More than fifteen years ago, I picked up a bunch of organic spinach because the non-organic (and cheaper) option was out of stock. That spinach tasted so good that even my then six-year-old son noticed that the saag-paneer, an Indian spinach & cottage cheese dish, tasted better. My local grocery store had a small section dedicated to organic produce as buying organic at the time was not very popular. But it had arrived in my kitchen. Later, as a food/beverage analyst I witnessed the organic food trend come out of trenches and become mainstream. So here is the million dollar question: Is organic produce healthier? Tastier? Is it really worth the extra expense? To unravels the mystery, read on the reasons to choose organic.
1. Avoid pesticides in food
The scientific community remains divided on whether organic produce contains higher amount of nutrients than the conventional (non-organic) type. However, most agree that the conventional produce retains more pesticide residue compared to organic. According to a report by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), in the United Kingdom (UK) 60% of the non-organic produce (fruits and vegetables) contains pesticide residue compared to almost none for organic. Even though many regulatory organizations maintain safety limits for pesticide in food and tout it safe for human consumption, a few individuals and organizations have taken the counter viewpoint. Dr. Sandra Steingraber in her book Living Downstream: An Ecologist's Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment, establishes a link between our exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment including food and cancer.
2. Organic produce tastes better
If I had to choose only one reason to pick organic, I would pick taste, especially in root vegetables and greens. According to The Organic Center , some 43% of all consumers who buy organic food do so for taste. Often it is difficult to discern the taste difference when using organic produce sporadically. However, if you choose an organic fruit or vegetable over 90% of the time, you are more likely to notice the difference and unlikely to go back to the non-organic version. Give it a try with potatoes for a month, one of the crops with the highest amount of pesticide residue.
3. Choose organic to get higher nutrition
The jury (scientists in this case) appear to be divided on their opinion on organic produce being healthier than non-organic. However, a 2014 study--based on the meta-analysis of 343 peer-reviewed publications, published in the British Journal of Nutrition , suggests that the organic produce due to the differences in the crop production methods indeed contains higher amounts of antioxidants--the health-enhancing nutrients in plant-based food--compared to the conventional type.
4. Avoid genetically modified food
In the U.S., buying organic automatically helps prevent buying food with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). I am not an authority and part of the GMOs Vs. Non-GMOs debate, but so far I have excluded it from my food.
Resources and recommendation
- The Organic Center: a non-profit organization that strives for secure and sustainable food system that promotes human health and the environment.
Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses
Baranski, Marcin; Srednicka-Tober, Dominika; Volakakis, Nikolaos; Seal, Chris; Sanderson, Roy; et al. The British Journal of Nutrition; Cambridge Vol. 112, Iss. 5, (Sep 14, 2014): 794-811.