Here’s what to know the next time you visit the organic section of your grocery store.
Some organic foods may have additional nutritional and safety benefits, but buying only organic foods isn’t the only way to eat a safe, healthy, and nutritious diet.
You’ve probably noticed the price difference between organic and non-organic foods at the grocery store. Sometimes it can be significant and staggering. So, are organic foods better for you and worth it?
Maybe your healthy friends have told you that organic food is the healthier option. Or maybe you don’t know. Either way, the price difference might have you scratching your head and staying away.
So we spoke with health and nutrition experts about the benefits of organic food, what exactly organic means, if it’s better for you and, of course, if it’s worth your hard-earned money.
What does organic food mean?
You’ve seen organic labels and you’ve heard people talking about their organic products. But what does organic mean?
In the simplest terms, organic refers to how your food was grown and produced. These foods include fresh produce, meat, grains and dairy products.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates and certifies whether foods are organic. They label food so you know if you are buying organic or not.
For a food to be considered organic, it must be grown without synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and GMOs (or genetically modified organisms). In addition, livestock should have fair living conditions, such as being raised on pasture. They should also not be given antibiotics, growth hormones or animal by-products to help them grow faster.
Also, be sure to always look for the USDA Organic label when shopping. This means that food production methods have been approved by the USDA and are regulated. Although some brands may label their foods as “natural”, make no mistake about it. It’s that USDA Organic label you want.
Are organic foods better for you?
Based on what exactly organic food means, it’s easy to assume it’s better for you, and it’s often repeated that it is. Let’s talk about Why people believe that.
Kylene Bogden, RD, co-founder of FWDFuel and ambassador of Pureboost, spoke with LifeSavvy about the risk that synthetic chemicals and antibiotics can enter your diet via non-organic foods.
“A growing body of research shows that many harmful chemicals can be avoided when buying organic products,” Bodgen said.
Bodgen told LifeSavvy that buying organic food is the best way to limit your toxic exposure because organic produce contains less pesticide residue. This allows for healthier and safer eating.
But it’s not just about security. Buying organic foods could also have nutritional benefits.
“For consumers who can afford it, organic might be the right choice,” said food and nutrition expert Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN.
Largeman-Roth told LifeSavvy that organic dairy and meats have a healthier fatty acid profile, with omega-3 fatty acids, which have many health benefits, including reduced inflammation and better heart health.
Although there are only a limited number of studies proving the benefits of organic foods, there is preliminary evidence to suggest this is the case. Plus, both of our experts agree: eating organic foods is the best way to limit your toxic exposure and potentially improve the overall nutrition of your diet.
Should you buy all organic food?
Although the evidence seems to indicate that buying organic products is a way to improve certain aspects of nutrition and safety, not everyone can afford it. After all, we’ve seen the cost of groceries rise sharply in recent months, and that’s only made it harder for many families to buy organic.
So, should all food be organic?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created a list of products that they advise you to always buy in organic form. According to the organization, these foods contain the most pesticide residues and can lead to greater exposure. Called “the dirty dozen,” this list is the items you should strive to buy organically. The Dirty Dozen includes:
- Kale, cabbage and mustard greens
- Bell and hot peppers
On the other hand, products on the EWG’s “clean fifteen” list do not need to be purchased organic. If you are looking for a way to buy organic products while saving money, these are the items with the least exposure to chemicals. The clean fortnight includes:
- Sweet corn
- Peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
- Sweet potatoes
As for a general rule of thumb for when to buy organic and when to stick to conventional foods, Bogden told LifeSavvy that you’ll want to buy organic when you can’t remove the most exposed outer layer. As for priorities, she suggested focusing primarily on buying the “dirty dozen” in organic form.
However, organic foods are not just products. Meat also has organic options, but the science behind it is unclear. Like fruits and vegetables, there are few studies exploring the difference between organic meat and non-organic meat, but they are not comprehensive enough to provide a firm answer. Some studies have shown that organic meat offers more antioxidants, anti-inflammatories that may help prevent disease. However, a 2010 study postulated that buying organic meat solely because of a belief in extra nutrition does not give you much extra nutrition at all.
While some would point to the addition of antibiotics to non-organic meat, levels of antibiotics in meat are low because the United States has strict regulations to ensure contaminated food does not reach the supply chain. . The National Residue Program oversees all exposures in the United States. While overuse of antibiotics could lead to resistant bacteria, the USDA is updating its regulations to account for overuse.
When it comes to buying organic meat, this is an area you can probably overlook as there are few studies proving significant nutritional benefits and safety issues are highly regulated.
What should you do if you can’t buy organic food?
No matter how much you might want to buy organic food, due to budget constraints this might not be possible for some families. It is very good. There should be no shame around affordability needs.
However, organic farming is much more labor intensive and time consuming, which affects prices. Certification is also expensive, and organic pet food is much more expensive. This means that organic food prices are not expected to drop.
There is good news, however. There are still ways to eat well. To start, be sure to thoroughly wash and scrub your products under running water.
Although this process does not remove all pesticides, you can also peel your fruits and vegetables. But be aware that this can strip out some of the healthy nutrients outside of the product.
Bodgen also gave money-saving tips if you want to slowly start buying organic without breaking the bank. She suggested buying seasonal produce, shopping locally and even working with local organic farmers in exchange for potential discounts.
So while organic food can be expensive, if you can’t afford it, washing and preparing your food properly and looking for creative savings are ways to eat healthy or incorporate organic food into your diet.
So overall, is organic food worth it?
We have good news for your budget. Both Registered Dietitians agree that you can still eat well without buying all your food organic.
“The most important factor for your health is eating a variety of foods with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes,” Largeman-Roth said.
She also pointed out that only 10% of the population of the United States eats the right amount of fruits and vegetables daily and stressed that it is more important for people to have a good diet than to focus only on the food. consumption of organic food.
If possible, mix conventional and organic foods into your diet. Always try to buy the dirty dozen in organic form and wash your produce thoroughly. When preparing your food, keep food safety rules in mind for a safe and well-balanced diet. Most importantly, make sure your diet is balanced and nutritious.