Organic Foods: The Truth About Your Health and Organic Food

* the opinions expressed are those of the author and not Nutrition Ink.

 

 

Organic foods are more widely available than ever.  It used to be that only health food stores carried them but now, organic food can be found in almost all conventional supermarkets.  So what’s the big deal?  Are they worth the money?  Are they more healthy than conventional produce?  In this post, I’ll sort out fact and myth about organic food and how it can apply to your health.


“This food is labeled organic so it’s organic.”


Another maybe.  The USDA only requires that food products are 95% organic to be able to use their seal – THEIR SEAL.  That means, producers can still call it organic, even if it isn’t.


“Organic farmers use less pesticides and antibiotics.”


Maybe.  It’s not that organic farms use less pesticides, it’s that they use less chemical pesticides.  They still use them and, in fact, can use chemical pesticides as a last resort.  However, some studies have shown that eating organic foods lowers the exposure a person has to pesticides[1].  When it comes to dairy farms, it’s a myth that organic dairy farms don’t use antibiotics in their heifers.  They still use them when the cow has an infection and, in fact, will still sell the milk.  The milk is tested constantly tested for antibiotics and if it tests positive, they can’t sell it.  For this reason, there’s no difference between conventional milk and organic milk.  If you really want to cut down your exposure to pesticides, produce should always be scrubbed clean with soap and water before eating.  Want to really make sure there’s no pesticides in your meal?  Remove the skin of the produce and the first layer of leaves from leafy vegetables.  Keep in mind though, removing the skin of the produce reduces the nutrients within the produce itself.  Which brings us to the next thing…


 “Organic foods are more nutritious.”


Healthier…maybe.  There is some evidence to show that organic produce contains a higher level of nutrients [2].   There’s also evidence to show organic produce contains less harmful metals that the produce naturally absorbs from the soil.  Researchers contribute this to the little to no use of synthetic fertilizers. 


“It’s more expensive.”


This is usually true.  A lot of the extra expense can be attributed to the higher cost of the organic practices.  Sometimes you might get lucky though and find that the higher price of organic produce is minimal.  When produce is in season, it’s cheaper and when it’s local, the price comes down even more.  For the best prices on organic produce shop local and buy in-season.

 

So do we buy organic or not?  Well, even though there is some evidence to show that organic food can be healthier, many people choose to pick and choose what they buy as
organic.  There are foods that naturally need less pesticides.  The Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list from the Environmental Working Group may be a great place to start.  Many people choose to buy the “dirtiest” produce organic and the others conventional.  Choosing from this list can help save money and sanity when trying to decide if the difference between organic and conventional is worth it.

 

 

References:

1.    Rock B, Suriyan J, Vijay B, Thalha N, Elango S, et al. (2017) Organic Food and Health: A Systematic Review. J Community Med Health Educ 7: 532. doi:10.4172/2161-0711.1000532


2.    Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious? (2020, April 08). Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-200438803.


3.    Huber, M., Rembiałkowska, E., Średnicka, D., Bügel, S., & Vijver, L. V. (2011). Organic food and impact on human health: Assessing the status quo and prospects of research. NJAS - Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, 58(3-4), 103-109. doi:10.1016/j.njas.2011.01.0044.


4.    (n.d.). Retrieved June 29, 2020, from https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/

 

 

 

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