A lot of people think organic food is better compared to just plain old ‘regular’ food. But is it really? If it is better, by how much? Last but not least, does any improvement in nutritional value directly relate to the increase in cost you have to pay for the organic label?
This is a topic that needs some investigation. While some people might enjoy raising a nose at the world because they use ‘organic’ food while the rest of us might not. What’s important to most of us is the cost and the benefit. With the economy in the tank we just can’t afford to blow $6 on a pound of strawberries unless they are twice as good as the $3 non-organic variety.
The New York Times published a meta-study (which is an analysis of other studies to form a common opinion) in September that gave us a breakdown on what numerous other scientific minds had figured out about the organic versus non-organic food.
For years people who buy or sell organic food have touted additional nutrients within them as well as reduced chance for carrying bad bacteria. But the result of this meta-analysis was that organic labeled fruits and vegetables were on average not any better than ones without the label. On top of that there was not much evidence to support the likelihood that they have a lower risk of contamination.
But it was noted that non-organics have more pesticides and other chemicals in them.
Read Between the Lines
While the studies stated that there weren’t any obvious advantages to organic meat over non the prevailing thought in the nutrition community is that a lack of studies have been done to determine what the long-term effects of eating meats treated with more pesticides and chemicals would be.
Sure, some stuff might cook off in high heat but at the same time we can’t be sure how and what is being passed to us from these factory created chickens and other animals we consume regularly. It’s not like we each keep a home test kit around to analyze a slice of meat before we eat it.
Also the study was about averages which can vary and with so many studies it is hard to mix and match controls used. On top of that there was no comparison to local and organic, just organic and non-organic within a store.
The Bottom Line
For the best results it pays to use a mix-and-match approach. The top choice should always be local produce, milk, and meat. For produce it has the shortest shelf time between being picked and ending up in your stomach which means more nutrients retained. Meat and dairy should also be looked at locally because then you can investigate how they process things and what else goes into it. But even with local, looking for organic meat options looks to be safer in the long run because of the concerns of any build-up of additives to the meats that could hurt us years down the road.
If given the choice on produce, organic still seems like a healthier bet, but not at an outrageous cost. You can and should always ask your produce manager where they buy produce as well because that gives you an idea how long it was on the truck as well as the opportunity to look more at the company providing the foods you eat.