The term “organic” has exploded in popularity the past couple of decades. Due to increasing demand by health-conscious consumers, the U.S. organic food market is expected to reach $70.4 billion by 2025. What used to be found only in the neighborhood health food store is now available in over 20,000 health food and conventional food stores across the country. Everything from blueberries to gum can be found organic these days. Organic items cost consumers 10-30% more than conventional items. With all that said, it can be overwhelming on where to focus your attention and dollar when it comes to buying organic foods.
Let’s take a closer look at what organic means, when you may want to go organic, and nutritional value.
What are organic foods?
Organic foods are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Organic animal products are produced from animals that were not given antibiotics or growth hormones, are living in conditions that allow their natural behaviors (i.e. grazing in large pastures), and are fed 100% organic feed.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established an organic certification program in 1990, that required all organic foods to meet strict government standards. All products labeled USDA Certified Organic meet these strict standards. Food manufacturers who sell less than $5,000 a year in organic foods are exempt from obtaining this certification.
Multi-ingredient foods labeled USDA organic must meet additional requirements. Organically made foods can not contain artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors, and ingredients must be organic. For example, Health Warrior pumpkin seed bars are a USDA certified organic multi-ingredient product, meaning every gram of superfood goodness is 100% organic (yay!).
Are organic foods healthier than conventional?
The answer is, possibly. While this is a highly debated topic, growing evidence is showing in some ways that organic may reign supreme when it comes to nutrition. A large 2014 meta-analysis, which reviewed data from more than 300 studies, found antioxidants are significantly higher in organically grown foods than conventionally grown foods. Antioxidant intake is linked to multiple health benefits including anti-inflammatory effects, cancer prevention, and other chronic disease prevention.
When it comes to pesticides, organic produce has less pesticide residue than conventional produce after washing. The degree of difference varies by produce item.
To help consumers shop wisely, the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) created the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. This shopping guide is meant to help consumers target which types of produce have the most pesticides (dirty) and which have the least (clean) when conventionally grown. Listed below are what EWG call the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen.”
- Sweet bell peppers
Clean Fifteen- produce with the least pesticide residues
- Sweet corn
- Sweet frozen peas
- Honeydew melon
Bottom line, make the choice that’s best for you. While organically grown produce may have more disease-fighting antioxidants, conventional produce still has a ton, with similar nutrients. When it comes to pesticides in produce, wash..wash…wash. Refer to the EWG shopping guide if you want to target which types of produce you may want to buy organic most often. And if you’re looking for a quick organic snack, try one of our seven antioxidant-packed organic Health Warrior Pumpkin Seed Protein Bars!