Should You Go Organic?

Whether it’s for health purposes, a personal revelation, or a new years revelation, you’ve decided to adopt a healthier way of eating. You’ve swapped potato chips and burgers for vegetables and lean protein. But as you look through supermarket shelves another question comes to mind: what are organic labels and…should you choose them?

assorted vegetables on white ceramic plate

What does an organic label mean?

According to Harvard Health, the purpose of organic agriculture is to preserve natural resources, support animal health and welfare, and to avoid synthetic materials or chemicals in produce. The USDA is a strict regulator for the organic industry and only provides a “USDA Organic” seal for foods that are 95% organic.

sliced apples and bananas on white surface

Produce and livestock is considered organic when:

  • Soil is free from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers
  • Crops cannot be genetically modified
  • Animals cannot receive antibiotics or growth hormones
  • Animal feed has to be grown organically
  • Animals must be able to roam around outside
  • Processed organic foods must not contain synthetic additives

Is organic food safer?

Man made pesticides in non organic foods

sliced meat on brown wooden chopping board

In an interview with WebMD, John Reganold, a professor of soil science at Washington State University described the chances of getting pesticide residues as “much less with organic food”. He used a case study conducted by Consumer Union to show that organically grown crops had one third of the pesticide residue compared to non organic produce.

Even so, the amount of pesticide and synthetic chemicals in non organic produce is still well below the level that the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed unsafe. Hence, the real potential health risk is whether the accumulation of small doses over decades may harm us.

Natural toxins in organic food

brown round fruit on gray metal rack

If you helped out in the kitchen, you’d instinctively know to cut off the green spots on potatoes. Solanine is a substance produced by potatoes and is identified by its green spots. This is an example of natural toxins in plants where an over consumption of this substance can make you physically ill. As organic plants lack synthetic chemicals and pesticides to protect them, they have to resort to creating their own toxins to contend with pests and insects. Some say this this natural toxins may be as harmful or even more so then synthetic pesticides used in the production of non organic foods.

As a rule of thumb, rinse all fruits and vegetable thoroughly under running water even if you are going to cook it after. Take special care to wash fruit skins such as oranges or melons as cutting unwashed fruit skins may bring pesticides from the blade into the flesh.

Is organic foods more nutritious?

sliced fruit on white surface

A few studies have reported a higher level of antitoxins, Vitamin C and minerals in organic foods, however, the differences compared to non organic produce is too small to have a significant impact.

However, there is one certainty. Eating food while its fresh is the only way to get the most nutrients out of it. Nutrients oxidize over time. So, even if there is a higher content of nutrients in organic foods, it would oxidize and disappear sitting in the refrigerator.

Is it worth the cost?

vegetable salad

Toxic and pesticides accumulate in the soil, water, our bodies and we end up consuming it. Although there is insufficient data surrounding this topic, the potential health risks are always there. Choose what works for your lifestyle. Organic foods tend to be up to 47% more expensive than non organic foods. If you are able the luxury of choosing all organic produce and like the idea of a more environmentally friendly production system, organic is the way to go! However, choosing certain products as organic works too!