In this entry of “Nutrition Myths,” I examine three characteristics that seems to dominate every food label out their: Genetically Modified Organisms, Grass-Fed Animals, and Organic. I’m here to examine the benefits or lack of benefits that these terms carry with them.
Recently, I was in Trader Joe’s looking to buy frozen strawberries for my morning smoothie. I had two options: organic strawberries and non-organic strawberries. Simple choice right: organic. Obviously they are healthier. Right?
I couldn’t warrant paying $2.69 instead of $1.99 for the non-organic counterpart. Especially when I was buying 4 bags: $10.76 vs. $7.96.
Is organic really worth the increase in price? Let’s find out.
Organic vs. Non-Organic Foods
Lets get this straight first:
Organic is a different method of production, not an inherent nutritional advantage
Organic foods do not have more nutritious value, that is they don’t include higher levels of vitamins and minerals on average. However, organic foods can definitely protect you against potentially harmful synthetic chemicals and additives.
To be labeled “certified organic, the item must have an ingredients list and the contents should be 95% or more certified organic, meaning free of synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes, and must not be processed using industrial solvents, irradiation, or genetic engineering, according to the USDA. The remaining 5% may only be foods or processed with additives on an approved list”(Source). Similarly, different levels of “organic” are required to include a certain amount of these
There are 3 types of organic labels:
Synthetic additives every chemical that has been made by humans to increase yields, decreased crop mortality rate, increased growth rate etc. These have shown to be harmful in some cases, and avoiding them can only help you.
These three levels of organic foods create a possible slip up point for the consumer since they might not exactly know the difference, and they could fall for “made with organic” as meaning “100% organic.” For this reason, some argue that organic has become more of a marketing scheme than an actual regulation.
Additionally, the penalty for not following these guidelines is a measly $11,000, relative pennies compared to the millions of dollars in revenue of most large food producers.
Is organic a marketing scheme after all?
- Organic farming has been proven to have less negative environmental impact compared to conventional farming methods
- Organic items contain fewer and safer pesticides than conventional items
- By decreasing the amount of pesticides and antibiotics in use at the factories, the workers are safer and live healthier lives
- Organic foods do not have more nutritious value, that is they don’t include higher levels of vitamins and minerals on average
- There are different levels of organic foods, so ensure that you are choosing the right one for your needs
- They come at a premium price
Buy organic if you are doing it for human rights and environmental purposes since those are truly impacted by organic items. However, there is no added nutritional value in organic items despite the widespread myth that there is.
The lack of harmful pesticides and additives most likely improves the longevity of our lives and for this reason I would recommend buying organic if you can afford it.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Take my advice at your own risk.