“Organic” refers to the way that a food is grown and processed. Conventional methods use chemicals, antibiotics, and herb/pesticides to encourage plants and animals to grow, and to discourage weeds and pests from interfering. Organic methods use natural pestisides and fertilizers, and animals are allowed to graze and are fed natural foods. Extra care is taken with organic foods. For example: rather than spraying for weeds, farmers hand-weed and lay mulch. The process takes more staff and time, the effects of which are reflected in prices.
While the growing/processing methods and the prices differ between conventional and organic foods, what about the nutrition? The truth is: there is no significant difference between the amount of Calories, carbs, protein, fat, vitamins, or minerals in conventional vs. organic food. There is questioning about whether or not the chemicals used in conventional production change the way nutrients are digested and absorbed; however, this has not been seen in research.
Whether you are “Calorie-conscious” for weight management, “carb-conscious” for blood sugar management, or “fat/salt-conscious” for heart health, choosing organic foods does not change nutrients in foods. An organic steak has the same amount of fat and Calories as a conventional steak. An organic banana has the same number of Calories and carbs as a conventional banana.
Choosing organic over conventional foods is personal, and there are many factors to consider. Conventional foods may be cheaper and have a longer shelf-life than organic counterparts. Chemicals decrease the labor cost and the amount of product lost during growing, and waxes and preservatives act as a protectant from the environment.
BUT…chemicals, waxes, and perservatives are not natural and, while the recent research is inconclusive regarding the effect of conventional farming on health, many people choose to avoid the risk altogether. Organic farming produces foods comparable to what you would grow in your own back yard, and there is definite comfort in knowing where our food comes from, and that our bodies know what to do with the foods that we eat!
Thinking about switching to organic foods, but don’t know where to start? First of all, start with personal preference! I know in my family, my Mom prefers the taste of organic milk to conventional milk; so, you will find organic milk in the fridge! Second, think about what the organic process is actually changing: the products that come into contact with foods during growing. So: if you are buying fruits/vegetables with a thick skin that is removed prior to eating it (orange, banana, avocado, etc), it is not likely that the chemicals used in conventional growing will get into your system. For fruits and vegetables with fleshy skins that are usually eaten (berries, apples, peppers, celery, etc), consider choosing organic.
Take a look at the following article from The Washington Post for a more detailed comparison of organic vs. conventional foods, and concact me with personal questions or to set up an appointment for nutrition counseling!