Is Organic Food Better for You?

USDA Organic


Is organic food better for you?

The three most important deciding factors when it comes to the consumption of food are if it tastes good, if it’s attainable, and its nutritional qualities.  Simply, people need to eat food with nutrients to keep them alive and they need that food to taste acceptable and be attainable so they will put it in their body.  

Does organic food taste better?

My favorite pro-organic description of taste was provided by the former head of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (found here).  He explains how taste depends on so many factors, but, if all variables were controlled for, he would still assume organic tastes better.  A large part of this belief comes from the story of freshness and higher quality that consumers assume of organic food.

So, for those who believe organic food is more fresh and of higher quality than conventionally-farmed food, organic food will taste better.  From our current understanding of taste (summarized well here), an underlying belief in the food has a large effect on if we will eat it.  

Is organic food attainable?  

Yes, however, it tends to be more expensive and is sold at fewer places than conventional food (general info here).  So organic food is less attainable than conventional food.

Is organic food better for you? 

When it comes to the nutritional benefits of food from organic farms vs the produce from conventional farms, organic food is not better for you.  This was the conclusion of the following 3 peer-reviewed, academic papers reviewing over 50 years of scientific literature on that topic.

Study #1: Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review (found here)

Conclusion: The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Study #2: Nutrition-related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review (found here)

Conclusion: From a systematic review of the currently available published literature, evidence is lacking for nutrition-related health effects that result from the consumption of organically produced foodstuffs.

Study #3: Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review (found here)

Conclusion: On the basis of a systematic review of studies of satisfactory quality, there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs. The small differences in nutrient content detected are biologically plausible and mostly relate to differences in production methods.

[If you’re into reading more about that last study, here is a fun back and forth that the Chief Scientist at The Organic Center had with Dangour et. al about their results. Keep reading and you’ll see Dangour et. al’s response as well]

If these studies and their results make you mad or think that this whole mess is crazy, get involved and link in the comments to examples of peer-reviewed systematic review studies from other reputable academic journals that disagree with these results.  

In conclusion, compared to conventionally-farmed food, organic food may taste better to pro-organic people, it’s less attainable for more people, and it’s not nutritionally better for you.


One comment

  1. One major problem with your article was that this sentence at the end of Study 1 was not addressed:

    “Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

    This is my – and should be ‘the’ – primary argument for eating some organic foods. Foods with thin skins like apples, peppers, tomatoes, and the green leafies (spinach, kale, etc.) are especially prone to this.

    Taste or availability or nutritional factor are entirely separate from the larger problem with the pesticides and now so is antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That scares the living shit out of me!

    I wash all of my fruits and veggies with soap and water before consuming (except for thick skinned items like avocados, oranges, grapefruit, etc.). Furthermore, you don’t know how many people touched that pepper or tomato in the supermarket before you got to it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s