what’s the deal with organic?

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USDA organic food label on agave nectar

I received a Snapchat from one of my friends a few days ago. It was a picture of a bag of fruit snacks that read, “Organic” in big letters on the front. Her caption was, “Times have changed since I was young.” Today, organic products aren’t just found in Whole Foods. Companies have sought to publicize their use of organic ingredients, and supermarkets have dedicated entire aisles to organic products. So I had to ask: what’s the deal with organic?

First, what does organic actually mean? Here is a portion of the USDA National Organic Program’s definition of organic, according to organic.org: “…Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation…” Basically, organic foods are foods made without all the extra pesticides, GMOs, and hormones.

One problem with organic labels is that sometimes food labels aren’t always as clear as consumers want them to be. Something to know is that 100% organic, organic and made with organic ingredients are three different terms. According to organic.org, a 100% organic label is just that – made with 100 percent organic ingredients. The term organic means the product was made with 95 percent organic ingredients. Finally, made with organic ingredients means the product is made with a minimum of 70 percent organic ingredients (but there are strict rules on what the remaining 30 percent can contain). That’s where food labels can be tricky; they aren’t always what they seem.

Here’s another fact: right now, there is no conclusive research to support the claim that products made with organic ingredients are any more nutritious than products containing mostly inorganic ingredients, according to organic.com. However, there are far fewer pesticides in organic-made foods, which means the risk of pesticide residue entering the body is much lower than with non-organic foods. WebMD reports there are a few studies that show organic foods to have higher levels of Vitamin C and certain minerals and antioxidants, but the differences are minimal and not enough research has been done to draw an accurate conclusion.

So here’s the deal: Organic is still fairly new in society, and it can definitely be confusing to understand with all the different food labels out there. My advice? Don’t go crazy trying to only purchase foods with 100% organic labels. If you can afford the extra expense, it can’t hurt. However, if purchasing organic hurts your wallet, stick with regularly made foods until there is definitive research on organic’s heath benefits.

 

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