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You hear the word organic thrown around a lot—whether you’re looking at a beauty project, shopping your grocery store’s produce section, or attending the local farmers’ market. You probably have a basic understanding of what organic means, but maybe you don’t know why it’s good for you and why you should try to consume organic foods and use organic products as often as you can.

Let’s start with the definition. In regards to food or farming methods, organic is defined as “produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or artificial agents.” Essentially, the term “organic” refers to how a product was produced. Regulations vary among different countries, but in order to be classified as an organic product in the U.S., crops must be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. In order for meat, eggs, and dairy products to be considered organic, livestock must have organic feed without antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal by-products. Livestock must also be allowed to go outside.

To truly understand why organic food is important, you have to understand why fertilizers, pesticides, and other artificial agents are detrimental to your health and the environment. Pesticides (which usually stay on your food) can be toxic and can expose you and your family to health risks. Many individuals have built-up their pesticide exposure throughout the years, which can lead to a chemical “body burden.” This can lead to a range of health issues, from minor headaches to a weakened immune system or birth defects. Some studies even show that pesticides can increase the risk for certain cancers. Not only that, but those chemicals are bad for the environment. Organic farming reduces the impact on our environment but cutting down on water and energy use, reducing soil erosion, and increasing soil fertility. Add to that the controversy surrounding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) foods, and organic foods look better and better by the minute.

When food is fresh and free from added chemicals, you’ll notice a positive difference in your mental and physical health. There are more beneficial nutrients, from antioxidants to omega-3 fatty acids. Many times, individuals are allergic to the chemicals that are used on their food, and they don’t realize it until they make the switch to organic foods. You’re also free from the detrimental effects of foods that are not grown organically, which will give your overall health and immune system a boost. Organic products are great for you, the soil, and the planet!

Women and young children are most vulnerable to pesticide exposure, so it’s important to know what goes into the food you’re feeding your children. As long as you’re opting for organic foods, try incorporating fresh, raw, local foods too.