Good nutrition is a fairly simple matter and should be considered on a large-perspective basis - what I call "whole forest" view. Often the small detail questions confuse and distract us from that big picture - just as focusing on a single tree prevents us from seeing the forest. Whether or not to buy organic is one of those "tree" type nutrition questions. The big-picture is that good nutrition is achievable whether you purchase organic or not. The key is variety, and balance. But still, it is a hot topic and some are agonizing in the supermarket over this question, so here's some illumination.
Definition the term organic:
- For animal products: no antibiotis or growth hormones, organic feed no medications except vaccinations or to treat a specific illness.
- For plants: only natural pesticides and fertilizers, (as opposed to synthetic).
- 100% USDA certified organic products must be made with 100% organic ingredients and may display the USDA Organic Seal.
- Organic products must be made with at least 95% organic ingredients and may wear the USDA Organic Seal.
Is organic produce more nutritious?
Not necessarily. The studies provide mixed results so there is currently no clear winner nutritionally. Where your produce is grown is probably a better indicator of nutritional quality since nutrients in soil play a big role in how much of certain nutrients are in the produce.
If I choose to buy organic, which produce should I buy?
Apples, peaches, celery, strawberries, spinach and white potatoes have higher levels of synthetic pesticides (things with edible peels). Don’t worry about buying organic bananas, mangoes, cabbage or kiwi when you peel off the outside layers.
What about milk?
A very small percentage of milk producers use synthetic growth hormone on their cows. Many grocery store chains no longer carry milk treated with synthetic hormones.
Nutritionally, it’s not worth the price.
What about meat and eggs?
Source and handling are probably going to offer more protection since foodborne illness is a bigger risk in this food category. If you want to choose grass-fed beef, it has a better nutrition profile – lower in saturated fat and higher in good fats, but the best option would be to buy local – such as purchasing a quarter beef from a local farmer. With eggs, the best option is to buy locally from a known source.
- Balance your priorities with your budget available. Eating more produce and a larger variety overall is more healthful and protective than buying less produce that is organic and more expensive.
- Ask your grocer when the produce deliveries are and time your shopping for maximum freshness and quality.
- Know where your meat comes from.
- Wash all produce well under running water.