I firmly believe that organic potatoes taste much better than regular potatoes. Somehow they're richer, almost creamier, than the conventional versions. But sometimes, during a trip to the grocery store, I eye the price of organic spinach and find myself weighing whether it's better to pay extra for the greens, or to use that money to buy something more fun, like a pint of my favorite lemon sorbet. According to a new study, the health benefits of organic foods might really be worth a little extra money.
The study, which has been published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, asked over 68, 000 adults in France how often they eat foods that are labeled as organic. The researchers then followed up with the participants between May 2009 and November 2016 to see which people had later developed any form of cancer. Ultimately, the researchers found that, the more organic food a person eats, the lower their chances seem to be of eventually receiving a cancer diagnosis.
Now, before you jump to any hasty conclusions, this correlation does not mean that conventional foods cause cancer, nor does it mean that organic foods guarantee a clean bill of health. Rather, this study shows that organic foods have certain health benefits for your body that could potentially protect your body from diseases like cancer in the long-term.
In case you need a quick refresher on what exactly makes a food "organic" in the first place, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says the main difference between conventional and organic food lies in whether or not synthetic fertilizers and pesticides were used during the growing process of the product, or even in the soil of the food, for up to three years before the fruit or vegetable was harvested.
When it comes to organic meat, "regulations require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture)," the USDA states, "fed 100 percent organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones." But even foods like crackers or processed cookies can be considered organic, the department explains, as long as they don't include artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.
Because organic foods are free of hormones, chemicals, antibiotics, and GMOs, they're nutritionally better for your body overall. Think about it this way: Say you sprinkle a few non-organic strawberries into a bowl of non-organic dairy ice cream. According to clinical nutritionist Sharon Brown, founder of Bonafide Provisions, those strawberries were likely "grown with pesticides," while the ice cream probably "contains hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics," meaning "your strawberry ice cream dessert turns into a scoop of toxins that have been linked to cancer, infertility, and a myriad of other diseases," she tells Elite Daily in an email.
Of course, if you've ever ventured through the organic aisle in your local grocery store, or stopped to examine the difference between an organic apple and a conventional one, then you've probably noticed that organic products tend to be pricier than their conventional counterparts. The reason for this, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) explains, is that supply is limited compared to the demand for organic foods, so that inevitably affects the price. Plus, many of the growing, harvesting, and even shipping processes involved in the organic food production cycle take more time or labor than conventional growing methods do, as per the FAO, so that also factors into why a pink lady apple probably costs more per pound in the organic section.
If buying all organic food isn't quite within your budget, try swapping out just a few foods, suggests Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com. "The 'dirty dozen' is a list of foods that are the most likely to be contaminated with pesticides, including fruits and veggies like strawberries, spinach, nectarines, and apples," he tells Elite Daily in an email. These are generally produce without thick protective skins, he explains, so they're more likely to absorb anything sprayed on them. "Ideally, it’s best to opt for organic produce whenever possible, but it’s especially important when it comes to the items on the dirty dozen list," he says.
The money that you spend on organic food is not only beneficial for your health, but also for promoting your community's well-being, too. "You vote with your dollar when you buy certified organic," says Brown. "The more that people buy organic, the more conventional farmers will be pushed to follow traditional natural growing practices and convert their farms to organic. This leads to healthier individuals and a healthier earth."
Having said all of this, perhaps the most realistic way to ease into a more organic way of eating is to try switching out one item on your grocery list per week with its organic alternative. This way, you won't overwhelm yourself or your wallet.
Trust me — you have to try organic russet potatoes. Then you'll get what all the hype is about.