I have a dream that someday soon buying organic food (and farming it) will be the norm and it won't cost any more than "conventional," non-organic goods.
It's going to happen. (Please let it happen.) While more and more grocery stores and retailers are offering a wider organic selection in order to meet the demand from consumers seeking a badass and healthy lifestyle, unfortunately, for now, organic food is more expensive. And it may have you questioning your grocery bill and if it is really worth the extra dollars... It's ultimately a personal choice, but I certainly think it is. Here are the fundamentals you need to make your own educated decision.
Why Is Organic Produce Healthier?
Eating organic produce reduces your exposure to synthetic pesticides and fungicides. Exposure to pesticides and fungicides have been proven to cause negative short-term or long-term effects on the environment and the health of animals and humans, especially in the reproductive, endocrine and central nervous systems. They are known carcinogens and strongly linked to causing cancer. Cancer, people! That is way more expensive than buying organic food.
So What Does Organic Produce Use to Kill Bugs Then?
Organic produce can still contain organic pesticides and fungicides derived from natural sources. "Since organic pesticides are not always as effective as synthetic pesticides, they may require more application to achieve the same level of protection," says Gillean Barkyoumb, MS, RD, of Millennial Nutrition, LLC.
Is Organic Produce More Nutritious?
"The science is mixed on whether or not organic products [contain more nutrients] than conventional products," admits Barkyoumb. "Some reviews show no sufficient evidence while others show increased levels of some nutrients."
Does Organic Produce Taste Better?
Usually. Organic produce tends to taste more flavorful—juicier, richer, more pure, more complex.
Is One Vegetable More Organic Than the Next?
An organic kale from one organic farmer is the same as another organic kale from another organic farmer in the eyes of the USDA. "All organic products must meet the same federal standards in order to be labeled 'organic,'" Barkyoumb says. There's a lengthy list of requirements, but one includes that produce can only be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances [such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides] applied for three years prior to harvest.
The Deal with Organic Meat, Poultry and Eggs
Organic animal proteins sold or labeled as organically produced are not given any kind of antibiotics or growth hormones. Also, "they are only fed with organic feed and not administered any type of medication aside from vaccinations or to treat an illness," Barkyoumb says. Organic feed makes for healthier animals, though it does not mean they are grass fed (there's a debate on which one is better) as their feed may contain grains. Plus, to be certified organic, farmers must supply easy outside access for their cows, chickens and other animals. Healthier and happier animals... Score!
Organically raised meat might also be safer. A study found that salmonella prevalence in fecal samples from organic poultry farms was significantly lower than in samples from conventional farms (6 percent versus 39 percent). Whoa. And ew. (That may account for a couple of unexplained post-meal run-to-the-bathroom visits hmmm?)
And on that note... is buying organic food worth it? Yup.
Now if you'd rather dip your toe in—for budget or other reasons—read this article on the top 12 (a.k.a. "dirty dozen") items you must buy organic and the top 15 (a.k.a. "clean fifteen") items you can get away with not buying organic.
Have any questions about buying organic food? We'd love to hear from you in comments below or contact us.