Is Organic Worth It?

April 19, 2012

There are certain aspects of organically produced foods that benefit consumers, some people think it just tastes better - but is it worth it?

There are certain aspects of organically produced foods that benefit consumers, some people think it just tastes better, it’s produced without synthetic pesticides and, if you can afford it, (as it usually cost more than conventional) it makes sense to give your body the most delicious and best possible food available. But don’t stress if you can’t always shop for key organic items– a varied, nutritionally balanced diet with proper food safety handling, whether organic or not, is the most important thing for overall health and well-being. So, as mentioned above, shopping for organics usually costs more and SupermarketGuru wants to keep you shopping smart so read on to find out which items you should choose to buy organic, and which you should skip.

According to the Environmental Working Group, there are twelve key produce items, the ‘dirty dozen’, that when available should always be purchased organic: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes (imported), sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries (domestic), lettuce, kale and collard greens. Produce that has a thin skin, or no protective layer is usually best purchased organic - this is key to keep in mind if you are shopping and you forget the ‘dirty dozen.’

The EWG also points out fifteen items that you don't necessarily have to purchase organic, the ‘clean 15’: onion, avocado, sweet corn, pineapple, mangos, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potato and honeydew melon.

What does it mean to be organic?

USDA Organic standards require that the land used to grow organic crops go through a three year "transition period" to make sure the crops are free of synthetic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
• All organic agriculture prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, irradiation, sewage sludge and no genetically modified organisms can be contained in anything labeled organic.

For non produce items, the regulations allow four different labeling options based on the percentage of organic ingredients contained in a product:

100% Organic (self explanatory!).
Organic: contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients by weight, excluding water and salt.
Made with organic: contains between 70 to 95 percent organic ingredients.
Products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients list the organic items in the ingredient panel.
The USDA seal may be used on products that are “100 percent organic” or “organic,” but is entirely voluntary.

As far as food safety is concerned there is no difference between organic and conventionally produced foods – so always remember to wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove dirt and bacteria, and employ safe handling and storage for meat, poultry, dairy and fish.

The bottom line, buying organics means you will be paying more (between 5 and 30 percent, depending on the type of product), you will be eating products that are likely to, but not necessarily, taste better, you will be consuming products that are free from artificial preservatives and chemicals and do not contain any genetically modified organisms and meat products will be free of animal by-product feed, antibiotics and hormones.

And don’t panic – if you are concerned about pesticide residues for yourself or your children and you’re unable to buy organic, you can remove a significant amount of the residues by simple peeling fruits and vegetables and removing the outer leaves (but do be aware you will be losing fiber and some nutrients), and trimming any fat from meat and poultry as the residues tend to be more concentrated in the fat.