Should you buy organic, quality-farmed foods? I’d say it depends. There are definitely benefits but there’s also hype/downsides. Consider the pros and cons and be as educated as possible so you can make your own informed decision.
Pros to eating higher quality:
Potentially more nutrients and better nutrient profiles (higher omega 3s in grass-fed).
Many foods are rated to taste better.
You may avoid certain pesticides, toxins, genetic mods, antibiotics, or growth hormones. All of which may negatively affect your health.
Peace of mind you’re not putting the crapola above in your body.
Animals may be happier and healthier and we can feel better about eating our animal friends.
Healthier for good ole Mother Earth.
Cons to eating higher quality:
Usually costs more money
Availability can be hit or miss
Some foods spoil faster
Same risk of bacterial contamination like e. coli and salmonella
You may not get what you paid for. Labels can be misleading and there are lots of “grey” areas in terms of definitions
There are organic pop-tarts. Organic doesn’t equal healthy.
In my opinion, the pros definitely outweigh the cons, although I do understand not everyone can afford to eat all organic foods. I suggest buying the best quality food you can afford and take care of basic needs first. For example, if you’re not eating any vegetables at all in your diet, don’t worry if you’re not eating organic vegetables. Just eat some damn veggies period.
Buying tips for organic foods:
Prioritize quality meats, fish and dairy products
Pass on the organic cookies or any other organic treat-type foods. Hormones and antibiotics are commonly used in conventional animal raising to promote increased animal growth and there are major concerns regarding their impact on human health (1).
Consider buying organic produce on the “Dirty Dozen” list
The "Dirty Dozen," is a list of fruits and vegetables that the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization, claims have the most pesticides when grown conventionally versus organically. The list is updated every year based on their own analysis, but peer reviewed research has cast doubt on the list’s validity (2). Not to mention, organic farming doesn’t mean pesticide free. Some approved pesticides can still be used in organic farming (3).
In my opinion, if you can only afford to buy some organic produce, prioritize foods on the “dirty dozen” list. Alternatively, EWG also publishes the “Clean 15” which is a list that claims the foods have less pesticide residues.
EWG’s Clean 15
EWG’s Dirty Dozen
Final note on this: just eat your damn veggies. Even if they are on the “dirty dozen” list and you can’t get them organic, a food like kale is freaking healthy. Eat more fruits and veggies and you will be healthier in general, organic or not.
Understand labels and be a smart consumer.
‘100% Organic’ and ‘Organic’ isn’t the same as ‘Made with Organic’. Grass-fed/free-range animals could still be treated poorly. Do your homework. Learn about a brand’s farming practices and learn about label regulations.
Buy local and in season.
Small, local farms may or may not be organic but many are or are less likely to treat their animals and crops like shit. Buy in season for lower costs.
Overall, consider the long-term investment in your health when deciding between buying organic or not. We all want to be crushing life as long as possible and we’re more likely to do that when we’re eating the best quality food.
I hope this article helps you make more of an informed decision about the food you buy. Remember, don’t get too caught into the weeds with details. Just do the best you can in terms of your eating quality! Have more thoughts on this topic? Drop a line below.
1. Jeong, Sang-Hee et al. “Risk assessment of growth hormones and antimicrobial residues in meat” Toxicological research vol. 26,4 (2010): 301-13.
2. Winter, Carl K and Josh M Katz. “Dietary exposure to pesticide residues from commodities alleged to contain the highest contamination levels” Journal of toxicology vol. 2011 (2011): 589674.
3. Synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.
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