May 23, 2009 Just a few short years ago, if you wanted to buy organic food, you had to make a special trip to an out-of-the-way grocery store. Today, organic products are, well, cropping up all over the place. Are they really worth the higher price or is it just another marketing maneuver?
What Is Organic?
First, let’s take a look at what exactly it means to be organic.
“Organic foods are grown without the use of chemical fertilizer or pesticides and have not been processed using irradiation or added hormones,” says Ashley Mullins, R.D., L.D., CNSC, a registered dietitian at Baylor All Saints Medical Center. “As with any product, it’s important to check the label to determine exactly what you’re getting.”
Products labeled “100 percent organic” must contain only organic ingredients with the exception of water and salt, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Products labeled “organic” must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients. Products that are made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients are allowed to be labeled “made with organic ingredients.”
The Bottom Line
While organic food can cost up to two or three times that of regular foods, it may not be any better for you, Mullins says.
“From a nutrition standpoint, there isn’t enough research to show that organic foods are more nutritious than regular foods. The levels of pesticides currently used haven’t been found to be harmful,” she says. “Of course, there may be other benefits to buying organic, such as it being more environmentally friendly and, in some cases, fresher.”
It really comes down to personal preference and budget, adds Mullins. Whatever you do, don’t let your choice inhibit your ability to get the nutrients you need. “The most important thing to consider is the health benefit of consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables every day—whether or not they’re organic,” says Mullins. “That’s the biggest payoff.”
When It May Be Worth It
Want to buy organic, but don’t have it in your budget to do it across the board? Consider at least opting for organic when buying these fruits and vegetables, as they’re considered the top 10 worst offenders for pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group:
- Grapes (imported)
- Sweet bell peppers
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