As consumers, it’s confusing when trying to decide whether to “go organic.” We want to make the best decisions for our health and our families, but we also must consider our tight budgets. Those that buy organic food do so because they believe it’s healthier. But is it? Here’s some information that will hopefully give you some insight.
What makes food organic?
The word “organic” refers to the way food is grown and produced. There are certain methods and requirements that must be verified in order to put “organic” on a food label. Organic produce and other foods must adhere to the following standards in order to be classified as “organic.”
* No pesticides
* No synthetic fertilizers
* No sewage sludge
* No genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
* No ionizing radiation
* No antibiotics or growth hormones for livestock
What do the labels mean?
100 percent organic – All ingredients are certified organic and has a USDA Organic seal.
Organic – 95 percent of the ingredients are certified organic and has a USDA Organic seal.
Made with organic ingredients – 70 percent of the ingredients are certified organic and does not have the seal.
Organic ingredients – Less than 70 percent of the ingredients are certified organic and does not have the seal.
Is organic food healthier?
There are varying opinions whether organic food is more nutritious. Some studies have shown that organic and conventional produce are very similar in nutritional value. Organic growing practices are costlier for the grower, which then makes buying organic food more expensive for the consumer. Reasons for this are increased labor, slower growing time, and cost of the USDA certification.
If we are talking about pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, then yes, organic food may be safer to consume than conventionally grown foods. Is there a safe limit? That’s an answer we don’t have. But we should talk about how these chemicals can negatively impact our health. Since pesticides are used to kill pests and disease, they can be toxic to humans as well, potentially causing respiratory issues, endocrine disruption, and other health issues (1). Fertilizers can get into water sources and cause contamination and air pollution.
What are the benefits of organic food?
* Less pesticides
* Farming practices better for the environment
* Fresher food because less preservatives
* Animals not given antibiotics or growth hormones
So how do we decide? Do we need to buy everything organic?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a great source to help you make decisions when buying organic produce. They have put together some lists called the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen,” which are updated every year. The “Dirty Dozen” are the more contaminated fruits and vegetables, therefore more pertinent to buy the organic version. The “Clean Fifteen” are the least contaminated, usually because they have thick skins and are therefore more protected. These are fine to buy non-organic. One more tip: Make sure to wash your produce very well.
Many people look to organic foods when trying to make healthier choices. While organic foods are certainly a good path for this, there are other steps you can take to increase overall wellness. Supplements and vitamins, for instance, can help fill the nutrition gaps in your diet that you may not be getting from your food every day.
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1. Toxics Action Center. http://toxicsactionorg.live.pubintnet-dev.org/problems-and-solutions/pesticides. Accessed February 12, 2019.