Is Organic Food Really Better For You?
“Are you really going to buy those grapes? They’re on the Dirty Dozen. You should get organic. They don’t have all the toxins.”
I was recently out shopping with one of my friends. I picked up some red grapes, and immediately got chastised for my grape choices. I work in the health and fitness field, they don’t. Yet I found myself getting educated about why I should be buying all organic.
I had the chance right there to get into an argument about whether or not I really needed to be buying organic, whether the toxins were actually killing, me and whether I wanted to spend the extra $1 or more.
I had an opportunity I literally dream about. One in which I drop a scientific Stone Cold Stunner on their asses and educate them about organic foods and how they’ve been had by clever marketing, fear mongering, and cool packaging.
Organic food has officially become more than a shopping preference. It’s now a movement. An identity. It’s almost as if some people and their sense of self worth is tied to whether or not the food they eat is organic.
Organic food isn’t cheap. For those of us who care about our health, and the health of our bank account, knowing whether or not to spend the extra $5 on organic kale can be a pretty big deal in the long run.
- Should we buy everything organic?
- Is organic actually healthier?
- Are toxins killing us?
- Does Monsanto pull the puppet strings?
The downside to GMO/Conventional farming.
I’ll openly admit I’m torn on this topic.
I don’t like the fact that some of our foods are called “biotech” or innovations. I love capitalism, but I don’t like the fact that giant food manufacturers have engineered Cheetos into the perfect junk food because they have the perfect level of crunchiness, cheesiness, and mouth feel.
There are major issues with our current food system like the subsidizing of certain crops, and the growing lack of diversity in our food system.
The liberal use of pesticides used on conventional crops is becoming more and more of an issue. Much like we’re at risk of developing superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics, we’re developing super insects that are resistant to insecticides. This is a major problem that has many causes, and it’s not getting any better.
I also have a serious issue with factory farming of animals, and prefer to buy organic meat if for no other reason than the fact that it was ethically raised. I don’t like the idea of my steak never having seen a green pasture like I know the cattle on my grand parents farm did.
Is organic better, though?
For those who don’t know what organic actually means, organic means that a food is certified free of GMO’s, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, and some pesticides.
Knowing that, it automatically sounds like organic is healthier. After all, why the hell would I want my produce to have sewage sludge or pesticides associated with it?
Just because of that doesn’t mean organic automatically equates to better health. Organic just means it is grown or raised differently, and those differences probably won’t make any difference at all to your health.
Many people buy organic because they don’t want to get any bad toxins that are going to get them sick or fat. The truth is they aren’t bathed in toxins, and those toxins probably aren’t killing us.
Organic doesn’t mean pesticide free.
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about organic food. Organic produce is still grown with pesticides. The FDA doesn’t approve or review those pesticides, and there aren’t long term studies done on their potential effects like the ones done on conventional crop pesticides.
While some GMO crops have far too much pesticide use going on, very little of that pesticide residue makes its way into the stores. In fact, the level of pesticides on produce in store is negligible. The big issue with pesticide use in conventional crops isn’t the health effects of those pesticides, it’s the fact that those pesticides are harming our biodiversity and creating superbugs.
In fact, some of the conventionally grown GMO produce we have has been modified to reduce the usage of pesticides. This is a GMO innovation I think we can all get behind.
GMO’s aren’t natural.
Debating semantics about what natural means and doesn’t mean is pointless. What’s not pointless is the fact that we’ve been eating GMO crops forever.
Another term for GMO could be considered evolution.
It’s nature’s job to genetically modify in order to survive and advance. Maybe you’ve heard of this? Some dude named Darwin is famous for getting it into the mainstream.
Some of the most popular fruits and vegetables today that can be found at Whole Foods have been genetically modified, sometimes with our help, sometimes without it. These include sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, watermelon, bananas, and carrots.
In fact, years ago we started altering the look of some of these because it made them more appetizing, or we didn’t want to deal with the seeds. Yes, your organic bananas have been genetically modified to look the way they do.
Organic food can still get you fat.
It blows my mind that some people don’t understand this, but organic calories absolutely matter.
There’s a major misconception that you can eat as much as you want of organic food, and not gain anything at all because that food is organic. This is completely backwards.
If you take in too many calories, you will gain weight. It doesn’t matter if those calories come from organic grass fed butter in your bulletproof coffee, or from cookies. Organic calories will always matter.
What should you do?
Make an informed decision about why you want to eat the way you do. I understand what modern science has to say about organic vs conventional crops. However, I still prefer to buy organic meat and some other products.
I also try to buy local as much as possible. One of the most important decisions you could make would be to start supporting your local farmers. Support the people who supply produce and meat at your local farmers market. Invest in a CSA, or community supported agriculture.
Hell, if you’ve got the room, plant a garden. It could be one of the most rewarding things you do, and help you realize how difficult it really is just to grow a little bit of food.
Don’t buy all organic just because of the packaging, or because you believe it’s going to infinitely better for you. If you prefer to buy organic, and you can afford it, then more power to you. If you can’t afford organic, then buying conventional produce is perfectly acceptable.
And for the love of God, don’t push the need to buy organic on every single person you talk to. You may feel like you’re an organic crusader who is fighting the good fight, but everyone else just sees you as annoying as fuck, and goes out of his or her way to avoid you.
That day in the grocery store I chose to stick with my conventionally grown, pesticide soaked red grapes. I decided I’d fight the organic battle later on down the line. I did buy some grass fed steak that day, though.