As a registered dietitian, one of the most popular questions I get asked is, “Is organic food better for me?” My usual response is that the way to better health is to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, organic or not.
No significant difference in nutrition
A new review of the published literature sheds some light on this very question. The authors found that for produce — fruits, vegetables and grains — there was no significant difference in vitamin levels of organic items compared to conventionally grown items. However, researchers also found detectable pesticide residues were significantly less likely to be found on organic produce.
What do these results mean for the average consumer? The question of whether organic food is better for you is usually coupled with cost concerns, because, in general, organic produce can be more expensive. However, the most recent data indicates that in terms of nutrient content, organic and conventionally grown produce are equivalent.
What about pesticides?
There are, however, other reasons that consumers choose to purchase organic produce, and the fact that they tend to have lower quantities of detectable pesticide residues compared to conventionally grown produce is one of them. This finding, however, may not be as significant as it initially appears to be. First of all, it means that organic produce still contains pesticide residues, just less often than conventional produce. Secondly, the levels of residue found on organic and conventional produce generally are well below upper limits set by the government. In other words, exposure at these levels is less than what has been shown to cause adverse health effects.
For anyone who still has concerns about pesticide residue levels on produce, I would advise thoroughly rinsing all produce before consumption.
In light of these results, it is my opinion that if you’re trying to adopt healthier eating habits, consuming more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, organic or not, is definitely a step in the right direction.
This article originally appeared on www.HealthBytesNYC.com. Simone Walters is a clinical nutritionist at Beth Israel Medical Center.