Is Buying Organic Produce Worth the Cost?
Organic produce is everywhere, but it’s noticeably more expensive than conventional produce. Why is it more and is it worth it?
If you’ve ever found yourself staring bewilderedly at the price of organic strawberries in the supermarket, this article is for you. Organic produce is higher priced than conventionally grown produce, and that price difference can be cost prohibitive for many families. Before making the sacrifice to buy organic, it’s time to clear up the confusion and determine once and for all if organic produce is worth the extra cost.
What is organic, anyway?
Foods that are USDA certified as “organic” have to follow a strict code of regulations for how the food is grown and handled. It’s a lengthy list, and includes everything from how crops are rotated to how livestock is fed. The entire point is to omit pesticides, hormones, and other chemicals from our food with the understanding that these unnatural additives can be harmful to our bodies. Organic foods cost more because, frankly, growing produce without pesticides means extra work and greater risk—and meeting the standards of the USDA means a greater focus on quality.
Related: Eating the Rainbow
So, is it better for me?
That depends. A report published six years ago synthesized the information from several studies investigating the effects of organic produce in humans as well as the nutrient levels in organic and conventional produce. The results showed that there was little to no difference in the vitamins and nutrients found in organic produce compared to conventional produce. However, that contradicts a large study from four years ago that found significantly higher amounts of antioxidants in organic produce. More and more evidence points to organic food generally having more nutrients than conventional foods.
The trick here is that, even if it’s becoming clear organic foods contain more nutrients, that amount isn’t necessarily enough to make a difference in your body. Switching from conventional milk to organic milk would increase your omega-3 intake, but it wouldn’t be enough of boost to make a noticeable difference in your overall health.
And yet, there’s one thing that scientists agree on: Eating organic foods reduces the amount of pesticides and chemicals that make their way into your body. And that’s definitely a good thing. Whether it’s enough of a good thing to warrant the extra price of organic food is your call.
Related: 5 Superfoods You Should Be Eating
Which produce contains the most pesticides?
While going totally organic may not be practical, it’s possible to strike a balance in your diet by avoiding foods with the highest levels of pesticides. According to the Environmental Working Group, the produce with the highest pesticide residue score is: apples, apple sauces, blueberries, grapes, green beans, leafy greens, pears, peaches, potatoes, plums, spinach, strawberries, raisins, sweet peppers, tomatoes, winter squashes (also known as the dirty dozen).
Produce with low to moderate pesticide residue includes apple juice, avocados, bananas, beans, broccoli, cabbages, cantaloupes, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, eggplants, grapefruits, lentils, lettuce, onions, oranges, orange juices, peas, prunes, summer squashes, sweet potatoes, tofu, tomato sauces, zucchini (also known as the clean fifteen).
Want to make just one switch to organic produce? Make the switch to organic apples. Apples are the top offender for pesticide residue year after year. Plus, there’s a noticeable taste difference between organic and conventional apples. Then, after apples, consider choosing one or two more that are next highest on the residue list and purchase organic. Pretty soon, you’ll be an organic produce connoisseur.
And while you’re here, check out our other articles on healthy living.
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