Is Organic Food Healthier for You?
Organic food is food produced with the standards of organic farming.
Standards vary worldwide, but they generally mean food produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers (1).
Animal products only qualify as organic if they do not take antibiotics or hormones during their development.
Now, I should clarify that pesticides can be used by organic farmers on crops, just as long as they are derived from natural sources and are not synthetically created (2).
This seems reasonable because mass producing crops without ANY pesticides would be a nightmare with wasted food in epic proportions.
So now that we know what organic food means, we can move on to discussing whether organic food healthier or not.
As my friends over at ASAP Science so aptly put, just because a bag of chips has the “organic” label on them, does NOT make them healthy.
Cookies, chips, and ice cream are not suddenly good for you because they are organic.
When people ask is organic food healthier, they are usually asking for a comparison of foods like veggies, fruits, and certain animal products.
Which leads us to an important point:
The scientific data we have is actually VERY split on this issue.
There is A LOT of money to be had in this industry.
Monsanto, the famous poster child for evil pesticide producers, makes over 4.5 BILLION dollars in sales yearly and spends an average of 5 million dollars a year in public lobbying (3).
It’s not just them. People have been lobbying for and against organic for a while now. Conflicts of interest seem to be the rule and not the exception.
When most people say that organic is not healthier for you, they usually cite a Stanford Review done in 2012 that came to the conclusion that organic foods are not more nutritious than conventional foods.
Although, the study did concede that organic does limit the exposure or pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Unfortunately, the people doing this study received millions of dollars from Cargill, which has been linked to Monsanto, the pesticide company we just talked about. Conflict of interest, anyone?
A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition is the latest addition to the debate. It’s the largest meta-analysis that has been published on this topic, covering 343 individual studies looking into organic food.
One of the major conclusions found organic foods could boost a person’s antioxidant intake by up to 40%.
However, this study was funded by an organic farming charity…
See what I mean about conflicts of interest?
One thing in favor of eating organic that these studies cannot refute is reducing the number of pesticides being ingested…
On average, pesticides like cadmium had levels 400% lower, respectively, in organic produce than in conventional varieties.
Since cadmium is a highly toxic metal that has been linked to an increased risk of everything from Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and hormone disruption, it’s probably a good idea to minimize cadmium in your diet (4).
But it’s not just about us…
Is organic food healthier for our planet?
Unfortunately, there’s no real clear-cut answer to this question.
- Has more-fertile soil.
- Uses less energy.
- and is more profitable for farmers.
However, non-organic crops have higher yields and help to reduce erosion (7).
It’s a bit of a toss-up. So, to sum everything up:
Is organic food healthier for you?
In some studies, they have slightly more nutrients and do minimize our exposure to synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones added to what we eat.
All things equal, organic would be healthier for you.
We also have a short video on the health benefits of apple cider vinegar on our Youtube Channel, The Health Nerd, that you might find helpful!
So should everyone eat organic?
Cost is an issue for many people, and non-organic vegetables are still better than organic chips.
If you are on a budget, keep these 3 things in mind:
- Animal products are more important to buy organic than veggies. Because prolonged exposure to antibiotics and hormones is clearly harmful to our health, focus on organic animal products first.
- Organic frozen meat and vegetables are usually less expensive. Buy in bulk from the freezer section, because it won’t go bad!
- Use the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen (now 14) lists for fruits and veggies. Some fruits and veggies require more pesticides to grow than others.
The Clean 15 are non-organic foods that have minimal pesticide exposure:
- Sweet Corn
- Frozen Sweet Peas
- Honey Dew
The Dirty Dozen are the foods that have a lot of pesticide load if consumed non-organic. The list has been updated since the name was coined to include 14 foods:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hot peppers
- Kale and collard greens
The last tip we have is also quite important and seems to be just as important as eating certain foods organic.
Eating Foods in Season
Foods in season have been proven to have more nutrients than those that are out of season.
For example, the Vitamin C content in broccoli has been shown to be cut in half when picked out of season. So, buying fruits and veggies local and in season is your best option.
Here is a good produce guide that will help you see which produce is in season at any given time during the year.
Looking for a diet plan to help you incorporate more healthier, whole foods into your life?
This is a big emphasis of our 21-Day Fat Loss Challenge as it’s about changing our eating habits and re-learning what we should and should not be eating.
People lose an average of 10-21 pounds in 21 days and absolutely love it! But even better than the weight loss is the feedback we get from people about how the program has taught them how to change their eating habits and find a diet that truly works for them in the long-term.
You can read more information about the 21-Day Fat Loss Challenge by clicking here.
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