The interest in organic food has never been stronger. Why is organic so trendy? These days, more people are concerned about what goes into their body and where the food they eat comes from – and organics are thriving in response. In fact, some supermarkets struggle to meet the demand for organic produce when there simply aren’t enough growers. The type of food people are most likely to buy organic are fruits and vegetables. A breakdown of statistics by the United States Department of Agriculture showed that in 2012:
· 43% of organic sales fruits and vegetables
· 15% dairy
· 11% packaged or prepared items
· 11% beverages
· 9% grains
· 4% snacks
· 3% meat, poultry, and fish
Despite the strong demand for organic food, myths still abound about what organic produce is and the benefits it offers. Let’s debunk some of the most common myths about organic foods.
Organic Food is Healthier
Organic has a health halo in the eyes of many shoppers. When consumers hear that something is organic, they assume it’s better for them, even if it’s a cookie or a bag of chips. These days, you can buy a variety of snack foods labeled organic, many of which are high in sugar, sodium, or refined carbohydrates. The take-home message? Even if a product proudly displays the USDA certified organic label, read the “fine print” and make sure it meets the other criteria that make a food healthy. Don’t let your guard down because the package says it’s organic. Look at the whole nutritional picture. As an example, there’s a popular organic soda with 43 grams of sugar per can. What’s healthy about that?
Organic Food is More Nutritious
A number of studies have looked at whether organic produce is higher in nutrients than conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. Although some studies show organic produce is slightly higher in some key nutrients, most do not. In support of organic, one study found greater levels of vitamin C and antioxidants in organic strawberries. One difference is organic produce has higher levels of chemicals called phenolics that protect food crops against predators. Plants have to make more of these chemicals when they aren’t sprayed with synthetic pesticides to shield them against insects.
While phenolics may have health benefits, not all scientists agree about this. These chemicals have antioxidant activity but it’s not clear whether ALL plant-produced antioxidants are beneficial. Still, overall, you’re probably not getting markedly greater health or nutritional benefits when you eat organic unless you take into account the lower exposure to synthetic pesticides.
Ultimately, the nutritional content of produce depends on the soil it was grown in and how far it had to travel to reach you. If fruits and vegetables set around or travel long distances, they lose nutrients, particularly vitamin C. That’s why it’s best to buy local and watch the countries of origin when you shop at the supermarket. The organic produce you buy at your local grocery store may be from