Is Organic Food Healthier?

Bet you didn't see that question coming from me!?!  But that is exactly the question that has been running through my mind as I have been meeting with several of my clients that sell organic products and swear by their health benefits.  But is there any factual data that actually proves that organic food is actually healthier than conventional?  And, is that really a reason to buy organic?

Let's begin with some disclaimers:   I have always been a staunch proponent of organics, being schooled at the Mecca of Organics, Whole Foods Market.   I try to buy as much organic produce and products that I can afford and/or that are available in my marketplaces.  And, I believed that by eating mostly organic that I was adding to my overall health and well being. 

That being said, let's take a look at what researchers have documented.  First,  the research does show that most consumers purchase organic products because they believe them to be healthier; that they are better for the environment and that organic products just taste better (55%)!  Among those consumers almost half of them purchase organic food because they believe it to be better for the environment and one third of them because it promotes animal welfare.  But, just because most of us believe those facts to be true are they?

According to a Stanford University Study released in September 2012: "There isn't much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you're an adult and making a decision based solely on your health,"  The research showed no significant difference between the vitamin content of organic products, and only one nutrient — phosphorus — was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce. However, the research did find that organic produce is 30 percent less likely to be contaminated with pesticides than conventional fruits and vegetables. 

Now comes the research from the school of common sense!  Although the detrimental results of ingesting pesticides has yet to be quantified, it can't be good for us!  And, that's one of the reasons to eat organic.  Here's why eating organic still makes sense to me regardless of whether the research has shown that it contains more vitamins and minerals:

  • Pesticides. Conventional farmers utilize synthetic pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases.  Spraying crops with pesticides leaves a chemical residue on the produce. Organic farmers use insect traps, careful crop selection (disease-resistant varieties), predator insects or beneficial microorganisms instead of pesticides to control crop-damaging pests.  It should be mentioned however that organic produce is not always 100% pesticide free.  It does typically carry significantly lower levels of pesticide residues than does conventional produce.  I follow the Environmental Working Group's dirty dozen list.  I think it is a reliable guide to the most highly sprayed produce items (dirty dozen) and therefore organic is always my choice. 
  • Food additives. Organic regulations ban or severely restrict the use of food additives, processing aids (substances used during processing, but not added directly to food) and fortifying agents commonly used in non-organic foods, including preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings,  flavorings and MSG.  Again, there is yet to be research documenting the effects of these chemicals over a lifetime, I choose to believe it can't be good for me!
  • Environment.  Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality. And that's a topic for a whole other blog!

Now I've guided you through my personal exploration on why I buy organic and why I choose to represent so many local vendors who feel so passionate about providing their customers with the highest quality organic products.  Their journey in the marketplace is made much harder because of their fastidious sourcing of their organic products.  But they believe and so do I!

Please buy local and organic when you can for all your own reasons!!