Organic vs. Conventional—Don’t Let the Headlines Fool You

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Filed Under: Diet, General Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Organic vs. Conventional—Don’t Let the Headlines Fool You

You may have seen the recent headlines that say things like, “Organic Foods Are No Better than Conventional Foods” or “Don’t Waste Your Money on Organic.” This media coverage is fueled by a new study out of Stanford University School of Medicine.

After reviewing 17 human studies and 223 studies on contaminant levels and nutrient value in foods like beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, and fruit, the researchers concluded that organic foods are no better nutritionally—or lower in bacterial contamination like E. coli—than conventional foods.

But don’t let these recent headlines shake your faith in organic foods. Like many headlines, these only tell part of the story.

All of the studies the Stanford researchers reviewed were short-term—so there’s no data on the long-term impact of consuming organic vs. conventional foods. Furthermore, the headlines don’t reveal the following study data:

  • Researchers found a 33% greater potential for the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in conventional vs. organic pork and chicken.
  • Thirty-eight percent of conventional produce tested contained pesticide residue, versus only eight percent in organic produce. (Researchers discounted this fact, since those levels were considered “safe” by the EPA.)
  • Organic chicken and milk was found to be higher in beneficial omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Finally, this study also overlooks prior evidence that clearly shows organic is better. For example, a 2007 study funded by the European Union found that organic vegetables and fruit contain more zinc and other health-enhancing minerals and up to 40 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown produce. They also found that milk from cows raised on organic diets had 90 percent more antioxidants than regular milk.

Organic food can be rather pricey, however, so I suggest checking out food co-ops and farmer’s markets. (Visit localharvest.org to locate these venues in your area.) Plus, here are more tips for buying organic without breaking the bank.

Now it’s your turn: Do you make an effort to eat organic foods?

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