Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Organic Foods - More or Less for Your Money?

Organic Food Sign
When you see signs for organic food and a grocery section devoted entirely to organic foods that are priced higher than your average food store item, you wonder if maybe organic foods have better nutritional value. But if you review the research that has been published on both types of foods, it seems that the higher price of organic foods has nothing to do with nutritional content.



Over the years there have been debates over organic vs non-organic foods. With creative marketing strategies and increased media attention, organic foods have caught the attention of many natural health searchers (like myself).

Organic Food Sign
In fact, The Food Standards Agency in the UK released an independent review which states: There is little difference in nutritional value and no evidence of any extra health benefits from eating organic produce. The Soil Association, which is the UK's leading organic association, has criticized the report and demands that more research be done before making such conclusion.

Organic
So how do you choose between organic and non-organic when you see two identical items in the grocery store, one labeled organic and the other not labeled so, and one costing more than the other? Well, unless cost is your major deciding factor, then you have to know what makes one item considered organic and what makes the other not. Basically the difference has to do with the way the produce was grown.

Conventionally grown produce may be farmed in conditions where they are exposed to chemical herbicides to control weeds, insecticides to reduce pests and disease, and chemical fertilizers to increase growth and production. Organic produce, on the other hand, are grown in conditions which conserve soil and water, use natural fertilizer such as manure or compost to feed the soil, and will use more tedious processes of tilling and crop rotation to prevent or control weeds (which leads to the higher cost of organically grown foods).

But back to nutritional value, even the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER) reports that "No conclusive evidence shows that organic food is more nutritious than is conventionally grown food. And the USDA — even though it certifies organic food — doesn't claim that these products are safer or more nutritious." In other words, the choice is up to the consumer. If the method of production is of great importance to you, select organic foods. If not, you can choose either one. And if cost is a factor, perhaps you're better off buying conventionally grown produce (which is normally less expensive).

Either way, you should always practice safe food handling with any produce, whether it is organically grown or conventionally grown. That means, buy fruits and vegetables in season to ensure the best taste and quality, wash them thoroughly before consumption, and remove peels or outer coverings to be sure you're not consuming any dirt or chemical or non-chemical pesticides.

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