The question of whether or not organic food is really actually better for you than conventional counterparts is for sure in the top 10 questions I’m asked most often.
I’ve read a variety of studies about this and consulted with many nutrition experts. The consensus? Unfortunately, there’s still some debate as to whether or not organic produce has more nutrients that conventional produce. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter.
It’s not what you are getting with organic food. It’s what you aren’t getting in your organic food.
Namely, pesticides, insecticides, added growth hormones and un-needed (and dangerous) antibiotics.
Fruits & Veggies
When it comes to fruits and veggies, I recommend buying organic whenever you can. However, if that’s not always an option don’t fret one bit–fresh fruits and veggies should still be your number one choice over canned or packaged foods. Always wash your produce thoroughly, and peel any non-organic produce. Peeling helps, but remember that pesticides actually grow into the plant as well through the roots so simply peeling the produce might not remove all of the toxins.
I always recommend that my clients get familiar with the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15”. These two lists call out the most contaminated and cleanest produce available, even after it’s been washed.
If prioritizing a budget, always buy the items listed under the Dirty Dozen organic, and go conventional with the others.
The Dirty Dozen
Buy these organic whenever possible.
- Sweet bell peppers
- Nectarines – imported
- Blueberries – domestic
Plus (also buy these organic)
- Green beans
- Kale and all other greens
The Clean 15
Lowest in pesticide residue.
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet peas
- Cantaloupe – domestic
- Sweet potatoes
You can find more information about the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 here.
Meat & Dairy
If choosing animal products, my personal rule of thumb is to only go organic–animal products have the double whammy of contamination from pesticides/insecticides on the animals’ feed (if there are pesticides in the food the animal eats, the pesticides stay in the animal, and eventually get into you if you consume products from that animal) and potential added antibiotics and growth hormones. Antibiotics that are fed to animals also end up in your body and are a nightmare for your healthy gut bacteria, while growth hormones can make your fat cells grow (they are growth hormones, after all.) Having an organic-only rule then it comes to animal products is a personal choice, but I highly recommend it. It also prevents you from over-consuming unhealthy foods that you shouldn’t be having in the first place.
And on a final note, I personally think that the reason some testing shows organic produce could have more nutrients than conventional is because the nutrient density of any plant depends on so many factors, like soil, season and farming methods (organic or not.) Organic blueberries grown in California in May might have slightly different nutrients content than organic blueberries grown in Oregon in June. Always remember, the more vibrant, colorful and flavorful produce will have the most amount of nutrients. If a tomato is pale red and has no flavor, it’s probably low in nutrients, too. This is one of the main reasons it’s so important to shop for seasonal produce. Again, I still think that organic is better–even the healthiest produce can be ruined with toxic pesticide and insecticide residue.
Happy Clean Shopping!