Should I Buy Organic Food at the Grocery Store?
We’ve all been there. You’re at the grocery store. The regular grapes are $2.99 per pound. Right next to the them are the organic grapes at $3.99 per pound. The regular grapes are cheaper, but do they have harmful pesticides? Should you pay a dollar more per pound for organic? Does it really make a difference? We went straight to the expert, Atlanta-based dietitian Rachel Brandeis,to get to the bottom of our organic shopping dilemma.
AP: Do you recommend to your clients to buy organic? If so, do you tell them to buy everything organic or just certain things?
RB: If my clients are able to afford to buy organic products and it is important to them, then they should. However, I do not recommend my clients buy everything organic. I primarily suggest buying organic fruits and vegetables that can’t be peeled and dairy.
AP: What are some reasons people should buy organic?
RB: Organic farming practices may reduce pesticide, fertilizer, and other chemical runoff to help protect land, soil quality, and waterways. Also, foods that are grown and produced without synthetic pesticides presumably result in less synthetic pesticide residue consumption by consumers. Organic products from animal sources, such as red meat and dairy, are free from antibiotics and growth hormones. By the way, conventional chicken produced in the US is all hormone free. Produce from certified organic farms have not been treated with any synthetic, man-made pesticides. Instead the farmers use natural pesticides and methods such as crop rotation to manage weeds and insects.
AP: What are the health implications of eating non-organic food?
RB: There is concern that antibiotics in food are contributing to bacterial resistance to antibiotics. There is also concern that hormones in food may increase risk of breast cancer. Many of these claims have not been proven, so the jury is still out on health implications of eating non-organic food. However, buying organic products can provide peace of mind for concerned consumers. Overall, whether your produce is organic or not, thoroughly washing your fruits and vegetables with water (do not use any soap or “fruit wash”) can significantly reduce the amount of pesticides and residue.
AP: If someone is on a budget but wants to eat healthy, what do you tell them? Are there certain foods that are more of a priority to buy organic?
RB: Consumers can still eat a healthy, balanced diet without purchasing all organic food. Individuals will still receive invaluable health benefits from the nutrients of fruits and vegetables regardless of whether it is an organic product. Research actually shows that organic produce is not “more nutrient dense” compared to conventional produce. If a client wants to eat organic food, but can’t afford to buy everything organic, I suggest focusing on buying organic fruit and vegetables in which you eat the skin, such as apples, grapes and cucumbers. For fruit with thick peels, like bananas and oranges, most of the pesticides and other residues are removed along with the peel. Also, consider buying organic produce when it’s in season and freezing some for later use, since it is usually less expensive when in season.