Is Organic food worth the expense?
Delicious, nutritious, and full of color ...
When it comes to food, there is nothing I love more than a colorful fruit (or vegetable) platter on a summer's day. Especially because they nourish my family, and satisfy their appetites.
As parents, we want to give our family the best we can. I know a lot of parents purchase Toddlekind’s play mats for this reason.
Toddlekind has strict safety measures in place, and conducts frequent testing throughout the year to ensure your peace of mind that toxins and chemicals are either as low as possible, or don’t exist at all. But that’s a conversation for another day. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to read a blog about it.
But when it comes to food, what is the best option? Is organic food worth the expense?
What makes something organic?
Organic produce is grown without man-made influences - synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, bioengineering, and genetically modified organisms to name a few.
If you see something labeled organic, it must be certified or traceable by the supplier.
Reasons to buy organic
Like most things, consumers have their reasons for making a purchase. When it comes to buying organic the three main reasons include:
- the belief organic food is healthier
- organic food tastes superior, and
- growing organic food is better for the environment (because people believe organic farming methods are more sustainable)
Why is organic food more expensive?
The short answer … farming methods. I don’t know enough about organic farming methods to have an opinion, but I do know:
- a farm must be 100% organic to grow organic food, and this isn’t cheap to achieve,
- supply is limited compared to demand, which pushes up the prices and
- production costs are much higher than conventional farming because it uses more labor-intensive methods of weed and pest control.
I buy organic produce because I genuinely believe it tastes better. Also, I believe it is healthier for my family, even if scientists tell me that pesticide traces on conventionally grown food is minuscule.
Food grown organically is tastier, healthier and more nutritious …
There is a show on BBC television called “Trust Me I’m a Doctor”. In one episode, the team of doctors asked; is organic food worth spending money on?
The doctors ran an informal taste test in a UK market town, and offered organic and non-organic equivalents of carrots, apples, and tomatoes from one supplier. They found that more people preferred the organic apples and tomatoes, but surprisingly preferred the non-organic carrots!
This response shocked me because the organic carrots we buy are sweeter compared to their much cheaper counterparts which lack taste, and are watery. This just goes to show that what everybody likes is different.
This somewhat casual testing process in a market square seems to support the argument that non-organic food is not always a million miles behind organic food in terms of taste.
Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen
For some people buying organic is an ethical and environmental choice. Organic food uses fewer pesticides and less intensive farming methods.
But as I mentioned earlier, these farming methods don't come without a cost. The higher cost is the biggest turn-off for many families, but let me encourage you not to go without completely!
Focus your purchases on what matters.
Many years ago, a friend advised me I didn't need to buy everything organic and introduced me to the Dirty Dozen - it sounds like a movie doesn’t it? - a list of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue. This will vary based on your country and the laws in place.
I recently learned the list has an addition, so there are now 13 but they are sticking with the name.
There is also a list for the Clean Fifteen of fruit & veg. Keep in mind these lists may vary by country, and where you access them based on laws and farming practices.
Keep the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists in mind when you shop and, regardless of what you purchase, make sure you give everything a good wash.
Where I live, I don't have access to a big assortment of organic options in my local supermarkets, and the farm store prices often make me weep - especially with how quickly my children can eat a punnet of strawberries!
If your budget can handle organic prices and it is your preferred option, that’s great! But if budgets are tight, don’t let this stop you from the most important step you can take for a healthier lifestyle - eating more fruit and vegetables. Especially when science has proven that washing your food well can all but remove toxins and pesticides.
Dr. Megan Rossi, also known as the Gut Health doctor, says even just buying organic food can make us feel better about our wellbeing. Wow!
Honestly, I thought it was a given that organic food was healthier but it seems that scientists can’t agree on whether this is true or not.
What they can agree on however is:
- non-organic food contains ‘trace amounts’ of pesticides which are considered to be levels that are safe for human consumption.
- foods that are picked and eaten/frozen straight away (not stored for a few days) contain higher levels of vitamin C, antioxidants, and all the other good stuff!
So, when you’re out buying fruit and veggies, is it true it doesn’t matter what you buy in terms of your health? According to the experts, yes. As long as you wash it well first.
Remember the health benefits of eating vegetables and fruit —even if it is not organic — outweigh the downside of higher pesticide residues especially since the trace amounts are low, and washing decreases residues even more.
Practice good food hygiene and learn how to wash produce, regardless of how it was grown.
How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables
Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the best things you can do for your family's health. But take the next step and thoroughly clean them to wash off as much pesticide residue as possible.
Up until recently, I washed my fruit and veg by rinsing them under cold, running water. This method (or simply soaking your vegetables for a few minutes) for a minimum of 30 seconds (ideally longer) will help to remove some of the pesticide residues from some produce. Scientists found it reduced the amount of pesticide residue for 9 of the 12 tested pesticides.
Some fruit and vegetables should be washed shortly before you want to eat them to avoid shortening their shelf life due to increased moisture levels.
In a study published in October 2017 by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they compared the effectiveness of a few different cleaning methods including plain water, and baking soda/water solution.
The baking soda solution was found to be most effective at removing pesticide residues both on the surface and beneath the skin of apples. But other natural washing options do a good job including vinegar solution, salt water, and plain water.
Baking soda solution: Put a mix of one ounce of baking soda mixed with 100 ounces of water, and soak for 12 - 15 minutes.
Organic or not organic … that is the question …
Try to choose organic produce as much as possible, and keep the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists in mind when you shop. If you can’t buy organic, don’t stop eating fruit and vegetables and make sure you give everything a good wash.
Well-washed, conventionally grown fruit and vegetables are more likely to be healthier than organic snack foods.
So, "is organic food worth the expense?" Ultimately the answer comes down to personal preference, so the answer is up to you. Always do what is best for you and your family.
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Which two lists should you keep in mind when you buy your produce?
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Images supplied via Pexel (in order of appearance):Elle Hughes | Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist | Daria Shevtsova | Markus Spiske | RODNAE Productions | JAMAL YAHYA