Health & Wellness

The Truth About Organic Food

10.16.13 blueberries and strawberries in a bowl.

Let’s face it. Who hasn’t jumped on the organic food bandwagon – at least for a short period of time?  About 70 percent of Americans buy organic food occasionally, and nearly one quarter buy it every week, according to market research firm the Hartman Group.  The organic and natural food trend began booming in the early 90s.  And although organic foods at one time could be found only in health food stores, organic is now a staple at most supermarkets.  The rise in sales of organic foods and beverages has been dramatic – from $1 billion in 1990 to $26 billion in 2013. But buying organic can cost us — as much as 50 percent more.  Cotton Candy is here to help you determine whether organic is worth the splurge.

What is organic food, anyway?

All organic foods must meet strict government standards. These standards regulate how organic foods are grown, handled and processed.  Crops are generally grown without synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, irradiation (a form of radiation used to kill bacteria), or biotechnology. Animals eat organically grown feed and are raised without antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones.  Products that are completely organic — such as fruits, vegetables, eggs or other single-ingredient foods — are labeled 100 percent organic and can carry the United States Department of Agriculture seal. Products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients, for examples cereals, may say “made with organic ingredients” on the label, but may not use the USDA seal.

Is organic food better?

This is the million dollar question.  To be honest, the answer isn’t yet clear.  Research shows that organically and conventional (nonorganic) foods have comparable nutrient content.  But there are other things to consider when determining whether to buy organic.  If you choose to buy organic foods, you will not have to worry about pesticides or additives, and you can feel good about the potentially positive effects on the environment.  And many people simply prefer the taste of organic foods.

Is organic food worth the money?

Our health editors at Cotton Candy say yes, if you can afford it.  Not simply for the health and environmental effects.  Buying organic can mean supporting your local economy.  Much of the organic produce carried in your neighborhood grocery stores are grown by local farmers.  Shopping at farmer’s markets is also a great way to get organic foods and is a fun experience.  Many times, prices are more reasonable than at a glitzy supermarket.  We will warn you organic fruits and vegetables can spoil faster since they aren’t treated with waxes or preservatives. And some organic produce may look less than perfect with odd shapes, varying colors or smaller sizes.  But, organic foods must meet the same quality and safety standards as conventional foods.

Just remember, whether you decide to go all organic or choose to mix it up, select a variety of foods from several sources.  This habit will lessen the chance of constant exposure to one particular pesticide.  Buy fruits and vegetables in season, and read food labels carefully. And always remember to wash fresh fruits and vegetables to remove dirt, bacteria and traces of chemicals.

Cotton Candy Magazine®