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Is Organic Food Worth It?

August 2, 2009

Breaking news: Organic and conventionally produced foods have the same nutrient content.

Is this true?

Last Wednesday this news came out, stirring debates ever since. The bottom line of this news, which was based on a review of 50 studies conducted by British researchers, is that neither organic nor conventional food has more health benefits than the other. Clients, friends, and family members often ask me whether I think organically produced food, especially produce, is worth the extra money. Personally, I have always said that for the most part I don’t think so, especially if you’re buying seasonal produce and wash it carefully before eating or cooking it. If you buy seasonal food you are more likely to get it from local farmers (not all of whom sell organic), who often, although not always, don’t use pesticides. For me, this is the primary concern when it comes to conventional foods. I wouldn’t get organic food over conventional for the nutrients, because it would never occur to me there is more nutrition in say an organic pepper than a conventional one. Rather I would get them to avoid ingesting pesticides that are used on conventional produce.

What I recommend to clients who question the benefit of organic vs conventional produce, is to spend the extra money on produce that falls under the “Dirty Dozen.” These are 12 fruits and vegetables that the Environmental Working Group has declared the most contaminated, and therefore worth the extra money.  And they are:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Celery
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Grapes (Imported)

The reason these foods tend to be the most contaminated, is because they have edible skin. So unlike an orange, which you peel before you eat, an organic apple is more worth spending the money on since you eat the peel. But again, you need to pick and choose what is most worthwhile for you. If you’re going to remove the fuzzy peel of a peach, then there’s no sense in spending the money on an organic one.

So back to Wednesday’s big news, I think the most important thing to take away form this is that you don’t need to worry you won’t get the nutrients you need if you don’t eat organic. And keep in mind, when it comes to organic cookies and cakes, they’re still cookies and cakes!

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