Health vs. price: the benefit of organic foods

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Teresa Mull
Contributing Writer

Health fads are akin to the relationships of the Hollywood celebrities who partake of them. Both have a tendency to pop up dramatically in the news, alter themselves radically and then disappear entirely. While such trends as detox juice cleanses seem to have gone the way of “Bennifer,” the movement of buying organically grown food products appears to be well-rooted (pun intended).

According to the Organic Trade Association, “U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010.” In just one year (2009-2010), total U.S. organic sales increased 9.7 percent.

So what does “organic” actually mean, anyway? Besides being an apparently wise market for investors, organic foods must be grown and manufactured in accord with the standards established by each country. The specific requirements of the USDA seal demand that “organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity and using only approved substances.”

What does all this mean for the University of Dallas consumers? Sometimes it seems that “new age” ideas are rejected by the conservative majority on campus simply because they also happen to be practiced by the extreme left. However, choosing organic products in the store is actually the opposite of the newest, hippie/yuppie craze. Think of it more as “classical liberalism.” An article from naturalbias.com points out that, “Less than a century ago, organic food was the only choice … now we have to pay a premium for organic food and go out of our way to get it.” The thing about “going out of our way” is reflected in the hefty price of many organic goods, and the pros and cons of profit vs. health is worth considering regardless of your political ideology.

Organic.org says that organically grown foods reduce the “toxic load” of our air, water, soil and bodies. Farm pollution is also reduced in growing foods organically, soil is made “healthier” and the toxic risks of pesticides are significantly reduced. Besides improving the environment, Princeton.edu reported that according to surveys, the purer the food, the better and truer the flavor.

Naturalbias.com adds that organic food has “far greater nutrient levels than conventionally farmed foods” because “organic farming involves crop rotation and other practices that replenish the soil and keep it full of nutrients for the crops to absorb.” Cbsnews.com cited the example of milk, in which studies show that “organic milk has 50% more vitamin E, 75% more beta-carotene, and 70% more omega-3 fatty acids than regular. It also has more than double the amount of certain antioxidants.”

Organic food tends to be more expensive to buy, and it is up to the consumer to weigh the benefits of health and flavor against the extra cost. Obviously it is unreasonable to the budget-minded college kid to be constantly splurging for top-dollar luxury food items, so it is a good idea to prioritize the foods which are most valuable when grown organically. CBS News released the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of twelve fruits and vegetables shown to have the highest pesticide exposure. By choosing organic versions of these certain items, buyers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80 percent. It is less important to buy organic with such products wherein thick skins protect against pesticide contamination. CBS News recommends, “As a general rule towards fruits and vegetables, when it comes to edible skins, you’d be wise to choose organic.”

Coming down to the root (pun-intended) of the issue, organic products tend to be healthier and tastier.  And though perhaps more expensive, this produce offers benefits worthy of the extra cost and which Hollywood stars as well as conservative Christians can and should equally enjoy.

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