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Many people wonder whether buying organic food is worth the additional cost, and whether it is healthier to eat organic. The answer is still unclear, but recent research may shed light on whether it is worth spending the extra dollars.
Let’s first define the word “organic”. The Mayo Clinic defines it as the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution while using natural fertilizers and pesticides instead of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that can be absorbed into our food. So, right off the bat, we know that organic foods are at least better for the environment.
The research shows that choosing organic food products can help lower your exposure to pesticides and may contain higher amounts of certain nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids which have been proven to reduce cardiovascular disease and improve brain function. What’s more, animals that were raised on organic farms may incorporate the health benefits into eggs, milk, and the meat that was harvested. Another study found that organic vegetables and fruits contained higher concentrations of antioxidants which have been proven to prevent disease, protect our organs, boost the immune system, and improve memory and mood.
But is it a substantial amount? Is it worth the extra cash you’re spending? If your family is on a budget, which many are, then the cost of buying organic may not be worth the small health benefits that have been reported. While research is definitive that organic foods contain fewer pesticides, it is not as clear on whether organic meat and dairy products contain more nutrients. The nutrition label from a jar of major label creamy peanut butter and a jar of organic peanut butter are nearly identical with only a 10 calorie, 1 gram of fat, and 1 carbohydrate of a difference. The cost difference is about three to four dollars – which can add up fast!
Organic food products often cost more because the farming practices used to grow or raise them are more expensive. Organic foods also might not last as long, even when refrigerated, because they are not treated with waxes or preservatives to extend their freshness. They do not contain additives such as artificial sweeteners.
Avoiding pesticides is recommended by many health experts because they may increase your risk for certain types of cancer, and have been linked with birth defects, obesity, and possibly autism.
But what about foods labeled all-natural or hormone-free with organic foods? Do not confuse these with organic foods; to earn the label “organic” the food must be evaluated by the USDA. Items that equal or exceed 95 percent organically grown will be labeled with the USDA organic seal. There are many variations and ratios of organic to GMO foods used in products so make sure you educate yourself on what you’re looking to buy and how to read labels properly.