To Buy Organic or Not to Buy Organic
That is the question and an on-going debate for grocery shoppers everywhere. While grocery shopping, you have likely noticed the “organic” option of a food item you’re purchasing, that looks relatively the same, but has a slightly higher price tag. In this moment, are you (like so many of us) unsure which option to buy? Here is a little more information about organic vs. conventional foods that may help you decide if you are really getting the bang for your buck!
What makes a food organic? The USDA has developed strict guidelines for organic certification relating to how the food is grown, processed and handled. Certified organic foods are produced without using conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or antibiotics for livestock.
Is it safer for the environment? Organic farming practices such as lack of pesticides, composting and crop rotation help to reduce pollutants and enhance soil and water quality. They also allow natural livestock behavior like access to the outdoors and healthy living conditions. These practices are more environmentally friendly than conventional farming practices and help promote sustainability.
Is it safer for me? Eating organic foods has been shown to decrease exposure to pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria by about 30% when compared to consumption of conventional foods. Additionally, amounts of cadmium, a toxic metal naturally produced in the soil, have been found to exist at lower levels in organically grown grains. However, amounts of cadmium are about the same in organic and conventional produce.
Is it healthier than non-organic foods? The nutrient content of conventional vs. organic foods is not vastly different. There is some evidence that levels of antioxidants in organically produced foods are higher than conventionally produced foods. Additionally, higher omega-3 fatty acid content has been found in organic meat, eggs and dairy when compared to conventional options.
Okay, so how do I know if a food is organic? Foods that are 100% organic will have a “USDA Organic” seal on the label. You may also see “100% Organic” on single-ingredient foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables. The word “Organic” on a food label indicates that at least 95% of the ingredients are organic, while the phrase “Organic Ingredients” would indicate less than 70% of ingredients are organic.
Bottom line: While there are some environmental and physical health benefits related to consuming organic foods, it can be costly too, so there is no need to change your diet to 100% organic today. You may start by purchasing the organic options of the foods you and your family eat most often. Either way, whether you choose to eat organic foods or not, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains will provide a variety of nutrients and antioxidants that are beneficial for your health.
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