Should you spend the extra money to buy organic? If you don’t have time to read this full article, the short answer is YES. For both your health and the health of the environment, it's a small price to pay. If you want to know exactly why, keep reading.
Somewhat surprisingly, I still get this question quite often. Then I did some investigating and realized organic isn’t nearly as prevalent as I thought. According to the USDA, organic sales only account for around 4% of total U.S food sales (1).
Here’s why I want to see those numbers much much higher...
Organic food is more nutritious:
In a meta-analysis of 343 peer reviewed publications a statistically significant difference in the levels of vitamins and nutrients between organic and non-organic crops was found (2). Most notably the concentration of antioxidants was significantly higher in organic foods. Antioxidants combat chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases and cancers. A huge amount of americans suffer from these chronic degenerative diseases!
Organic food has less pesticides:
The same study mentioned above found that pesticide residues were four times higher in conventional crops. Why care? Pesticides have been linked to cancer (3), birth defects, ADHD (4), other inflammatory conditions and may cause infertility (5).
Organic food has less heavy metals:
The same study also found on average 48% less Cadmium, a heavy metal, in organic food. Cadmium accumulates in the human body, especially in the kidneys and liver. Cadmium has been classified as a category 1 carcinogen and has been linked to a wide variety of diseases from obesity and thyroid disorders to depression.
Your social responsibility:
Sure there are some cases in which the food is generally low in pesticide residue and the nutritional gain may be marginal when compared to the increased cost, should you still buy organic in these cases? If you can afford it, you should.
Organic doesn’t only mean healthier foods for those consuming it, it also means a healthier environment. It means less pesticides, antibiotics and heavy metals released into the environment polluting our water supply, air and soil. It means less green house gases and therefore less climate change. It means more conscious and sustainable farming practices leaving our children and grandchildren with nutritious soil and a less toxic environment (6,7).
There was a study conducted in 2005 that found 287 industrial chemicals in the cord blood of newborns (8). Of these, 21 were pesticides. Once pesticides are released into the environment they can persist for decades. These numbers are frightening.
If you can afford to, choose organic whenever possible. This means organic food, organic household cleansers, organic beauty products, organic tampons, organic cotton bedding and clothes, etc.
If you can’t afford to buy all organic all the time, I completely understand. To help you navigate when it’s most important and when you don’t have to worry as much, the Environmental Working Group releases a super handy resource "Clean Fifteen” and "Dirty Dozen” to help decipher. It’s essentially a list that categorizes produce that are the most pesticide laden and most important to buy organic (dirty dozen) and which are the least pesticide laden and safest to buy conventional (clean fifteen). They repeat testing and update the list every year.
Peace, love, and produce...