“Organic food is no more nutritious than non-organic.” If you’ve read a newspaper, looked at Google News or watched The Today Show this morning, you may have heard this (generally preceded or followed by the words “study says,” so you know it’s Science. Sanctioned.). Don’t believe it. If you look a little closer, you’ll see that a “study says” no such thing — at least not if you consider “healthy” and “nutritious” to mean free of pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.
And isn’t that why most people buy organic food? That’s why I buy organic when I can — I don’t want pesticides on my apples, rBGH in my milk, antibiotics in my meat or butylated hydroxytoluene in my butter. According to the study in question — a meta-analysis from Stanford University of previous studies on organic meat and produce – organic food is still the best way to avoid these things. Organic produce had a 30% lower chance of containing detectable pesticide levels. Organic meat had a 33% lower risk of being contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
What organic food isn’t, however, is higher in vitamin and nutrient content. That’s what all the hoopla is about. But who buys organic food because they think it has more vitamins? Okay, I’m sure some people buy organic because they think it has more vitamins. There’s a lot of confusion out there about food labels and words like organic. Hell, maybe the extra-vitamins idea is even more widespread than I think.
But that’s all the more reason why news outlets should be reporting on this story more accurately and less sensationally. Why not have headlines that say things like “Organic produce not higher in vitamins, minerals,” instead of proclaiming organic food has no health benefits? It’s like saying “Avocados don’t contain any more fairy dust than Cheetos, therefore: Avocados aren’t any healthier than Cheetos!” Nevermind the fact that the relative fairy dust content of avocados versus cheetos isn’t a good reason to choose one over the other in the first place …
All things considered, there are plenty of other reasons to choose organics. Some people think they taste better. Organic farming can be better for the environment. And, yes, organic food is generally better for your health. It’s healthy to avoid toxic food additives. It’s healthy to avoid estrogen-mimicking hormones in your milk and meat. It’s healthy to avoid pesticides that may spur inflammation in your body and it’s healthy to eat meat that isn’t devoid of omega-3s and loaded with omega-6s (as most grain-fed, conventionally raised livestock is).
Bottom line: There’s more to “healthy” or “nutritious” than levels of vitamin A or calcium. If you don’t believe me, take it from Mario Batali: