Over the last 20 years, the market for organic food products has simply exploded. According to the Organic Trade Association’s 2011 Organic Industry Survey, U.S. sales of organic foods has grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010 (source). Obviously, consumers believe that there must be multiple benefits associated with organic foods to contribute to this boom in organic sales. Companies that sell organic products assure us that they are higher in nutrients and taste much fresher than non-organic produce. Also, the limited use of pesticides, genetic modification, and hormones are touted as all the more reason to spend a little more on organic products. A conversation with my brother the other day, sparked my interest in looking into the organic food conundrum a little farther. Here is what I learned:
In light of what we know about organic vs. conventionally produced food, here are some tips for shopping:
1. If possible, buy as much produce and meat locally. When you buy directly from the farmer at the market, you can ask as many questions as you want about how the food was grown or raised. More often than not, they will have been raised without the use of excess pesticides or antibiotics.
2. Farmers market not an option? Purchase organic meat and dairy products. Organically raised animals are not given low-dose antibiotics and are required to be fed organic foods. Beef and dairy products from grass fed cows are higher in conjugated linoleic acid, a compound with many potentially protective health benefits such as preventing cancer and atherosclerosis (source).
3. Follow the “Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen” Rule of thumb. Here is the list of top produce items you should consider dishing out the extra money to buy organic and which to save on conventionally grown.