As we move into the weekend, many people will go to the grocery store to buy their groceries. For more and more people, the trend seems to be to buy organic. More grocery stores are now catering to the organic buyer.
Organic is fresh and contains no preservatives, but the downside is that it is most often more expensive and sometimes even 2 to 3 times as much as the packaged food. So, the question becomes, is it worth buying organic?
Alex Mroszczyk-McDonald, of First Endurance, has written a great article on the pros and cons of Organic Food. Check out his article below and if you have any questions, feel free to email Jamie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Is it Worth Buying Organic? By Alex Mroszczyk-McDonald with support from (Patricia Rosen MD)
We all know the old saying "You are what you eat." Possibly no group is more aware of what they put into their bodies than athletes. Who are constantly breaking down and then rebuilding muscle, powered predominantly by what they eat. Athletes are well aware of the fat, carbohydrates, protein, sodium, and the plethora of other ingredients in their grocery bags. Some athletes even spend 1.5 to 2.5 more on their monthly grocery bill to purchase organic food, but is the extra cost worth it? The demand for organic foods has grown by 20% annually over the last several years. Many cite the health benefits as well as environmental responsibility they perceive in buying organic. This raises the question, what exactly does it mean to buy and eat "organic" and does it make a difference? The US Department of Agriculture defines organic as "food that is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.
Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown as well as companies that handle or process organic food, to make sure all parties are following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards". To make informed decisions consumers must also be aware of the different labels that foods receive. A label reading "100% Organic" means the entire product must be produced from organic ingredients. "Organic" means that 95% of the product is produced from organic ingredients. "Made with Organic Ingredients" labeling requires that only 70% of the ingredients are organic. "Natural" or "All Natural" does NOT mean organic, and there is no standard definition for this term, any company can use this term at their own discretion. There has been some controversy over the general definitions of organic food and potential health benefits.
Some claim that the criteria to receive an “organic” label are too lax. There have also been numerous conflicting studies attempting to determine the micronutrient difference in organic versus conventionally grown food. There is clear evidence to show that some organic foods contain fewer pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics that could potentially have harmful health affects. Pesticide levels are monitored by the USDA, however, toxic levels have caused illness in the past and continue to present a small risk. Exposure to antibiotics found in meat and poultry have the potential to select for resistant bacteria within people and may complicate medical treatment should we need medicine that is no longer affective due to the antibiotics in our meal. Growth hormones in cattle and other animals are suspected of causing an increased risk of some types of cancer.
There are many questions remaining on this topic and more research is needed, however, studies so far do not provide clear evidence to state that hormone residue in meat or dairy products directly cause negative human health effects. Of note it is important to distinguish between hormones given to animals to encourage growth and naturally occurring hormone-like substances found in legumes and other vegetables which have health benefits. Most nutrition experts are convinced of the health benefits of organic farming for reasons described below. Due to the many unanswered questions surrounding organic foods, some nutritionists claim that the differences between eating organic versus conventional foods are negligible; while others claim that eating an organic diet is greater than the sum of its parts and the benefits accumulate over time.
Buying "organic" also has social, economic and environmental benefits. Organic farms are usually more aware of the ecosystems around them and operate using renewable and sustained agriculture methods. Most are very conscious of water and soil resource management, such as rotating crops and the local affects of water run off. Soil quality in particular is a major focus of organic farming of which many people are not aware. Many claim that chemicals applied to fields disturb the natural microbiotic activity of soil which constantly breaks down organic matter and solid minerals into nutrient form a plant can then use. In theory an organically grown apple tree will be healthier throughout its lifespan than a conventionally grown apple tree. As a result, the organically grown plant will be able to add more complex components to all of its parts, including the fruit, resulting in an apple chock-full of micro-nutrients and trace minerals that are important for human nutrition.
Organic products have a shorter shelf life, due to the lack of preservatives and pesticides, and as a result are often sold at local stores and markets, as a result, buying organic often helps to support the local economy. Lastly many proponents of organic produce enjoy the opportunity to meet the people who grow their food at local markets or even at the local farm, helping to create a better understanding of farming, natural resources and the process of agriculture. Consumer reports have conducted studies predominantly on the pesticide levels of many organic versus conventional foods. The results they found can help steer your organic purchases. Due to the higher levels of residual pesticides found in the following foods it is recommended to buy organic apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, raspberries, spinach, strawberries, meat and poultry. Other items such as asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, kiwi, mangoes, onions, papayas, pineapples, sweet peas breads and pastas are rarely tainted with pesticides, thus there is minimal potential benefit from buying these organic foods. Lastly, there are no clear definitions for organic labeling on seafood therefore it is not suggested to buy organic seafood. If you choose not to purchase organically grown food there are ways to reduce pesticides on conventional food; buy local vegetables and fruits while they are in season. Fewer pesticides are used when food is not stored for long periods of time or shipped long distances. Peel and cook produce when appropriate, even though some nutrients and fiber are lost in the process. Trim the tops and the very outer portions of celery, lettuce, cabbages, and other leafy vegetables that may contain the bulk of pesticide residues. Wash produce in clean water just before cooking or serving and scrub with a brush if appropriate. Special soaps or washes are not beneficial, cold water is ideal. Lastly trim as much fat and skin from poultry, meat, and fish as possible where some pesticides may concentrate.
So is it worth the extra expense to purchase organic food? I believe that the fewer additives and chemicals we put into our bodies the better. As a result I recommend to my athletes, if it is financially reasonable (and they have not spend their life savings on that new bike), buying certain organic foods have positive health and environmental benefits."