It seems you can’t go to the grocery store – or even eat at a restaurant – these days without seeing ads and signs and labels for organic food, whether it’s organic avocados, free-range eggs, or hamburgers made with all-natural ingredients.
Some folks swear by the stuff, and fill their shopping cart to the brim with it. In fact, a 2016 Pew survey found that 68% of Americans had bought organic food within the last month.
Others people take one look at the price tag and immediately grab the non-organic. Because hey, it’s cheaper.
Meanwhile, you’re left scratching your head. “Why should I eat organic? Is it really healthier? And is it worth the extra cost?”
With all the conflicting information out there, it can be hard to find out the truth. But we’re going to cut straight through the BS and give you the skinny on organic food.
In short, yes, organic is worth it. But let’s talk about the specific advantages, so you can see for yourself.
Depending on the study you look at, “conventionally” grown produce has anywhere from two- to four-times the amount of pesticide residue as that found on the organic variety. Now, naysayers will say, “Oh, well, pesticide isn’t a big deal”.
No Genetic Modification (GMO)
To qualify as organic, the food itself can not be genetically modified – and the livestock used to provide your meat, milk, and eggs can’t be fed GMO food either.
Now, again, the pro-GMO crowd will claim there isn’t much conclusive evidence for the effect of genetically-modified food on our health. But GMO crops are restricted, if not outright banned, in around 50+ countries, including Australia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Russia, and Japan.
Fresher and Tastes Better
One disadvantage of organic produce is that it spoils a little faster than the genetically-modified variety. However, this also means that the fruit you’re buying is usually fresher.
And organic food even tastes better, which is why it’s the go-to in many top-rated restaurants.
Better for Environment and Livestock
As we pointed out above, the organic guidelines forbid the use of genetic modification or growth hormones on livestock. These animals can’t be fed GMO food nor animal byproducts, and they must also have access to the outdoors. In short, they’re generally treated and fed better overall.
Organic farming techniques are also more sustainable, since they don’t rely on pesticides and use better crop rotation. They require less energy and water, protect the soil, produce less pollution, and are overall more eco-friendly than conventional farming.
Healthier and More Nutritious
Studies have shown that organic produce contains 18 to 69% more antioxidants. Another study found that organic milk has higher levels of omega 3 and iron, which comes mainly from the cows’ improved diets.
Unfortunately, some companies are more concerned with cashing in on a trend than they are with providing quality, organic foods.
They use misleading marketing and labeling to make you think their product is organic, when it’s really not. Fortunately, the USDA has created organic seals which are only given to foods that meet their specific guidelines.
Only food that uses 95 to 100% organic ingredients and follows the other requirements set by the USDA is eligible for the “organic” label. Food that uses 70 to 94% organic ingredients can’t use the label, but it can advertise as being “made with organic ingredients”.
On the other hand, labels like…
…are NOT regulated by the USDA, meaning you can’t guarantee that they’re true. Though there are exceptions, like the American Grassfed logo for meat products.
In short, if you’re looking to buy organic, always check for the USDA organic label – and don’t get tricked into paying more for “natural” products that are anything but.
Even with all of the advantages we named earlier, it’s just not feasible for most people to buy all of their food organic. It would simply cost too much. But don’t get discouraged.
When comparing different fruits and vegetables, there are some that are more important to buy organic, while others don’t provide much benefit.
The produce that you should try to buy organic include:
As you can see, all of these vegetables have thin, edible skin – or no skin at all. On the other hand, produce with thick, inedible exteriors are safer to eat non-organic.
Here are some of the produce that you can save money on by going non-organic:
Needless to say, you can save a lot of money by only buying organic versions of the riskiest foods – or simply eating less of them.
But what about meat, eggs, and dairy? It’s a good idea to buy these organic if you can, since these animals aren’t given antibiotics, are fed better, and usually have a healthier lifestyle. Seafood, on the other hand, is less important to buy organic.
Which Organic Foods Should You Buy?
Hopefully we’ve managed to clear up some of your confusion and misconceptions regarding organic foods.
Overall, we’d recommend eating organic when possible, because it exposes you to less pesticides, GMOs, and antibiotics, provides more nutrients and better taste, and is less damaging to the environment.
Now, you can go hit the supermarket with confidence!