Organic vs. Non Organic + What you need to know…

Organic vs. Non Organic

Once found only in health food stores, organic food is now abundant in most supermarkets.  And lucky us, we also have a plethora of health food stores here in southern California – Whole Foods, Mother’s Market, Sprouts and Henry’s, to name a few.  Consequently, this has created a bit of a dilemma on the produce aisle. You have the conventionally grown apple and you have one that’s organic.  Both apples are firm, shiny and red.  Both have vitamins and fiber.  Both are free of fat, sodium and cholesterol.  So, which do you choose?  Conventionally grown produce generally costs less… but is organic food safer or more nutritious?  Let’s dig a little deeper.

Conventional vs. organic farming

According to the Mayo Clinic, the word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat.  Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution.  Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don’t use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease.  For example, rather than using chemical weed killers, organic farmers may conduct more sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay.

Here are some key differences between conventional farming and organic farming:

(Photo credit: Mayo Clinic)

Organic or not?  Look for the seal.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards.  These standards regulate how such foods are grown, handled and processed.  Any product labeled as organic must be USDA certified.  If a food bears a USDA Organic label, it means it’s produced and processed according to the USDA standards.

Products that are completely organic — such as fruits, vegetables, eggs or other single-ingredient foods — are labeled 100 percent organic and can carry the USDA seal.

Do ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ mean the same thing?

No, “natural” and “organic” are not interchangeable terms. You may see “natural” and other terms such as “all natural,” “free-range” or “hormone-free” on food labels.  These descriptions must be truthful, but don’t confuse them with the term “organic.”  Only foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled organic.

Organic foods: Are they safer?

There is much debate…  Most studies to date can’t prove that organic foods are more nutritious or that they have more nutrient dense content.  However, what they have proven is this: organic fruits and vegetables don’t have antibiotics, steroids and hormones.

While organic foods may not contain more nutritional value than conventional foods, they are definitely healthier.  And…organic foods are healthier for the people who grow them, too.  Exposure to pesticides is a constant threat to the well-being of farm workers.  Animals raised organically for food also generally lead healthier, happier lives.  And finally, there’s the planet itself.  Chemical run-off, waste production, and depletion of the soil all place a huge burden on the environment.

All this said, organic is the way to go!  It’s healthier for you, your family, the farmers, animals and the planet — and that’s the reason I buy organic!