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To buy or not to buy: Organic or Conventional Foods?

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The demand for organic foods has increased exponentially in recent years. Many consumers believe that organic is the way to go to improve and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Current scientific evidence slightly disagrees with that notion. Organically grown and processed foods are a safer and more natural alternative to the traditional methods of agriculture. However, everyone should know the cold, hard facts prior to making that purchase decision.

Organic farming methods are designed to conserve water, preserve soil, and reduce environmental pollution. These methods apply to agricultural products, namely dairy products, grains, fruits, vegetables, and meats. Conventional farming practices use chemicals, pesticides, and antibiotics to grow and protect crops. Pesticides tend to leave residue on the skin of produce. Organic farming practices apply natural fertilizers and even allow farm animals to roam freely and house them in clean areas.

Organic products must be certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA Organic label that appears on product packaging ensures the product was processed according to strict national standards that restrict the amounts of chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics used in production.

Are organic foods really more nutritious than traditionally processed foods? Sadly, the current answer to that question is a big, fat NO. Some experts have found that the nutritional content in organic foods is similar to that of conventionally processed foods. There are some small differences, such as higher phosphorous levels and higher omega-3 fatty acid levels in some organic foods. It isn’t enough to give organic a nutritional advantage over conventional.

Cost is perhaps the chief factor that scares consumers away from purchasing organic products. Organic foods are more expensive than their conventional colleagues, mainly because of the use of more expensive and labor-intensive farming methods. Expect to pay anywhere from 50-100% more for organic foods. Experts suggest buying organic produce as it contains at least 30% lower pesticide residues than conventional produce. Most importantly, if you can afford to purchase organic, please do so.

Every year, a nonprofit organization called the Environmental Working Group releases its ‘dirty dozen’ list. These are the 12 fruits and vegetables that are known to have the most pesticide residue on them. They also list fruits and vegetables that are least contaminated with pesticides.

Whether you buy organic or not, it is a good idea to wash produce to remove traces of chemicals and bacteria present on the outer skin.

As of right now, organic foods are not nutritionally superior to conventional foods. When you buy organic you are contributing to environmental conservation and investing in your health.

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References:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/organic-food/art-20043880
http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/organic-food-no-more-nutritious-than-...
http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/organic-food-is-natural-worth...

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