Is Organic Food Worth the Cost?
As organic food starts to take up more space on supermarket shelves, you may be wondering what the fuss is about. Is it really healthier and more nutritious? What does the organic label mean? The answers can help you decide if going organic is right for you.
Q: How is organic food different from nonorganic food?
A: Farmers grow and process organic food in specific ways. If they raise produce and livestock organically, for instance, they don’t use chemicals for feeding, fertilizing, weed control, or disease prevention.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has strict standards for foods labeled organic. For example, the standards bar organic farmers’ use of sewage sludge, ionizing radiation, and genetic engineering. Animals can’t have antibiotics or growth hormones if they’re sources of organic poultry, eggs, dairy products, or meat.
The USDA has approved three organic labels:
- 100 Percent Organic—every ingredient is certified organic
- Organic—at least 95% of the ingredients are certified organic
- Made with Organic Ingredients—at least 70% of the ingredients are certified organic
The term natural on food labels has no legal meaning and isn’t the same as organic.
Q: Is organic food more nutritious and healthier?
A: The evidence is unclear. Some studies suggest organically grown foods may contain more omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants than conventionally grown crops. However, there’s still not enough data to know if eating organic foods leads to a higher intake of nutrients or affects human health.
Q: How do I get the most bang for my buck?
A: Organic foods tend to be more expensive than conventional foods. You can limit costs by:
- Shopping at a farmers market
- Joining a local community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, where you can purchase “shares” of produce
- Buying produce in season
- Comparing organic food prices at different stores (even big box stores)
Whether you go organic or not, your diet should include a variety of fresh produce, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and lean protein foods.
Recipe for Health
You’ve picked your produce, shopped the sales … now what? Visit our “Eating Well” page for fun and creative recipes to cook up something delicious in the kitchen!