestyle however is going organic. “We know now that pesticides are extremely damaging for health, especially when it comes to women because they cause oestrogen irregularities,” says Delhi based functional medicine expert Dr Anjali Hooda, who’s also authored the book Think, Eat, Live Smart. Some reports even found that pesticides had strong associations with certain cancers, asthma, childhood leukemia and Parkinson’s disease, and research is ongoing.
But organic options are not always the easiest to find, and can be significantly more expensive than its regular counterparts. If you’re attempting to go organic, Dr Hooda shares a ready reckoner so you’ll know what is on the must-have list, and what you can cheat with, especially if you’re just starting out.
1) Grains and spices
“The first foods to convert into organic have to be grains and spices, because we eat them regularly on a daily basis,” says Dr Hooda. These include flours, lentils, rice, turmeric, chilli powder etc. Hooda also recommends that you look for brands that package these grains and spices in paper as opposed to plastic. “You don’t want to undo all that effort of going organic by choosing plastic packaging that contains BPA, which is a very common endocrine disruptor.” For a good way to know whether you’ll need to find an organic alternative, know that those foods that are mass-produced (like potatoes, wheat and rice) are likely grown with fertilisers and pesticides, says Dr Hooda.
2) Fruits and vegetables
“With the fruit and vegetables you choose, anything that you don’t need to peel, you should buy organic,” says Dr Hooda. Since these are most susceptible to bugs, pesticides are required. Fruits like grapes, strawberries, cherries, apples and peaches are a part of this list. Even vegetables like tomatoes are best bought from an organic source. In fact, according to the EWG (Environmental Working Group) strawberries and spinach are the most contaminated foods in the world, so choosing an organic variety is a good idea.
“Anything that you need to peel is comparably safer,” says Hooda. This includes avocados, papayas, pineapples, melons, onions and cabbage. In terms of production, foods that grow wild are usually free from pesticides. These include hardy plants that require little food and water such as millets and weeds.
For meat and eggs to be certified organic, livestock is meant to be raised without antibiotics and hormones, and have access to clean food and water. Some experts say that these meats have less nitrites, chemical preservatives and pollutants. Final call? Shop organic if you can, but put clean produce at the top of your grocery list.
In a world of extensive food pollution, how do we prioritise between GMO, organic and non-plastic? “If you had to choose then look for foods that are pesticide free and, as much as you can, avoid buying foods in plastic packaging.” Hooda also suggests scanning the kitchen and replacing plastic gradually with glass. “Look especially at your chopping board, is that plastic?” If it is then replace that with a wooden or stone chopping board. “GMO comes last on the priority list—once you get rid of pesticides and plastic, you can consider replacing GMO foods, if you find better options.”
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