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Is organic produce worth it?

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Organic farming and production methods have multiple benefits for the environment, but how about for us as consumers? Are there benefits to organic produce that are worth the extra expense?

Firstly, while fresh organic produce usually is slightly more expensive than non-organic equivalents, some products particularly tinned, dried and frozen, for example, tend to be more favourably priced. This is especially true if you choose to shop the Value range of organic produce offered by True Food.

Are there any health benefits to eating organic food?

A meta-analysis of 300 little studies by Dr Marcin Barański, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed that on average organic produce has more minerals in it. In particular, organic produce was shown to contain 30 to 40% more polyphenols. Polyphenols are beneficial plant compounds with antioxidant properties that may help keep us healthy and protect against various diseases.

Professor Chris Seal and his team from Newcastle University analysed data from around the world and concluded that there is a clear difference between organic and conventional milk and meat, especially in terms of fatty acid composition, and the concentrations of certain essential minerals and antioxidants such as Omega-3s. Omega-3s are linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease, improved neurological development and function, and better immune function. Organic milk also contains higher levels of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin E and carotenoids and 40% more Conjugated Linoleic Acid (a naturally occurring omega-6 fatty acid). Therefore, switching to organic meat and milk would increase omega fat intake without increasing calories and undesirable saturated fat.

A previous study by the same team showed that organic crops and crop-based foods are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally grown crops and contained less of the toxic metal cadmium.

Which foods contain the highest levels of pesticides?

There are certain products where switching to Organic can be particularly beneficial. For example, breakfast cereals that contain oats are likely to have higher levels of pesticides. This is because oats are often grown in damp countries and then sprayed just before they’re harvested to dry them out.  And because they’re wet, they absorb more glyphosate (a herbicide). Rice is another crop that, in some surveys, is shown as being quite high in pesticides. 

In general, fruits and vegetables that contain a lot of water will tend to absorb more chemicals than others. So, for example; cucumbers, pears and nectarines tend to have quite high concentrations. As do strawberries, in tests they commonly get tested as being above the safety levels for pesticides and herbicides.

So what can we take away from this information?

The science is pretty clear…organic foods have more nutritional value and tend to have lower levels of pesticides. It can be overwhelming to try and switch entirely to organics, so why not try these simple steps to get you started in the areas that will have the greatest impact:

  • Commit to buying from the value basics range, knowing that you are getting organic produce for a very good price!
  • Pick organic milk to support better nutrition and promote better dairy farming practices
  • Pick organic meat and then swap another one of your meat-based meals for a plant-based meal to compensate for the extra cost.
  • Look at the fruit and veg you use most often, and pick 3 items that fall into the high water, high pesticide category to identify where it would be most beneficial to switch to the organic option.