Organic vs. conventional food: which is better?
This question of whether or not organic foods are healthier than non-organic foods is an ongoing topic of debate in research. The research available on this topic tells us organic fruit and vegetables generally are higher in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other healthy nutrients when compared with conventional produce. Studies have also shown organic fruit and vegetables have higher levels of vitamins C and E, iron, magnesium, carotenes and some polyphenols.
People choose to ‘go organic’ for a variety of reasons, including:
• Desire to limit their exposure to food additives or pesticides;
• To be more environmentally conscious;
• Belief that organic foods are healthier than conventionally grown foods.
Because organic farming is a much more time- and labor-intensive than conventional farming, organic products tend to be more expensive than their conventionally grown counterparts. If you want to purchase more organic products but do not have an endless budget, consider purchasing produce from the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list. The Dirty Dozen are the 12 fruits/vegetables that generally have the highest pesticide content:
• grapes (imported)
• nectarines (imported)
• sweet bell peppers
• blueberries (domestic)
• kale/collard greens
In opposition lies the ‘Clean Fifteen’, which, as you can imagine, are the fifteen produce sources with the lowest pesticide content. Produce making the ‘Clean Fifteen’ list are:
• cantaloupe (domestic)
• sweet potatoes
• sweet corn
• sweet peas
Hundreds of research studies show that the more fruit and vegetables a person eats, the lower his or her risk of cancer and other diseases. These studies have been conducted on the general population, most of whom eat conventional produce. If the harm of the pesticides outweighed the benefits of these foods, we would not see the consistent protective effects of eating these fruits and vegetables.
The biggest take away from this is to incorporate organically grown produce as you are able, but remember that the total number of fruit/vegetable servings outweighs the method of farming used to grow these products. The most important part about the organic vs. conventional debate is the need to actually increase fruit and vegetable intake. To reduce your risk for developing cancer, experts recommend consuming 8-10 servings per day.