Blow the budget for these top six low-pesticide foods
WHY IT'S WORTH IT
As we credit-crunched our weekly shop in 2009, sales of organic products fell almost 13%. But milk bucked the trend, seeing a 1% rise - something that comes as no surprise to the Soil Association's Clio Turton. 'Organic milk only costs a few pence more per litre than regular milk, but it's 68% higher in omega-3s, and naturally contains more vitamin E and beta-carotene, which the body needs to produce vitamin A, making it well worth the investment.' And, of course, cows are grazed on land that hasn't been treated with artificial chemicals and they're not given growth hormone or antibiotics.
WHEN IT COUNTS MOST
Summer, if the nutritional benefits are your main concern. Organic milk is so full of nutrients because grass makes up most of the cows' diet (up to 80%). But, in winter, they'll be fed up to 40% non-grass feed, like conventional cows.
Meat is one organic product where a price hike is really noticeable, and if you're cost-conscious it can be the first thing to go. But when it comes to poultry, it's best to fork out for organic free-range. Studies have shown that chickens raised outdoors contain less fat, more protein and higher levels of essential fatty acids than factory-farmed birds, and they lead a better life, too. Organic goes one better as the chickens are allowed even more freedom than standard free-range. 'Organic thighs are a cheaper alternative if you can't afford a whole bird,' says Zest nutritionist Judith Wills. 'They have lots of meat on them and if you remove the skin, they're low in fat, too.'
All year round.
'Your average apple can be sprayed up to 16 times with as many as 30 different pesticides, so it's definitely worth paying a bit more for an organic variety, especially as most of the chemical residue is found in the skin, which is where many of the nutrients are, too,' says Clio.
In autumn and winter. A home-grown, in-season organic apple may well cost less than a sprayed non-organic apple imported from halfway round the world, and it'll also contain more vitamin C.
Say organic and the last thing most of us think of is biscuits, but going organic will make your tea-time treat much healthier. 'Investing in organic biscuits means you'll avoid artificial colourings, additives and hydrogenated fats, because organic standards ban these,' says Clio. And while we can't guarantee they're good for your bikini body, at least you'll know that what you're dunking in your tea won't contain GM ingredients or pesticides. Tea break, anyone?
WHEN IT COUNTS MOST
Want to get all the free-radical zapping benefits of antioxidants? Go organic. 'Organic tomatoes have almost double the levels of certain antioxidants, as well as more vitamin C, betacarotene and flavonoids,' says Clio.
In winter and spring. Out of season, non-organic imported tomatoes may have been grown hydroponically (in water). Going organic means they'll have come from good old fashioned, nutrient-rich soil.
They're one of the worst offenders for pesticide treatment. Strawberries are very susceptible to disease, so they get sprayed a lot. Plus, one EU-funded study suggested that organic varieties have up to 90% more vitamin C.
In winter. If you really have to eat them out of season, go organic - imported varieties often contain the highest levels of chemicals.
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