There are some misconceptions with health information about organic foods. Are they safer? More nutritious? More expensive? Tastier?
Standing at the grocery store with a red delicious apple in your hand you can’t tell the difference between conventionally grown and organically grown. Both apples are firm, shiny and red. Both have vitamins, fiber and are listed as heart healthy foods. What makes them different?
Organically grown simply refers to the way farmers grow and process the products. Organic practices encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers also use special processes for fertilization, weed and pest control and preventing disease in plants and livestock.
A single product, such as produce, that is completely organic can carry a small USDA seal. Foods that are more than one ingredient, such as cereal, can either carry the seal or be labeled as 100 percent organic, organic (95%), or ‘Made with Organic Ingredients (contain at least 70%). Foods that have less than 70% can’t use the seal or the word organic on the label.
Nutritional health information about organic foods don’t have conclusive research that shows the food is more nutritious than conventionally grown food. But the difference lies not in the amount of nutrition but in the pesticides that are left on the products.
Research has shown that pesticides have an adverse effect on our bodies over time. Some of these pesticides, in the right amounts, cause cancer and immune diseases such as lupus, arthritis, and diabetes. When farmers spray the pesticides on the produce it can, and often does, leave a residue on the product. Some fruits, when sprayed early in their growth, may also incorporate some of the pesticide into the fruit itself.
Many experts agree that the amount of pesticides on the food pose a ‘small’ health risk to the consumer. How ‘small’ that risk is to you is a personal decision. When you or your family members are diagnosed with a chronic illness doctors can’t often pinpoint an exact cause. Is the cause the pesticides from your produce and processed foods? You’ll never really have the answer.
Scientists do agree that 80% of the pesticides in use today cause cancer and the chemicals are found in the milk of nursing mothers. People today are beginning to accumulate pesticides in their bodies in infancy!
Organically grown produce is also usually more costly. This is because the organic farmers don’t use herbicides and pesticides to control their crops but instead use mulch, hand weeding and other labor-intensive methods. Their crops cost more to produce and they usually have a lower yield.
Most experts agree that the health information about organic foods is relatively equal to the foods that are conventionally grown. There have been some studies that foods grown organically have higher levels of folate but there haven’t been enough studies at the chemical level to concretely state that organic foods all are more nutritious.
The deciding factor for most people is the ingestion of pesticides that linger on the skin of the fruit. If you chose to eat conventionally grown fruit always wash and sometimes peel the outside skin. Even for organically grown fruit and vegetables it is wise to wash because the farmer in the next field over could have been spraying pesticides that inadvertently entered the organic farmers crops.
When you are buying organic foods don’t confuse the terminology on the labels. “All Natural” does NOT mean organically grown. Look for the USDA Organic label. Buy your fruits and vegetables in season to get the best quality taste and nutrition from your purchase.
Health information about organic foods can be confusing. The deciding factor for you most people is how they feel about the information and who they trust. Make your decisions and then stick with them until you find information to the contrary. If you feel better and healthier then you are feeling the effects of organically grown produce.
University of Rochester Medical Center: Your Guide to Organic Foods
University of Rochester medical Center: Fielding Questions on organic Foods
WHFoods: Everything You need to Know about Organic Foods
MayoClinic: Organic Foods
HelpGuide: Organic Foods
Cleveland Clinic: 15 Organic Foods that won’t make you healthier
Harvard health: Organic Food no more nutritious than conventionally grown food