Is organic food better for you than food grown by conventional methods? Experts argue over the pros and cons of buying organic, but one thing is certain — conventional is better for your pocketbook. Organic foods can cost twice as much as their conventionally grown counterparts, and current economic woes have made people question their devotion to buying foods free of pesticides and other chemicals.
But is organic really better? Which foods have the heaviest loads of pesticides? Which ones have the least?
First, let's examine a few myths about organic foods:
1. More nutrients
A study published by The Organic Center found that levels of nutrients were 25 percent higher in organic foods. Another study found that organic tomatoes had more vitamin C than those grown conventionally, and still another found more antioxidants in organic corn and strawberries. Other research has found no difference.
2. Fewer calories
Although the calorie count is exactly the same for organic and nonorganic foods, many consumers think organic foods are lower in calories. A study at the University of Michigan found that 38 percent of people believed organic Oreo cookies contained fewer calories than nonorganic — even when the nutritional labels clearly showed both types of cookies contained the same amount.
"Presumably, participants inferred that if organic cookies contain 160 calories, then the calorie content of conventional cookies — whatever the precise amount — is likely to be higher," Norbert Schwarz, a professor of psychology and research professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, told Phys.Org.com. "In addition, participants considered it appropriate to consume Oreo cookies more frequently when they were organic than when they were not."
3. Better taste
Most studies have not been able to tell a difference, but 71 percent of people surveyed in the United Kingdom said they preferred the taste of organic food. Proponents of conventionally raised food say taste is determined more by ripeness and freshness than whether or not it is organically grown.
4. Cleaner foods
All produce, including organic, are subject to bacteria, such as E. coli. Wash all produce thoroughly. And studies in Austria, Denmark, and Holland found the bacterium Campylobacter in 100 percent of organic chicken flocks but in only a third of conventional flocks.
Advocates of organic foods say they're better for you, and one study showed fewer pesticides in the urine of children on the days when they only ate organic foods. But sugar is still sugar, and fat is still fat, regardless of whether or not they are organic and should be restricted.
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Produce with the most pesticides
If you're concerned about the amount of pesticides and other chemicals you consume, these 12 types of produce have the highest content, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG):
Bell peppers (green and red)
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Produce with the least pesticides
The EWG found these foods to be the least likely to contain pesticides:
You can cut your consumption of pesticides by almost four-fifths by avoiding produce with the most contaminants and choose fruits and vegetables from the least contaminated group, says the EWG.