Organic vs non-organic food: What you need to know
Does all my food need to be organic for it to be ‘healthy’? Or is organic food a waste of my hard-earned money? The answer is a bit of both…
You may have seen that the organic market has grown considerably over the past few years. You can pretty much buy anything organic these days at your local supermarket, ranging from organic veggies, meat, dairy and even organic junk food such as cookies, pizza and ice cream! I’m sorry to break it you, but just because your processed cookies are branded organic, it is still a cookie and still contains the same sugar and refined carbohydrates as the non-organic cookie.
Organic food also costs considerably more than non-organic food. For example, in a well-known British supermarket, the organic broccoli costs nearly 3 times as much (£1.25) as the non-organic broccoli (£0.45). An organic whole chicken costs 1 and a half times more (£9.24) than the non-organic chicken (£6.17). If I am going to be spending nearly 3 times as much money on my food, I want to be assured that there are benefits.
So, what is the difference between organic and non-organic?
The difference is the way the food is produced. Organic food is made without:
Man-made pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers
Antibiotics or growth hormones
Genetically modified foods (GMOs)
What are the health benefits of eating organic?
Less exposure to pesticides and heavy metals - the commonly used herbicide Roundup has been classed as a probable human carcinogen (a substance capable of causing cancer).
More healthy fats - organic meat and milk can have up to 50% more omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated healthy fat, which has anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
More antioxidants - a study found that organic onions had about 20% higher antioxidants than a non-organic onion.
Do I need to buy everything organic?
No — The Pesticide Action Network UK produced the following two lists: the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen. The dirty dozen list contains the fruit and veggies with the highest amount of pesticides and it is recommended to buy these as organic. The clean fifteen are the fruits and veggies with the least amount of pesticides and therefore technically do not need to be bought as organic.
Everyone could benefit from eating more fruit and vegetables, organic or non-organic. However, if you are wanting to reduce your exposure to man-made chemicals such as pesticides, I would recommend prioritising buying organic foods from the dirty dozen list, over the foods found on the clean fifteen list.
Sophia is a final year Nutritional Therapy student at the renowned Institute of Optimum Nutrition. She uses a whole food approach when it comes to diet, with a specialist focus on how food and lifestyle can support great skin and gut health.