Organic Food Isn't Better for You -- Do You Buy It?

Say What!? 32

organic fruits veggiesBeing the devout organic shopper that I am, I've occasionally gotten into debates with friends about the benefits of buying organic vs. conventional food. They often snicker, "Is it really worth your 'whole paycheck'?" And my argument has always been that it doesn't have to be your "whole paycheck" if you shop smart, not everything you buy needs to be labeled "organic," and ultimately, yes, I'd rather spend more on my food in the short-term, because I see it as an investment in my long-term health. But researchers from Stanford University seem to have a bone to pick with that argument.

They combined data from 237 studies and examined a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and meats over the course of four years for signs of health benefits from adding organic foods to the diet. Their sweeping conclusion? Organic food isn't necessarily more nutritious than non-organic. Unfortunately, the study didn't take into consideration the real reasons people like me go organic.

The researchers said that not only were organic fruits and veggies no more likely to have extra nutrition benefits, but they weren't any less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. coli. And they claimed there were "no obvious health advantages to organic meats." Huh???

More from The Stir: Eating Organic Makes You Judgy & Mean

That's odd, because 38 percent of conventional produce tested in the studies contained detectable residues of toxic pesticides (especially harmful to kids and pregnant women, but that usually means they're no good for the rest of us either), compared with just 7 percent for the organic produce. And organic chicken and pork were less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Duh. Those sure look like "obvious" benefits and advantages to me!

Ultimately, the glaring issue with this study is that the researchers weren't looking at the reasons people buy certain groceries (like the "Dirty Dozen") organic. I don't stick to organic strawberries and organic poultry because I think either food will provide me with more of anything ... be that vitamin C or protein. I'm buying organic, because I want fewer toxins. I want to know it came from a farm that abides by certain regulations, like the prohibition of synthetic, man-made pesticides (which can remain in the body and build up in the liver, causing mild to severe reactions at even government-approved "safe" levels), hormones, and additives. I want to know my chicken was fed an all-vegetarian (meaning no heavy metal-filled fish-meal -- yes, that's what regular chickens are often fed!), hormone-, antibiotic-free diet.

I personally have very specific health concerns that can be exacerbated by polluted food. But I know plenty of other shoppers who won't be deterred by this research, because they're buying organic for a variety of reasons the study didn't address. Like the fact that pesticides and hormones can impact development of their kids or that farming of organic foods doesn't take such a toxic toll on our planet.

In the end, this research will likely be spun and taken out of context by those hoping to make the case that organic food is all hype. But there's no doubt plenty of people still know better and will keep buying the foods we know are more beneficial to our health and the environment overall.

How do you feel about buying organic? If you do buy organic, what are your reasons for doing so?


Image via Shantel Ruiz/Flickr

food, food benefits, food safety, fruit, grocery shopping, organics


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jhslove jhslove

Right, I don't know of anyone who buys organic because they think organic food is higher in vitamins and minerals. We buy organic on some things (the Dirty Dozen produce, dairy, and meat when we can afford it) because we want fewer pesticides and added hormones. Saying that organic food isn't better for you because it doesn't have more vitamins is ridiculous.


I buy organic if it looks like it's nicer. I find that celery and things like that, you get double compared to the regular. The amount you have to cut off and throw away is almost nil in the organic vegetables. I don't think it has any more or any less vitamins than the non organic. It's just grown without pesticides and chemicals. The vitamin factors don't change. They're either in there or they're not. 

amber... amberdotsmom

Here's the most telling statement in their findings:  ""Conventional fruits and vegetables did have more pesticide residue, but the levels were almost always under the allowed safety limits, the scientists said"".  

In other words the regular food is OK not because it's equal to the organic food but because the regular foods levels were simply under what is ALLOWED.  What the study doesn't seem take into account is whether or not these allowed amounts are themselves are healthy for anyone and what the long term effects of eating at or near the upper allowed level might be.

Later in the article it said that children how ate organic had less pesticide residue in their urine.  That plus the hormones and antibiotics we're ingesting are the things that makes me buy organic and local as much as I possibly can. 

nonmember avatar graciesmom

Organic does not mean it is grown without the use of pesticides. I just means organic approved pesticides were used. Often organic pesticides r less effective so the plants r actually sprayed more than conventional. Organic produce is not healthier for you but it is much healthier for the environment.

DebaLa DebaLa

How can eating poison be the same as not eating poison. <----see, no question mark.

And 'better for you' is far different than 'nutrionally better.' Food that's SAFER to eat WILL be better for you.

nonmember avatar William McMulli

The study does not at all say organic food isn't any better for us. It even concludes that organic has less pesticides. Also, as we all know, organic food doesn't contain any harmful GMO ingredients.

lalab... lalaboosh

@graciesmom, organic pesticides are not the same as the pesticides used in non organic farming. From what I've read they use a pest killing bacteria, not neurotoxins. Big difference.

almos... almostcrazylol

Stuff in stores that are said to be organic are processed more than the other stuff in stores. Just because it says organic doesn't necessarily mean that is. Take Horizon organic milk it is ultra pasteurized which means all benefit you could have gotten from it is no gone. Then they add a chemical vitamin D to it to make it better for you. I have a friend that is on Food stamps and when she tries 2 by a produce that is all natural with no added flavors colors or preserves it doesn't ring up as food. it funny all the stuff that can be harmful to you rings up fine but try buying something with better health benifits for you and pfft.... no can do thats not food. Makes me laugh all the time

Todd Vrancic

If you know what you're buying and the reason you're buying it, that's fine.  @almostcrazylol, it sounds like there is a glitch in that store's computers that needs to be fixed.  Has your friend tried talking to the management about it?  If she has, then she needs to go more public, if you get my drift.

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