Organic versus Non-Organic, Local versus Global Foods
I believe in organic, local foods when possible, but some foods – no matter what – should only be bought organic. Here’s a snapshot of where foods come from and which organic foods are a must-buy:
Fruits and Vegetables
- Bananas – Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras. The skin protects the fruit, so you don’t have to worry about it being organic, but be careful of the banana skin. It might contain harmful pesticides or chemicals. Always wash a banana before peeling it.
- Apples – more than 94% of all apples come from the U.S.; the rest come from Chile, New Zealand and Canada. I would recommend buying only organic apples
- Oranges – Most come from the U.S., but in the winter, stores source them from South Africa and Australia. Oranges have a strong skin, so organic or non-organic is Ok.
- Stone & exotic fruits and veggies, and some berries come from the U.S., Mexico, Chile, the Philippines, and Thailand. Peaches and grapes should always be purchased organic.
- Potatoes – almost all are grown in the U.S. Wash your potatoes well. I like eating the skin of the potato, so I buy organic when possible.
- Lettuce and most green vegetables and carrots come from the U.S. When it comes to lettuce, I’d recommend organic.
- Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, snap beans and squash come from the U.S., Mexico, Canada and China. Always buy organic tomatoes. The others are probably Ok non-organic
- Beans and lentils are mostly from the U.S. and Mexico. I always try and buy organic.
- Make sure you read labels. Fish comes from everywhere. If you have a choice between farm grown or wild, go wild. I think it has better flavor. I also think deep-water fish is better than coastal water fish, which usually have a higher density of pesticides and chemicals. I would avoid any overly processed fish from a foreign country, and I would be very careful of shell fish harvested off U.S. coastal waters, especially the Gulf of Mexico. I would suggest you find a local fish market or a store that has a large fish section and ask them for their suggestions regarding the local catch
- Most soft drinks are usually made out of water and high-fructose corn syrup with flavorings, and I do not recommend them. I like the niche, health-conscious brands, which are all locally produced. One of my favorite brands is Reeds. If you need the real thing, I’d stay with a major brand, which probably produces its own fructose in the U.S., and not China. Write letters and ask lots of questions.
- 16% of all beef is imported from Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Read labels. I don’t eat meat, but if I did, I’d get it without any hormones. You can find this kind of meat at Whole Foods or any health food store.
- 6% is imported from Canada and Denmark. You know those all-you-can-eat rib specials? Most of that meat comes from Denmark.
- Almost all chicken comes from the U.S., but beware of some Chinese restaurants that buy cheap and imported chicken. If you are going to buy chicken at a local market, buy organic or ones grown without hormones. If you are eating out, ask the restaurant where they get their chicken, and try to avoid eating the skin or anything fried.
- Milk, butter, eggs and yogurt almost comes exclusively from the U.S., but many stores are now carrying products from Europe. If you can, buy organic dairy products only
- Brazil is the largest supplier ororange juice and, when it comes to apple juice, Chile and China are the leading suppliers. Read labels. I like getting my juice from U.S. sources and buy organic and pasteurized.
- Most pasta comes from the U.S. or is imported from Italy. I try to buy organic.
Coffee and Tea
- Coffee and tea come from around the world, with each location usually providing a very distinct flavor. I recommend buying organic. Some countries use way too many pesticides.
- 94% of our wheat comes from the U.S. and Canada, with Mexico making up the difference. I like boutique brands and bakeries where I try to buy organic and whole grain. If you are buying really cheap bread, be careful of the ingredients. They could come from anywhere.
Peanut & Almond Butter
- Almost all nuts are from the U.S. I like pure nut butters. Avoid brands like Skippy, Peter Pan or Jif. They have too many additives, and always buy organic if possible. Peanuts are one of the worst nuts for pesticides.
Jams & Jellies
- Who knows? Most companies use fruit from everywhere. Read labels. My favorite jams come from the U.S., U.K., France and Italy. I would strongly recommend buying organic and fruit sweetened
- Most flours come from the U.S., but read your labels. Also experiment with the different kinds of flours – spelt, pastry – and always buy whole flours. When I bake, I buy organic flours.
- About 50% of our sugar is imported. Read your labels and buy organic where possible. I don’t like using white sugar. Try maple or date sugar. Both are yummy.
- They come from everywhere, so you need to read your labels. Some regions in the world are known for their high-quality oils, others are not. Try using only expeller-pressed, unrefined oils made from organic crops.
- Peanuts, almonds, and walnuts come from primarily the U.S.
- Brazil nuts come from Brazil
- Cashews come from India
- Hazelnuts from the U.S. and Europe
- Pecans from the U.S. and Mexico
- Always try and buy organic nuts, because nuts can be fumigated, and try eating them raw instead of roasted or salted.
- Wine comes from everywhere. Read your labels
- Try to buy organic without sulfites
- When traveling, always drink local wine. It just tastes better.
One of my favorite books to read and learn about the pros and cons of organic foods is David Steinman’s Diet For A Poisoned Planet. Check it out.