- On May 10, 2013
When it comes to organic food there is a lot of information swirling around the internet and in our communities. Some mothers will only feed their children organic foods, others just avoid the “dirty dozen” and choose not to buy the rest of their food organic. The majority of moms out there are still unclear about what foods they should buy organic, which one’s they shouldn’t and does it even matter? Today, we’re going to clear up some misconceptions about what organic really means and whether or not you should be stressing out about it at all.
Myth#1: Organic Food is Healthier
I have seen well meaning mom’s feed their children organic pop-tarts for breakfast or organic cookies as an everyday snack and proclaim them to be healthy choices. However, adding the label of “organic” does not make a food healthy. Sugar laden cereals (usually children’s cereals), pastries, cookies, cakes, potato chips, sodas, candy and other junk foods are still junk food even if they are labeled organic. They are still high in sugar, sodium, fat, and saturated fat as well as loaded with calories and void of much nutritional value. The only difference between an organic slice of cake and a conventional slice of cake is that one has less pesticides and the seeds used to the grow the foods are likely not genetically modified. In the last few years research studies have also shown that, in general, organic foods are no healthier than non-organic foods.
Myth #2: Organic Food Taste Better
Research has shown that just by putting the label “organic” on a food item that consumers automatically believe that the product taste better than it’s conventional counterpart. However, for the most part, this is untrue. In terms of fresh produce like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds you will find the biggest taste difference between locally grown foods and those that are shipped from thousands of miles away. The closer your food is to the source the better it is going to taste because the food is fresher and retains more nutrients than food that is picked before it is ripe and ready and then shipped across the country and sometimes the globe. Your local farmers market is a great place to get fresh, local fruits and vegetables at a reasonable price.
Myth #3: You Don’t Have To Wash Organic Food
Organic food is lower in pesticides, grown with non-GMO seeds, and processed without the use of potentially harmful chemicals but this does not mean that bacteria such as E.Coli are not present. Food safety is one of the most important things to keep in mind when preparing any type of food in your kitchen whether it be fruits, vegetables, or meats. Always wash your fruits, vegetables and cook meats properly and thoroughly to kill as much food borne bacteria as possible.
So, now you’re probably thinking why would I ever buy organic foods? Well, there are still many compelling reasons to do so if your budget permits. Organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. Pesticides, fertilizers, sewer sludge, GMOs and radiation carry with them their own potential health risk that many parents do not want to expose their children to.
The “Dirty Dozen” is a list of the 12 most contaminated produce items that should be bought organically when your budget permits. The dirty dozen includes:
- Bell Peppers
Conversely, there is a list called the “Clean Dozen” which list the 12 least contaminated foods and are generally much safer to buy non-organic:
- Sweet Peas
- Kiwi Fruit
Overall, if buying organic foods is not in your budget, don’t stress out about it. The most important thing to fill your grocery cart with is fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds. If they happen to be organic that is fantastic, but if they aren’t you are still getting the same nutrients and health benefits from these foods either way.
Written By: Alicia C. Simpson MS, RD, LD
Founder, Lead Dietitian and Lead Lactation Consultant at Pea Pod Nutrition and Lactation Support