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Is “organic” really safer and more nutritious? See for yourself!

There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about organic food these days. Before you spend a small fortune at natural food stores, consider this: You have two groups of apples side by side. One labeled organic, one not. Both groups are shiny and enticing. The organic apples might be slightly smaller. They’re also a little more expensive. Both provide vitamins, fiber and nutrients and are free of fat, sodium and cholesterol. Which do you choose? Here are the facts about organic vs. conventional food that you need to know.

What’s the Difference Between Organic and Conventional Farming?

Let’s start with the basics. “Organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products such as vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to reduce pollution and encourage soil and water conservation. Unlike conventional foods, organic foods aren’t grown with pesticides or man-made additives and fertilizers.

Does “Natural” Mean It’s Organic?

No. This is a common misconception. You may see the terms “natural,” “all-natural,” “free-range” or “hormone-free” on labels, but don’t confuse them with “organic.” Only foods that are grown and processed according to the USDA organic standards can be labeled organic. Products that are certified as 95 percent organic or higher may display the USDA Organic seal.

Is Organic Food More Nutritious Than Conventional Food?

While this answer isn’t yet clear, a recent study examined the past 50 years’ worth of scientific articles about the nutrient content of organic and conventional food and discovered that they are not significantly different. However, many other factors are a concern.

  • Pesticides – Conventional growers use synthetic pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases. This can leave harmful residue on produce. Organic farmers use insect traps, careful crop selection (disease-resistant varieties), predator insects or beneficial microorganisms to control crop-damaging pests instead. Still, regardless of whether you buy organic or conventional produce, always thoroughly rinse it.
  • Food additives – Organic regulations ban or severely restrict the use of man-made food additives, processing aids (substances used during processing, but not added directly to the food) and fortifying agents commonly used in non-organic foods. These include preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings and flavorings as well as MSG.
  • Environment – Another reason people choose to buy organic is because of environmental concerns. Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality.

Whether or not your family chooses to eat organic, exercise caution with the conventional “Dirty Dozen” – a list of foods that the Environmental Working Group says are the most contaminated on the market.

12 MOST CONTAMINATED

Researchers found that these conventional foods have the highest pesticide residue:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

12 LEAST CONTAMINATED

These conventional foods were found to have the lowest pesticide residue:

  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya

Remember to thoroughly wash your produce, especially if you’re buying conventional. A good cleaning can help reduce contamination. It’s smart to rinse organic fruits and vegetables as well since they’ve passed through many hands on the way to the supermarket.

Do you wish you had a community to inspire you and support the choices you make to improve your family’s nutrition habits? Now you do. Join the conversation, or start your own, using #TasteOfHealth.