Organic food is big business. Busy moms often choose foods labeled organic to quickly get what they believe is the healthiest choice for their families. But is organic food better for you? The truth is, organic labels don’t mean that it’s healthier than its alternative.
In fact, researchers have found that organic foods are not any more nutritious than traditional foods. But there are still reasons to buy organic items for your family like avoiding pesticides, which can be harmful to your health. You can also help the environment, which is vastly improved by organic farming.
Let’s take a look at the organic foods you should buy and how you can spend less on your grocery bills.
What is Organic Food?
The term “organic” may be the first cause of confusion. Organic foods are grown with natural fertilizers and pesticides. They are not exposed to the same harmful chemicals as traditional foods.
Organically grown foods are produced in a way that conserves water and prevents soil erosion. Organic food is thought to better absorb water, be more drought resistant, and produce larger yields than foods that are grown in a conventional manner.
A mega benefit is that organic food growers may not use genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Many people prefer to stay away from GMOs out of fear that they can cause chronic illness and harm the soil in which they are grown.
Is Organic Food Better for You?
Organic food isn’t necessarily more vitamin or nutrient-dense than food that is grown or produced using traditional methods. In some instances, certain foods have higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, but research has not proven that the higher amounts are significant enough to make a difference.
Some fruits and vegetables may absorb more pesticides than others. Thin skinned fruits like apples, peaches, and pears may contain more pesticide than citrus fruits and bananas. Many consumers feel more at ease purchasing fresh produce that is organic, though most scientists agree that simply washing food is enough to get rid of most harmful pesticides.
One organic food that is worth purchasing is meat. Animals that are raised for their meat cannot be certified as organic if they have been given growth hormones of any kind. Scientists believe that growth hormones in meat can contribute to premature aging, cancer, and early death. No thank you.
How Can You Tell if Food is Organic?
Organic foods are labeled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Producers must pass strict guidelines in order to receive organic certification. Local farmers may sell their products as being organic, but without certification there is no way to know for certain.
Certification is not required by any producer who sells less than $5,000 per year. If you choose to purchase at a farmer’s market, you’ll be taking the seller’s word as fact.
Not all foods that bear the USDA Organic label are 100 percent organic. This is particularly true of foods that have multiple ingredients. A way to check this is to look at the product labeling. According to the Mayo Clinic, food producers may use the word “organic” even if up to 30 percent of ingredients are not.
Save Money on Your Organic Items.
According to Consumer Reports, organic food items are almost 50 percent more expensive than conventional food. This is mostly because growing and producing organic food comes at a higher cost for producers. But there are ways to lower the cost of your groceries.
The most obvious method is to grow your food yourself. Even if space is limited, you can grow small vegetables in a container on your back porch. Window sills are ideal for growing herbs. If you have yard space, you can grow nearly anything with time and patience.
Another option is to limit the amount of organic food you buy. For instance, it is unnecessary to buy organic produce that has a thick outer shell or peel. Many moms prefer to purchase organic milk, but spending an extra dollar or more per gallon does very little to help a family be healthier. In fact, when transported, organic milk can be shipped in the same unwashed containers as conventional milk. This exposes the organic milk to all of the same components as traditional milk.
Lastly, avoid those foods that are marketed to the health-food crowd without proper certification.
Terms like “all-natural” and “free-range” are not regulated by any government body. Food producers often use these terms to justify raising prices, but they are not made to prove that their products are what they say.
In the end, organic food isn’t proven to be the healthiest choice for the human body. This may come as a surprise, but it can save the average household a great deal on their grocery budget. If you feel better purchasing organic foods, you can continue to do so. But remember to always check labels to make sure what you’re getting is indeed, organic.
Are you an organic shopper? I’d love to hear your experiences with organic foods.