Is Organic Food Really Healthier?

The myth: Organic food isn't really healthier for you. True or false? Mike Dawson has the answer.

Farmers Market for fruit and vegetables --- Image by © SuperStock/Corbis

Photo: Corbis

A recent controversial study by Stanford University medical researchers has knocked the organic-food industry off its high horse. After analyzing scores of other studies, they concluded that organic food may not be any more nutritious than conventionally grown grub.

Upon hearing the news, I pictured myself online at Whole Foods, forking over yet another wad of cash for organic kale and SUCKER being stamped on my forehead.

But before you go back to cheaper, nonorganic chow, here are a few serious reasons to consider sticking with the pricier fare.

Yes, in terms of actual nutrition—vitamins and nutrients being absorbed by the body—the study says organic and conventional fruits and veggies are essentially the same. Okay. Fine. But the pesticide levels in organic food were far lower than in conventional food. And while the study rightly notes that pesticide levels in both were at acceptable "safe levels" based on federal guidelines, I'd rather choose less pesticide, despite the FDA's minimum requirement, thank you very much.

Second, the study showed that organic milk and beef have significantly higher amounts of omega-3, an essential fatty acid that guards against heart disease, helps your brain, and boosts your immune system.

Third, the researchers noted that organic farming is generally easier on the environment and that, more often than not, organic food even tastes better.

Bottom line: If you can afford it, the organic stuff has fewer pesticides and is often tastier. See you at Whole Foods.

— Dawson is a magazine writer and editor and a regular contributor to Details.

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