"You don't have to eat an all-organic diet to be healthy," say, Nina Planck author, of Real Food: What to Eat and Why. "Going organic is great," says Planck, "but it's just as important to buy from local farmers and producers when possible, which provides you with fresher foods." (To be labeled "organic" means that food is produced without synthetic fertilizers, without chemicals, isn't genetically modified, contains no hormones or antibiotics, and without irradiation.)
When in the produce aisle, it's okay to buy normal lettuce and greens and not organic, says Planck, as most lettuces are pretty clean. Always be sure to wash greens and lettuces.
When looking for greens, go for darker and more bitter greens, like escarole, mustard greens, and dandelion. Their bitterness is actually a defense against insects and creates wonderful anti-oxidants that help in cell repair and anti-aging.
When buying fruit, remember that produce with "skin" will be dirtier (higher amounts of pesticides) and should be bought organic. The Environmental Working Group, a public health and environmental organization itemized a list of the most- and least-contaminated fruits and veggies.
"Whatever animals eat will be passed into your body," says Planck. So to avoid ingesting growth hormones and antibiotics, it is better to buy organic meat and poultry. Also, be aware of what the animals eat. Beef and pork fed on grass ("pastured") tend be healthier and they're tastier as they're eating a more natural diet. And don't shy away from lard, says Planck, as it has the same mono-unsaturated fats as olive oil.
When choosing dairy, look for hormone-free milk. Milk from cows with hormones has been linked to breast cancer. Planck also says to go for whole milk, which has more natural nutrients than skim. "Vitamins A and D are found in the buttermilk part of milk," says Planck. "And calcium has been found to help weight loss."
Eggs from chickens who have been "pastured" or grass-fed have been found to have more omega-3 vitamins and beta carotene, so go organic.
When buying cheeses, go for cheese made from grass-fed, hormone-free cows. Not only is it healthier, but the cheese will have a more complex flavor. Planck also suggests going for raw milk cheeses, which are unpasteurized. "Raw milk cheeses have living enzymes that are good for immunities and digestion," she says.
Planck suggests buying organic yogurt, made from grass-fed, hormone-free cows.
Buy bread made from wheat not sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, which may be cancer-causing.