To buy organic or not to buy organic, that really is the question on many people’s minds these days. Whether you’re wondering if the benefit outweighs the cost, or if it really is more expensive in the first place, or what foods you should definitely be buying even if you choose not to adopt an entirely organic diet, we’ve done the research and have all of the these answers and more, below.
The two main reasons why people buy organic food are because A) they want to reduce the amount of pesticides that they ingest through their food, and B) they want to consume foods with a higher nutrient profile. In theory, the idea of eating only organic food sounds very appealing and like a no brainer, however in application, many of us choose not to. Why? Cost is undeniably the deciding factor. When we look at buying organic holistically, how much more expensive is it, especially when we take long-term costs into account? Let’s have a look.
It is common knowledge that pesticides are toxic and something that we shouldn’t ingest. Their sole purpose is to destroy living organisms, and they are certainly not intelligent enough to distinguish between humans and weeds, insects or bacteria. Most people don’t understand the true impact that pesticide-sprayed crops can have on our bodies over the course of a lifetime. Elevated rates of chronic disease have been found in humans that are exposed to these chemicals. The incidence of ADHD and other learning disabilities have also been linked to children who are exposed to pesticides. The same has been proven for certain types of cancer (like breast), asthma and autism. A weakened immune system is another unfortunate side effect, which makes sense when we consider what pesticides are designed to do. These chemicals compromise our body’s ability to fight off illness due to their effects on the development of two organs that are crucial to a well-functioning immune system: the spleen and the thymus. A decreased white blood cell count is another unfortunate casualty, impairing our body’s ability to fight off foreign bacteria and viruses.
It’s not just the health of our bodies that are affected, but our wallets as well. Treating diseases don’t come without costs such as medical bills, treatments, antibiotics and supplements, lost work days and lost economic productivity to name a few. Well over a billion pounds of pesticides are used in agriculture every year. Studies have found that that number matches the amount patients spend in dollars on pesticide-related medical expenses annually.
We now understand that buying organic is more cost effective in the long-term, but how about short-term? For years we have been debating whether or not organic items really are worth the price. Rather than thinking about organic food in terms of cost per weight, how about we look at it in terms of nutrient content per weight. Multiple studies have found organic produce to be more nutritious than conventional produce. One study reported finding that antioxidant (cancer-fighting) levels in organic foods were up to 40% higher than non-organic foods. Although you may be paying more for less food when you buy organic, you will likely be paying less for nutrient content.
So, what if you can’t afford to buy all organic food? We understand that although the short and long-term benefits still favour going organic (in terms of fewer dollars spent on doctor’s visits, supplements, medication and more), the fact of the matter is that many cannot afford to purchase purely organic produce and protein. Below is a list of foods that we recommend buying organic if you’re on a budget:
- Fruits & Vegetables: Known as the ‘dirty dozen plus’, these 14 pieces of produce have been tested and carry the highest pesticide content: strawberries (coming in at #1, on average there are 300lbs of pesticides applied to one acre of strawberries), spinach, nectarines, pears, cherries, apples, peaches, lettuce, potatoes, bell peppers, grapes, tomatoes, celery & cucumbers.
- Poultry: It’s safe to assume that most organic poultry is raised in the absence of antibiotics. Also, these animals cannot be fed ‘littler’ or leftovers, meaning spilled feed or scraps like feathers, droppings and animal by-products.
- Beef: Just like chicken, organic beef is raised without the use of routine antibiotics and growth hormones, which are contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and impair our ability to fight off disease.
- Milk products: Dairy cows, like cows farmed for beef, are antibiotic-free. They also typically contain more than double the amount of omega-3 fatty acids, compared to their non-organic counterparts.
Though buying non-organic foods may be cheaper (albeit less nutritious) in the short-term, the long-term implications are far more costly and terrifying, when we consider the havoc these pesticides are wreaking on our bodies. On a budget? Perhaps reconsider that daily morning java from your local coffee shop, or that restaurant meal. Life is full of compromises, but your health shouldn’t be one of them.
The Author: Daina Kenins
Daina is a lover of all things health & wellness related; a health food connoisseur, an avid marathon runner, a certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher and a spin studio manager. She is ambassador for healthy eating and loves to create and share recipes on her instagram page @thepaleobean.