Is Buying Organic Worth the Hype? - PIH Health

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Published on May 14, 2020

Is Buying Organic Worth the Hype?

Photo of an organic farm extending into the horizon under a sunny sky with clouds

What does organic mean?

Photo of an organic farm extending into the horizon under a sunny sky with cloudsOrganic is a term used to describe the way food is grown, handled and processed. This approach is used as a way to protect the environment. The government has set strict rules for food that is labeled “United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic.”

“This seal is only placed on produce that is grown with natural pesticides and fertilizers and without the use of sewage sludge, radiation and genetically modified organisms,” says Rachel Lander-Canseco PIH Health dietitian. “Animals that are considered organic cannot be given hormones or antibiotics.”

The Labels

There are three categories to describe organic food:

  • Made with organic ingredients – At least 70 percent of ingredients must be organic certified
  • Organic – 90 percent of ingredients must be organic certified
  • 100 percent organic – All ingredients must be organic certified

Should I go organic?

Going organic is typically better for the environment, but is oftentimes more expensive. The USDA found that organic food usually costs 20 percent or more than conventional choices. While choosing to eat organic fish, meat or poultry can get expensive, it may lower your exposure to certain chemicals and artificial ingredients. According to WebMD, minimizing these chemicals is crucial for some and for others, it will not make a difference in their health.

Buying Beef? Go Organic

When buying beef, it is better to go organic. Cattle raised and non-organic farms use sex hormones, like testosterone and estrogen, for faster and larger growth. Some researchers have suggested these hormones cause early puberty in girls and others believe they don’t have any effects. For this reason, families sometimes opt for the organic option.

Buying Poultry? Go Organic 

A common practice on conventional farms is to give animals antibiotics and food which may contain pesticides or fertilizer. Experts agree these types of drugs can cause life-threatening antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If you do choose to purchase conventional meat, cut off the fat and skin. That is where the pesticides live.

Buying Seafood? Go Conventional

The USDA hasn’t set standards for organic seafood. When fish is labeled “organic” it doesn’t mean it’s any safer for you or the environment. Instead, shop for seafood that is low in mercury, such as shrimp, salmon and anchovies.

What did we learn?

Whether you choose to eat organic or conventional food depends primarily on your health concerns and your budget. Make sure to read the labels before purchasing to understand the ingredients going into your body.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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