When shopping around the grocery store, you may notice two very similar yet differently packaged items. They are both the same size, same color, and everything else on the outside looks exactly the same. Except one of the packages has a sticker that says “organic”. This one is also $1.50 more expensive than its counterpart. Are these organic foods worth the price? Let’s dive into that organic label, what organic actually means for different foods, and if you should be spending the extra money on these “healthier” products.
Labeling any food as organic can have different meanings depending on where you are. If you live in the United States, the label is defined by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). While the FDA does regulate organic foods, they do not have any control over organic labeling. For the USDA to consider food organic, they must prove that 95% of the ingredients are organic. For meats, this means no hormones or antibiotics, and for vegetables no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Farmers can still use naturally-derived pesticides and fertilizers and still be considered organic.
Just because a food is labeled “organic,” does not necessarily mean it is healthy. Organic potato chips are not magically healthier than regular potato chips. People who make the switch to organic are trying to avoid the possible harmful additives that come with most industrially developed foods. While research shows these chemicals are harmful to people, the research is split on if the amount of chemicals that remains on the food is harmful. It is important to recognize the influences that may be taking place - large pesticide corporations spend millions of dollars each year on lobbying and “research”.
There is consensus that organic and conventional foods have the same nutritional value. An organic banana and a conventional banana will have the same potassium, B vitamins, and every other nutrient normally found in bananas. While it is agreed that choosing organic foods reduces your exposure to toxic additives, there are not many solid studies suggesting that exposures to these added chemicals at the levels found on the foods are toxic to humans. Cadmium is a common ingredient in pesticides and has been linked to increased risk of Alzheimer’s, ADHD, and cardiovascular disease. While these conditions have been linked to cadmium exposure, there is not a consensus that industrialized food production increases a person’s exposure enough for cadmium poisoning to occur.
The main reason most people won’t commit to organic food is the price; on average, organic foods cost 20% more than their conventional counterparts. What we know is that nutritionally, there is no measurable difference between organic vs conventional food. Without a consensus in the studies of how the additives in conventional foods impacts the body, it’s hard to definitively say if organic foods can be healthier for you. If you have the budget for organic foods, then it may be worth it for you; but if you don’t then it’s probably not the end of the world.
Have questions about organic foods or want to get specific on how your diet should change to be healthier? Schedule a free consultation with our nutritionist here at Rush-Henrietta Family Chiropractic, your Rochester chiropractor. We can help modify your existing diet to meet your nutritional goals.