Food Topics

Land of Confusion: Are Organic Foods Really Better for You?

This is a topic people definitely have an opinion on.  People on both sides have reasons to buy organic produce or to avoid it entirely.  However, do people really know what it means to be organic?  In a food sense, that is.  Smart ass chemists would say that it has carbon atoms present.  But who cares about those nerds, ammiright? (Note:  I would like to apologize to any chemists that may or may not have been offended by this statement.  Keep doing what you do best:  chemistry).

What the USDA considers “organic” is a food made without growth hormones added, or antibiotics.  They also have to have approved fertilizers, and cannot be irradiated to remove microbes.  The product must also not be genetically modified.  So what does this mean?  Well, organic farms do not have to be local, or non-corporate.  They can also use pesticides and fertilizers, so they are not always “pesticide free.”  They also typically cost more, on average 25-60% more expensive than conventional products.

So is there really any benefit?  Those who buy organic typically believe they have less pesticides present, and are more nutritious.  While it is true that tested conventional produce had higher rates of pesticides present than organics, there still is not a whole lot of conclusive data on if the pesticides used in conventional products cause health problems.  Research shows there is a fuck-ton of problems in the farmers who handle it, but they handle much, much higher amounts that are present in, and on, any food item you eat.  However, it has also been found that blanching, peeling, or cooking fruits and vegetables also destroys a lot of the pesticides.  Which means that you can reduce up to 90% of pesticides present, for those still worried.

As for nutrients, that is difficult to compare, as there are many different factors that can reduce nutrition content, such as soil conditions, seasonal changes, ripeness of food when harvested etc.  However, conventional produce typically has higher protein values than organic, believed to be because of the nitrogen in the soil.  Organic milk also has less omega-6 and more omega-3 fatty acids, possibly due to the feeding and housing conditions.  This is believed to be healthier.  However, there are mixed results if organic has higher or lower vitamin and mineral content when compared to conventional.

So, should you buy organic?  I would say if you want to, and if you can afford it.  It does not seem like there is a whole lot of benefit, so if you plan on processing the produce before eating, that is also going to reduce pesticide residue if that concerns you.

So, do you buy organic?  If so, why, and where from?

By The Nutrition Punk

I am a dietitian living in Portland, Oregon. I write about a variety of nutrition and heath topics, with the goal of improving people's understanding of food and nutrition so they may be empowered against all the misinformation that is out there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.