First, you have to determine what is really organic. By definition, organic food is grown without pesticides, chemicals or fertilizers; these can't be in the soil, either, unless the chemicals themselves are organic versions.
So is a piece of fruit or a vegetable actually healthier if it's grown without those harsh additives? In the past, government research has found little or no nutritional difference among organic and traditionally grown produce, milk and meat, according to an article on ABCnews.com.
A recent study by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry now disputes that same research. The study found that organic tomatoes actually have two times the level of two flavonoid compounds — quercetin and kaempferol — compared to their traditionally grown counterparts. Quercetin and kaempferol are antioxidants that have been linked to reducing heart disease risk.
The other thing to consider is the harm the pesticide levels in non-organic produce can cause. Research suggests that pesticide levels are possibly linked to cancer, and there are also concerns
they can cause neurological damage since most pesticides are designed to kill insects by attacking the nervous system.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) web site, children are particularly sensitive to pesticides because their internal organs are still developing and maturing; because in relation to their body weight, infants and children eat and drink more than adults, possibly increasing their exposure to pesticides in food and water; and because certain behaviors -- such as playing on floors or lawns or putting objects in their mouths -- increase a child's exposure to pesticides used in homes and yards. Pregnant women should also be extra diligent about what they eat to protect their growing fetus.
Keep in mind also that the EPA's registration of a pesticide does not mean that it is "safe." In fact, an EPA study of more than 1,000 ingredients showed that 122 of those could cause cancer, birth defects, neurological disorders and other health issues.
If this is enough to convince you of what organic purists have believed all along, then go ahead and fill your grocery cart with organic food. But keep in mind a couple things:
Regardless of whether or not they are organic, fruits and vegetables are good for you. A study that was conducted on conventionally grown produce, not organic, shows that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help with heart health and can lower the risk of diabetes, cancer and stroke.
Organic, of course, does offer the planet as a whole a healthier future. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, "Organic agriculture already uses less fossil fuel based on input and has a better carbon footprint than standard agricultural practices."
Organic or conventionally grown? You decide.
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