The controversy between organic foods being healthier than conventional is ongoing. But what are the facts? Are organic foods healthier for you?
I get this question often. I am unpacking all the details, and sharing my personal opinion about what organic means and making the choice to buy organic.
Organic labels can often be used to spike prices and this is where food inequality comes into play. So does that make health overall an unreachable goal as well? This seems to be a common misconception.
What Does Organic Mean?
Some trains of thought out there say that organic food is no different than conventional food. That it's basically a farce and a sales tactic.
While it can be used to hike prices, there actually is a difference with organically grown food. You can learn more about the details of organic farming in my post all about organic farming, but here are a few key points:
- If a farm grows conventional produce, it takes 3 years before it can sell it's produce as organic.
- Organic farmers focus more on the roots of the plants versus the end product, therefore they need to be more proactive and always stay steps ahead in order to catch an issue before it affects growth.
- The longer a farm is organic, the richer the soil is because organic farming has a mutually beneficial relationship with the earth as it gives to the soil as the soil gives back to the plants.
- Organic farmers have an approved list of substances they can use to treat issues that come up, however before they are allowed to use them they must show they tried physical, biological and mechanical solutions first.
- It takes a lot of time, effort and money to become certified organic so not all farms can make that happen.
Why Is Organic Food So Much More Expensive?
There is definitely a price difference between buying organic food and buying conventional. The main reason is that it costs the farms more money to grow organic food.
While some brands may take advantage of this and hike prices even higher, most simply want to make a living!
Do We Need Organic to Be Healthy?
Overall, you get the same nutrients from conventional produce than organic produce. So on the nutrient level, there is no difference. However you do get less exposure to pesticides with organic produce.
The question remains, does that exposure matter? Does it affect your health and cause issues long term? There isn't a hard and fast answer to this. Studies are not conclusive, even those that show a connection to pesticide exposure and health issues cannot be fully validated because people that tend to buy organic also tend to have healthier overall life styles and access to more health support.
While a person can have allergies to certain chemicals found on conventional produce, this doesn't apply to everyone.
The main overall advice is you should first focus on eating fruits and vegetables. The nutrients you gain far outweigh any risks of conventional produce. Then, if it's affordable and you want to eat organic, do so.
Washing your produce and removing the outer leaves can even remove most of the pesticides used. Some also focus on only buying produce that is known to have higher levels of pesticides organic (such as celery, apples, grapes, tomatoes, strawberries and spinach) and don't worry about the rest.
Benefits of Eating Organic
There are benefits to eating organic when it is affordable and accessible. These benefits are not only focused on you but also the environment and community:
- Organic practices give back to the earth so it helps keep the soil rich and better for the animals living around the soil.
- Organic farms need to try many methods before they are allowed to use chemicals from an approved list so there are less pesticides in the food.
- Not always, but some organic produce is fresher due to lack of preservatives and since some come from small farms closer to where the produce is sold.
- When a farm uses organic practices it can help the environment due to better soil fertility, water conservation, less erosion of the soil, and pollution in the air.
Downsides of Eating Organic
While there are benefits to eating organically grown foods, there are also some negative factors to consider. This is why eating organic is such a personal issue and is there is not a wrong or right choice.
Here are some of the downsides of choosing organic:
- Cost, organic food can be a lot more expensive.
- Accessibility, not everyone has access to organic produce.
- You may be missing out on amazing local produce. Because becoming certified organic is expensive, not all farms can afford it. But this does not mean these farms do not use organic like practices. So by simply skipping over the local produce you can be missing some incredible food and not supporting your local community.
- One can also argue that choosing organic food that comes from far away, instead of local conventional food, is actually worse for the environment as transportation can contribute to emissions in the air.
Overall, eat fruits and veggies whether they are conventional or organic. Looking at where you food comes from is very important and often times choosing local can get you the best tasting, freshest and nutrient rich foods.