I have recently heard from several places that organic foods have significantly more nutrients and are a lot better for you than non-organic foods of the same variety. Is this true? Do you think it's worth paying a higher price for organic?

The word “organic” means that the food was produced without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, bioengineering, ionizing radiation or food additives. Organic farmers use crop rotations, residues, animal manures, and aspects of biological pest control to make the food more “safe”. As consumers have become more interested in the prevention of disease and healthy eating, they have begun to use more organic foods, which has greatly increased its retail sale.

A few research studies do suggest that organic fruits and vegetables can be higher in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than conventionally grown foods. However, numerous factors need to be taken into account. How long food has been stored, variable growing conditions, and how the food is prepared greatly affect the amount of nutrients available. So, if organic foods do contain a slightly higher nutrient content, it is difficult to demonstrate just how this would equate into a demonstrable health benefit. In addition,

Scientists have also noted that, while organic foods contain less agrochemical residues than conventionally grown foods, the significance of this difference is questionable (Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2006). Presently we do not have good research that demonstrates that trace amounts of pesticides found on vegetables and fruits are linked with cancer or other diseases; however, what we do know is that eating high amounts of fruits and vegetables (organic or conventional) decreases risk many diseases including cancer.

So, bottom line? Eating a diet rich fruits and vegetables will reduce risk of disease. If buying organic fits into your budget, by all means purchase these food items. However, if the monetary cost is too great, please buy fruits and vegetables, no matter how they are grown.

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