It seems that every few months, there’s another new study either praising organic foods, or telling parents not to bother paying for them. The latest in a growing body of evidence came out last month—a British study showing that organic foods contain more antioxidants than conventional foods. While that’s certainly good news for families who choose organic, this study, like other studies, overshadows the real reasons organic foods are always the best choice, no matter what the latest headlines say.
This latest evidence in favor of organics comes from researchers at Newcastle University. They reviewed 343 prior studies on the nutrition content of organic versus conventional foods. Their analysis found that organic fruits and vegetables contain up to 69% more antioxidants and have an average level 17% higher than ordinary produce. Switching to organic foods, the authors say, can boost antioxidant intake by 20 to 40% without increasing calories eaten.
That’s pretty impressive. Yet more nutrition is just a bonus. It misses the point. The real reason organic foods are healthier for our kids—and us—is all about what isn’t in them.
1. Pesticides. Organic foods contain dramatically lower amounts of pesticide residues. (To be fair, the Newscastle study did address this; it found levels of these dangerous and dangerously common childhood toxins to be 10 to 100 times lower in organic foods.) This makes organics safer for growing bodies. It also makes growing organic food safer for farmers and the earth.
2. GMOs. Organic foods are not genetically modified, which means parents don’t have to worry about crops that make their own pesticides, contain new never-before-seen proteins, and/or have been linked to allergies, organ damage, and more.
3. Biosolids. Organic foods aren’t grown in “biosolids,” otherwise known as sewage sludge, toxic effluent that exposes our food to chemical pollutants, heavy metals, deadly pathogens, hormones, and other hazards.
4. Hormones and antibiotics. Neither of these is permitted for use in USDA certified organic animals. That means no residues of either in organic meat, poultry, and dairy. Win-win.
5. Irradiation. Organic foods haven’t been irradiated, a process that can reduce or destroy nutrients, create unique radiolytic compounds that may cause cancer, and produce unhealthy “free radical” molecules that damage cells.
Despite the fact that 51% of consumers say they buy organic foods because they’re more nutritious, in the end, it’s not about the nutrients. Organics are the better choice because they’re free of the things that make people sick and damage the planet. That’s what really makes them better for kids and adults, and that’s why they’re the healthiest option for any family.
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