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Why Eating Organic Is So Important

If you’re just comparing price tags, organic fruits, veggies, and other foods are pricier than standard issue produce— and it’s easy to wonder whether shelling out the extra cash is really worth it.

The truth is, organic produce comes with lots of added benefits -- and without a lot of unpleasantness like toxins and GMOs. Just ask Lori Zito, president of Miami’s prolific plant-based chain, Choices Organic Cafe.

In addition to serving crowd-pleasing vegan eats, the restaurant concept is known for its commitment to organic sourcing.

“Crops that are treated with chemicals for conventional farming not only result in a potentially toxic food, but they are causing pollution, as well as serious health implications to those who are exposed to these chemicals every day as part of their job,” she explains.

Zito went vegan for ethical reasons, but the plant-based path quickly led her to a better understanding of what constitutes a healthy, holistic diet. She earned a certification in plant based nutrition through eCornell and in holistic health coaching through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She’s also a registered yoga instructor.

“With things like Oreo cookies and potato chips falling under the definition of vegan, I wanted to be sure that I didn't fall into the trap of being what I like to call a 'junk-food vegan',” Zito explains. “I knew inherently that if this lifestyle choices was good for animals, it should also good for my health. I devoured every book I could on healthy and holistic living, and all the signs pointed to a whole-foods, organic, plant-based diet.”

At all five of the Choices Organic Cafe locations, 96 percent of ingredients are organic. The stores also compost food waste, recycle, and don’t serve any fried or microwaved items.

For Choices, sourcing organic food is part of its mission. The company's goal is to provide delicious food that's good for people's health, good for animals, and good for the planet. That means organic. "Conventional plant-based foods are certainly healthier than animal foods that are full of cholesterol, and lacking in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, conventionally grown plant-based foods can contain chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, radiation, and sewer sludge,” explains Zito.

It’s true that organic food costs more — but for good reason, says Zito.

“The greatest obstacle for us is in educating consumers about the costs of organic foods. Our organic food costs are anywhere from two to three times as much as conventional food costs, and so it’s important that our guests understand the value of what they are consuming when they dine with us,” she adds.

The good news is, even folks on a budget can begin to incorporate more organic, plant-based foods into their diet. Choices offers a $10 and under menu -- and Zito has some tips for buying clean foods on the cheap.

"Sure, it can be fairly expensive to buy a package of organic crackers or cookies compared to their conventional counterparts, but it's relatively inexpensive to go to the farmers market and buy organic apples, kale, carrots, and so on," she says. Lastly, be aware that the more you choose organic, the more you are paving the way for the future of farming to shift towards organics. And when that happens, prices will come down."

On other words, paying for organic eats is an investment in the future -- and the future needs all the investment it can get.

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