Is Organic Healthier or Not?
You may have read headlines recently exclaiming, “Organic Food is Not Healthier Than Conventional.” My first thought? Great! Now I don’t have to stand for five minutes in the grocery store, looking back and forth between the organic and conventional apples, wondering if I’m doing myself a disservice if I choose the latter (trust me. You don’t want to go grocery shopping with me. It can take hours!) But wait a minute. There’s a subtext to those headlines.
What’s fueled this most recent fire is research from Stanford University, which, after reviewing 237 studies on conventional versus organic produce and animal products, found little significant difference between the vitamin content of the two types of produce, and also no significant difference in the amount of protein and fat of the two types of milk (aside from omega-3s, which may be slightly higher in organic). They did, however, find that organic produce had 30 percent lower risk of containing pesticides—but that’s not to say that organic has no pesticides, and furthermore, conventional produce fell within the allowable limit for pesticides. They also found that eating organic chicken and pork may reduce your exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria—but they follow that with, “the clinical significance of this is unclear.” Confused yet? Me too. Then there are environmental factors and animal rights, which is a whole other can of worms that I won’t go into right now, but is certainly a factor in some decisions to eat organic.
In my past research on organic, the consensus seems to be if you’re going to eat conventional or nothing, then please, choose conventional, as long as you’re eating fruits and vegetables. I myself am a waffler. Sometimes I buy organic, other times I buy conventional. It all depends on my mood, how much I want to spend, which looks fresher and tastier, and whether I’ve just written a blog post about the pros and cons of organic. The fact is, there haven’t been any long-term or conclusive studies on this to date (that I’m aware of), and until there are, we can argue over this until the grass-fed cows come home. So now I haven’t really answered the question that tops this post, but I have laid out some evidence, which I hope will help you the next time you’re in the grocery store. Choose what you feel is right for you and your family, but do put low-fat milk, lean chicken, and fruits and vegetables in your cart—there’s mountains of research showing those are healthy. And if you happen to be in Queens, New York anytime soon, say hi to me. I’ll be the one reading every nutrition label on the shelf.
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