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Is Organic Food Worth It?

Is Organic Food Worth It?

 

When strolling through the grocery store aisles, we often face the decision of whether to buy organic or conventional food. Where once organic food was only an option at health food stores, it is now available in every major grocery store. Organic food has many known health benefits but comes with a heftier price tag, leaving us with the question: Is organic food worth it? It’s hard to know whether organic food is worth the higher cost or whether saving money with conventional food is the better choice. Read on to learn the difference between the two, understand why organic food is more expensive, and some of the reasons people choose organic. Then you can decide for yourself which is best for you.

 

What is Organic Food?

In order for a food to have the official “organic” label, it must be certified by the USDA and meet many strict guidelines. The guidelines address several factors, including soil, sustainable farming practices, animal welfare, pest control, weed control, and the use of additives and preservatives in food. They also prohibit using certain synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for a minimum of three years before harvesting and are not genetically modified in any way. Organic farms prioritize healthier ecosystems and environments for animals and crops to thrive naturally.

 

What is Conventional Food?

Conventional foods have minimal restrictions on using chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides, weed killers, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Chemicals can help manage fertility, pests, and diseases. Conventional food production aims to meet the high demand for food most cost-effectively, often prioritizing efficiency and affordability. However, these methods raise significant concerns about health, environmental impact, and sustainability.

 

Does Organic Food Have More Health Benefits?

The debate over whether organic food is more nutritious than conventional food is ongoing. Some studies indicate that organic produce may contain higher levels of certain nutrients, like antioxidants and vitamin C, as well as healthier fats in organic meat and dairy. The most significant health benefits might be the reduced exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins and the positive environmental impact of organic farming practices. 

 

Reasons to Choose Organic

People choose to eat organic food for a variety of reasons, including:

 

  • Health Concerns: Many believe that organic food is healthier because it is free from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and contains fewer chemical residues than conventional food.

 

  • Environmental Impact: Organic farming practices are more sustainable and environmentally friendly, emphasizing soil health, biodiversity, and reduced pollution. Consumers concerned about the environment often choose organic to support these practices.

 

  • Animal Welfare: Organic livestock farming requires higher standards for animal welfare, including access to outdoor spaces and organic feed, which appeals to those concerned about the treatment of animals.

 

  • Avoiding GMOs: Organic food is non-GMO by definition, attracting consumers who wish to avoid genetically modified organisms due to health, environmental, or ethical concerns.

 

  • Taste and Quality: Many people find that organic food tastes better and is of higher quality. This can be due to fresher, seasonal produce and more natural farming practices.

 

  • Chemical Sensitivities: Individuals with sensitivities or allergies to certain chemicals and preservatives often choose organic foods to avoid these substances.

 

  • Support for Local Farmers: Buying organic often means supporting small-scale, local farmers who practice sustainable agriculture, fostering a closer connection between consumers and food producers.

 

  • Preventing Antibiotic Resistance: Organic farming restricts the use of antibiotics in livestock, which helps reduce the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a growing public health concern.

 

 

Why Doesn’t Everyone Buy Organic?

In a perfect world, everyone would buy and eat exclusively organically produced food. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. For one, organic food tends to be more expensive than conventional food. But why? There are many reasons that organic food has a higher price tag. The cost of organic certification is costly. Organic farmers must document their process and get inspected every year. Additionally, organic farmers rely on human labor to control pests and weeds (in place of cheap pesticides). Many people see the cost of organic food and decide that conventional food prices are what they can ultimately afford.  

 

Another reason people opt for conventional food is its availability. It is more widely available in grocery stores and supermarkets, making it easier for consumers to find and purchase. Conventional foods have a longer shelf life than organic food due to preservatives and other treatments. This can be appealing for reducing waste and managing food budgets. These are just a few reasons why many do not choose organic food. 

 

“Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen”

While much information regarding organic and conventional food is up for debate, two lists often remain the same: the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen.” These two lists can help consumers know where to spend their money on organic food and when it’s okay to skip it.  

 

The “Dirty Dozen” is an annual list published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) highlighting the twelve fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide contamination when grown conventionally. The “Dirty Dozen” currently includes:

 

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale/Collard/Mustard Greens
  4. Grapes
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Nectarines
  8. Apples
  9. Bell and Hot Peppers
  10. Cherries
  11. Blueberries
  12. Green Beans

 

This list informs consumers about which produce items they might want to buy organic to reduce their exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. If you aren’t in a position to purchase organic produce from this list, then a thorough wash and scrub is strongly advised before consumption. Although not all residue can be completely washed away, cleaning can help.

 

Similarly, the EWG also publishes an annual “Clean Fifteen” list containing items with the lowest pesticide residue.  Currently, this list includes:

 

  1. Avocado
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onion
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet Peas (frozen)
  7. Asparagus
  8. Honeydew Melon
  9. Kiwi
  10. Cabbage
  11. Mushrooms
  12. Mangoes
  13. Sweet Potatoes
  14. Watermelon
  15. Carrots

 

Final Thoughts

At Knew Health, we know that empowering our members with knowledge is crucial for making informed decisions about their health and wellness. The debate over whether organic is worth it is multifaceted. It encompasses considerations of health benefits, environmental impact, and cost. While organic foods can offer advantages like reduced pesticide exposure and more sustainable farming practices, they also tend to be more expensive and less readily available. We support our members by providing insights and resources that help them navigate these choices and find lower-cost, healthy options that fit their needs. Ultimately, the decision to choose organic is a personal one. Food is just one piece of the puzzle in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. By staying informed and making thoughtful choices, you can take control of your health in a way that works best for you, supported by the Knew Health community.

 

Sources:

“EWG’S SHOPPER’S GUIDE The Clean Fifteen™.” EWG, www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean-fifteen.php.

 

“EWG’S SHOPPER’S GUIDE The Dirty Dozen™.” EWG, www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php.

 

McEvoy, Miles. “Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means.” USDA, 22 Mar. 2012, www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic-101-what-usda-organic-label-means.

 

“Organic Foods: Are They Safer? More Nutritious?” Mayo Clinic, 22 Apr. 2022, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880.

 

“Organic Fresh Produce: The Why Behind the Buy.” Organic Produce Network, www.organicproducenetwork.com/article-education/9/other-considerations-in-organic-fresh-produce.

 

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<a href="https://knewhealth.com/author/kimberly-hirsch/" target="_self">Kimberly Hirsch</a>

Kimberly Hirsch

Author

Kimberly Hirsch resides in southern New Hampshire with her husband and two sons, She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Providence College in Rhode Island and a Master’s degree from the University of Phoenix, Las Vegas. Kimberly taught elementary school for ten years and spent eight wonderful years as a stay-at-home mom raising her boys. She is currently a content writer and children's book author. She has published three children's books and has plans to publish many more in the future. When she isn’t writing, Kimberly can be found taking combat and weight lifting classes at the gym, baking healthy snacks, reading, doing author visits at local schools, and being a boy mom.