Is organic food worth the extra cost? Is it really better for you?
I do believe that organic food is superior from both an environmental and nutritional point of view. It’s no secret that the bulk of the produce in your supermarket is grown in chemically enriched soils and sprayed with pesticides. Although organic food isn’t completely pesticide free, it is required to meet certain standards, so it’s a step in the right direction.
A 2007 study funded by the European Union makes it clear that organic produce has a nutritional advantage as well. Researchers discovered 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.
It’s true that organic food is rather pricey, so I suggest checking out food co-ops and farmer’s markets. (Visit localharvest.org to locate these venues in your area.) For the best deals, shop around closing time, when sellers are eager to unload their wares before packing up for the day. You may also consider going organic only when buying the produce most heavily treated with chemicals, such as spinach, berries, green peas and beans, apples, peaches, and pears.
That said, don’t let the high cost of organic food stop you from loading up on produce. No matter how they’re grown, vegetables (and modest amounts of fruit) are a health boon.
If you want to learn more about organic food—or about how all our food is grown and processed—I highly recommend Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Penguin Books, 2006). Look for it in bookstores or online.