Which Organic Foods are Worth it?

Once upon a time, organic foods were sold only in specialty health food stores and eaten only by hippies and health fanatics. Now, organic foods are not only popping up all over, they are the seemingly “trendy” thing to buy.

But as with most trends, eating organic isn’t cheap. So is this trend one which is worth jumping on the bandwagon, or should you save your cash?

The first step in deciding whether or not organic is worth it is to understand what organic means. According to the USDA, foods bearing the organic seal must be grown, harvested, and processed using a defined set of standards which include restrictions on amounts and residues of pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones and also use methods which preserve the environment.

In order for a food to contain the organic seal, it must contain 95 percent or more organic materials.

Foods made with 70 to 94 percent organic ingredients can be labeled as “Made with Organic Ingredients,” but cannot contain the USDA seal.

Based on these guidelines, it’s also important to mention that the terms “natural,” “free-range” and “hormone-free” are not interchangeable for “organic.” These terms are not regulated by law. It is also important to note than organic labeling from the USDA is voluntary, so smaller operations like local markets may not contain the seal, but that does not necessarily mean that their products are not organic.

So is organic food better for my health?

The USDA never claimed that organic products are more nutritious or healthier as compared to conventional foods. One of the recent studies by Stanford University on meat, vegetables and dairy products has shown that there are not much nutritional differences among non-organics and organics.

The study further concluded that there are not much difference in pesticide level of both food groups (for some particular food items). The researchers claimed that the pesticide level for some fruits and vegetables actually fall within the allowable safety limits.

Being a dietitian, I see a common belief among people that whenever they see something labeled as natural or organic, they assume that it is going to be super healthy as compared to regular foods, which is a complete wrong thinking. The truth is that organic junk food is still junk food.

If you want to eat better, then you must avoid junk items no matter they are organic or not.

Then what foods are worth the added cost of organic?

The Environmental Working Group make a list of “dirty dozen” fruits every year. The list basically includes the fruits that contain the highest level of pesticides. Now, if you can’t afford to buy all the organic foods, then you must consider these to buy as organic only.

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Imported snap peas
  • Potatoes

The Environmental Working Group also puts together a yearly list of produce which has the least amount of pesticide residues. This year, that list includes the following:

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Frozen sweet peas
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwis
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes

As a general rule of thumb, thin, edible skinned foods are more likely to be exposed to pesticides versus thick skinned foods. This is because you are typically eating the skins of thin skinned foods and throwing away thick skins, like avocado or pineapple. Therefore, you are exposed to more pesticides if you are eating the skin.

Bottom line: While organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticides and hormones, it does not appear that organic foods are considerably more nutritious than conventional foods. If you are considering eating organic but don’t want the added cost, consider focusing on purchasing only the “Dirty Dozen” in organic. If you cannot afford to purchase any organic foods, you should not avoid fruits and vegetables altogether. Experts agree that the health benefits from eating fruits and vegetables far outweigh the potential risks of pesticide exposure.

Read original article here: http://www.9news.com/life/food/what-organic-foods-are-worth-it-and-what-ones-arent/119057660

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