Many of us have heard that we ought to buy certified organic berries, kale, and fuzzy fruits (remember the dirty dozen?), over conventionally grown counterparts to avoid eating genetically modified or pesticide-laden plant products (the list is updated every year; check out the new one here). The label, organic, has become synonymous with being the better option for selecting produce and other groceries. At what point, however, did it become a catch-all term for everything associated with being healthy?
I know, I know, organic fruits and vegetables are healthy. What I’m talking about, though, are the certified organic meats, cheeses, sugary cereals, and cookies. I’ve overheard some people say in the cookie aisle, “this one’s organic, so I’m gonna get it cuz it’s healthy.” (You can also insert gluten-free or vegan, in place of organic.)
Sadly,these foods are not necessarily healthy (yes, meats, cheeses, and dark chocolate, in small portions can have health benefits, but read: small portions). You can’t eat as much as you want simply because the food is organic.
The organic label means that a product is a better option over the conventionally grown/raised food. It’s a good guide for avoiding unwanted pesticides, antibiotics, and other chemicals that may leach into your food, unbeknownst to you. Some research has indicated that organically grown and raised produce and meats have greater nutritional value because they have not been genetically modified. And organically raised animals are fed a healthier diet and are often raised under healthier conditions (not in cages or pumped with steroids or other meds). However, there are other studies that suggest that there is not a significant difference between conventional and organic foods. The Organic Trade Association took a look at the major studies that compared the nutritional value of organic versus conventional produce, and concluding... that more studies need to be conducted. But take a look at their report, and form your own opinions.
If avoiding chemicals in your food is your aim, then stick to organic foods -- if your pocketbook permits it -- otherwise, refer to the list of dirty dozen produce items that you should buy organic and go conventional with anything else. To ensure you don’t gain a few extra pounds, use good judgment and remember that the organic label isn’t a green light to eat as much as you want. Moderation is always the best policy.