This is a guest post by Lior Torenberg.
The hype behind organic food is immense. While it was once limited to specialty grocery stores, it can now be found in virtually any grocery store (Walmart is the largest seller of organics in the US!). While most of the hype may be justified, some of it is purely overblown assumption. Is organic food really that much healthier than conventionally grown produce, meat and dairy? What are the differences?
1. Organic vs. Conventional Nutrient Content
The nutrient content in both conventionally grown and organic produce is on average the same. But there are some differences. For example, organic strawberries contain more vitamin C than conventionally grown berries. Organic tomatoes contain more polyphenols, than conventionally grown tomatoes. The differences are not big though.
Ripeness is a much bigger factor in nutrient density of a crop. A fruit might be artificially ripened with conventional farming, allowing it to have a far greater nutritional content than an organic fruit that is less ripe.
2. Pesticides vs. Extra Nutrients
Many people who switch to organic do so to avoid the chemicals that enable farmers to grow their crops fast and pretty. This farming process exposes you to chemical fertilizers, synthetic insecticides, and synthetic herbicides. What’s worrisome is the long-term effects of ingesting these harmful chemicals.
Charles Benbrook, who served as chief scientist for the Organic Center, said that pesticide exposure can have deleterious long-term effects on the general population, specifically pregnant women, the elderly and children. Research that looked at blood pesticide levels during pregnancy found that the women with the highest pesticide levels had children with IQs 4 to 7 percent lower than those of their peers.
3. Organic and the Environment
Some people cite environmental issues as their reasons for switching to organic produce. Organic farming has a lesser environmental impact per acre, but in many case is more labor intensive. Moreover, organic farming yields less produce per acre compared to conventional, requiring more farmland to produce the same amount of crop. This topic is highly debatable and I suspect will continue to be for years to come.
What I recommend:
- Buy fruits and vegetables locally and in season when possible – many times organic options will not be significantly more expensive.
- Whether organic or conventional, wash and scrub fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
- Join a local CSA (community supported agriculture) – where prices are often cheaper than buying at a supermarket.
Lior Torenberg is a high school Junior, avid foodie and health-fanatic. She runs her own blog focused on yoga and the power of clean eating. Her goal is to present the new generation’s voice on health and wellness.
Chang, Kenneth. “Organic Food vs. Conventional Food.” Well Organic Food vs Conventional Food Comments. New York Times, 4 Sept. 2012. Web. 17 June 2013.