I’ll be the first to admit that I was quick to dismiss the organic food craze.
An apple is an apple is an apple, isn’t it? And while it’s certainly a treat to troll the aisles at Whole Foods in the next town over, as a girl on the go with crazy-high student loan debt, an orange from my local supermarket always seemed like a much better bet. Forget the fruit’s fuzzy origins and inferior taste: It was half the price of its organic cousin, presumably full of Vitamin C, and readily available.
But the more the organic food revolution has transitioned from a passing trend to a lifestyle choice, the more I’ve paid attention. Friends of mine who’ve gone the natural route report enhanced energy, better sex, and greater mental clarity—and all have supple hair and downright gorgeous complexions.
And if that’s not reason enough to go green, what is?
Turns out that organic food isn’t just for yoga teachers and the Lexus-slash-Lululemon set: Science now shows that organic food is vastly superior to its non-organic counterparts.
Here’s a look at the findings—and why you, like me, should grab that canvas bag and head straight to the farmer’s market.
Think that cherry tomato and avocado salad is topnotch in terms of potassium and protein?
Conventional produce is treated with pesticides—as in, sprayed with chemicals to prevent insects and the like from feasting on the crop before it makes its way to your local grocer.
Before you brush this off as an inconsequential side effect of living in the 21st century, let’s backtrack for a moment and establish what organic food actually means.
Organic—an industry that, according to The HuffPo, is now highly regulated—refers to foods that are cultivated without the use of chemicals. Synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, GMOs—none can be used in order for a food to be considered certified USDA Organic.
What’s more, The Huffington Post reports, “a farm cannot have had any of the prohibited substances used on its land for three years prior in order to qualify for USDA Organic status.” (Because, yes, those icky chemicals get into the soil.)
In other words, that non-organic tomato you’re about to spear could be teeming with pesticide residue. (Indeed, the Environmental Working Group ranked tomatoes as the ninth most pesticide-contaminated crop on the market.)
And while Harvard University points out that pesticides are prevalent, they also affirm that the harm they can cause is daunting—from “cancer and damage to the nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems” to diabetes.
Additionally, certified organic goods, unlike conventional crops and processed foods, don’t have additives, processing aids, or fortifying agents like preservatives, dyes, flavorings, and artificial sweeteners—and all of these bad boys have been associated with obesity and digestive problems.
Bottom line: We’re talking about your health and longevity here; isn’t it worth the extra price and effort?
HIGHER NUTRITIONAL CONTENT:
True: An apple is an apple is an apple—until you play the compare and contrast game. (Be prepared to be astonished by the results.)
A 2007 study out of Newcastle University in the UK found that organic produce possesses as much as 40 percent more nutrients than conventionally-grown crops.
Furthermore, a 2003 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry determined that organically-cultivated berries and corn—two of my faves—boast 58 percent more polyphenols. No wonder my organic-infatuated friends look so youthful: Polyphenols are potent antioxidants that can boost skin health, reduce inflammation, and neutralize pro-aging free radicals.
Additionally, according to studies compiled by Dr. Mercola, organic fruits and vegetables “can contain as much as 69 percent more antioxidants than conventionally-grown varieties.”
This isn’t just vital to the condition of your complexion or the lustrousness of your hair and nails: The authors who published this analysis confirm that antioxidants have “previously been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers, in dietary intervention and epidemiological studies.”
All of this is especially important in our current world, where the advent of modern mechanical farming—which emphasizes economy and quantity rather than nutrition and quality—has rendered contemporary produce much paltrier than it was in old-timey eras.
As Chief Science Officer and Co-Owner of Eco Organics Dr. August Dunning explains, “in order to receive the same amount of iron you used to get from one apple in 1950, by 1998 you had to eat 26 apples.”
And while I love me some apples—particularly in pie—I think I’ll just ask Siri how to get to the nearest Trader Joe’s instead. Won’t you join me?