Are organic foods are really healthier for you than their conventionally-grown counterparts? Here's why you can feel good about organic: USDA-certified organic means your food is produced without synthetic pesticides, bioengineering or radiation; animals are raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. But the debate about whether organic foods are healthier for you continues. And two new studies add to the controversy. (Here are 14 foods you should buy organic.)
In a recent study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, researchers fed organically and conventionally grown carrots to mice. Mice who ate organic had an increase in regulatory T cells, which are key for immune function. This study looked at the effects of eating organic food. In contrast, most simply compare nutrient and contaminant levels in organic versus conventional foods. And very few studies are of people who eat these foods. These are some of the points made in a recent review of studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It concluded that there's "limited evidence for the superiority of organic foods."
The authors did find that organic produce contains more phosphorus. Whoop-de-do… You'd have to be near total starvation to be phosphorus deficient. Another bummer: bacterial contamination (like Campylobacter and E. coli) may be more likely in organic foods. It wasn't all negative: the bacteria in organic chicken and pork are less likely to be antibiotic-resistant. Conventional produce also has a 30 percent higher risk of pesticide residue. And a few studies suggest organic milk and chicken may deliver more good-for-you omega-3 fats.
Bottom line? More research is needed, but if you worry about antibiotic-resistant bacteria or pesticides, buy organic.
Which foods do you buy organic?
By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as nutrition editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.
Related Links from EatingWell: