Should you buy organic, and is it really better? Learn about the potential benefits of organic food and what to look for when grocery shopping
When it comes to food, you now have more choices than ever. Should you buy organic?
The organic food market has flourished significantly over the last few decades. This multibillion-dollar industry lures many due to its distinct production, processing, distribution, and retail systems. And the demand far exceeds supply, which may be the reason organic food is so expensive. But is it worth the extra cost?
Although the advocates swear by the benefits, claiming that organic food is safer, tastier, and better for your health, many experts suggest that there isn’t enough concrete evidence to support these claims.
In addition, one of the main proposed advantages of organic food is the absence of chemicals, but nutritionally, organic and nonorganic food is about the same. And in some cases, conventional or locally grown produce may be both fresher and more affordable than organic products procured from far away.
Despite the fact that there is not enough substantial data to reach a definitive conclusion about whether organic food is better for you, research so far suggests that organic food does have potential advantages.
What are the potential benefits of organic food?
Potential benefits of organic food include:
- Reduced risk of chemical exposure (including pesticides, insecticides, weedicides, and fungicides)
- Free of artificial preservatives, colors, or flavoring agents
- Free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- May provide more micronutrients (such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) than nonorganic foods
- Good for the environment because they do not contribute to polluting the soil, water, and air
- Free of irradiated foods (foods exposed to harmful radiations)
- May reduce the likelihood of getting certain cancers
What qualifies as organic food?
The term organic food refers to an overall system of farm management and food production. which aim for sustainable agriculture, high-quality products, and the use of processes that do not harm the environment. Organic foods are certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and are grown and processed in compliance with federal guidelines regarding soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and the use of additives. If the food meets the criteria established by USDA, it is granted a USDA seal that can be seen on the packaging.
Organic produce is grown on soil that has had no prohibited substances (such as chemical pesticides, fertilizers, or weedicides) for 3 years before harvest. If a synthetic substance is used at all, it needs approval according to criteria that examine its effects on the environment and human health.
Organic meat and poultry
Organic meat and poultry are derived from animals raised in living conditions that accommodate their natural behaviors. The animals may be allowed to graze on pasture, fed 100% organic feed, and are not administered antibiotics or hormones.
All-natural foods are not necessarily organic, since they must meet the USDA requirements in order to be classified as such. All-natural simply means the food does not have any artificial additives or ingredients. Similarly, the terms free-range, antibiotic-free, or hormone-free do not mean the food is organic.
Medically Reviewed on 7/29/2021
Only Organic. 15 Reasons to Eat Organic. https://www.onlyorganic.org/15-reasons-to-eat-organic/
Organic 101: What Organic Farming (and Processing) Doesn’t Allow. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2011/12/16/organic-101-what-organic-farming-and-processing-doesnt-allow