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Eat Your Produce, Is Organic Really Better?
More and more people are buying organic and there seems to be a larger variety of organic produce to choose from in the market. Is it really better for you and worth the extra cost? There is ample evidence to conclude that organic crops have less pesticide residue than conventional crops and they have environmental benefits. When it comes to nutrition, the differences are not as clear.
Organic Farming Basics and Benefits
- Farmers only use natural fertilizers to feed soil and plants. Crop rotation or mulch is used to manage the weeds.
- The USDA has an organic certification program that requires organic foods to meet strict standards.
- Organic produce will be labeled 100% organic and can carry the USDA seal.
- Evidence based studies show organic farming methods benefit the environment by reducing pollution, conserving water and soil quality.
- Eating organic can reduce your pesticide exposure.
Is Organic Produce More Nutritious?
A few studies suggest that organic produce has higher levels of vitamin C, certain minerals and antioxidants. These nutrients are thought to protect the body from aging and guard against heart disease and cancer.
Although the differences in organic and conventional produce is relatively small, more research is needed to determine if there are other nutritional benefits.
Buying conventional produce from local farmers also has benefits. The nutrients in produce peak at prime ripeness, just after they are harvested. As a general rule, the less the produce has to travel, the fresher and more nutrient rich it is.
Keep Produce Safe:
- Choose wisely and handle gently, do not purchase bruised produce.
- Store fruit and vegetables separately in the refrigerator produce drawers.
- Wash hands before and after handling fresh produce.
- Clean produce just prior to preparing. Clean under cool running water, do not leave or soak in the sink. Discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables.
- Always store produce in the refrigerator once it is cut.
The Bottom Line
What makes the most sense for you? There are valid reasons to choose organic beyond nutrients; however, it is what suits your budget. The best thing you can do for your health is to eat plenty of colorful produce each day. Most people fall short. You may want to prioritize organic purchases to reduce pesticide residue. Consider organic produce for the dirty dozen most contaminated fruits and vegetables. To get the most from produce, whether it is organic or conventional, eat it when it is fresh. It will be more nutritious and taste better! Have at least 2 cups of vegetables and 1½ cups of fruit each day. A healthy lifestyle includes eating produce and being active.
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