Guest post by founder of ConsciousParents.org, San Diego’s Erika McDaniel
“I know eating organic is better, and what I would ideally do. But it’s a lot more expensive. Is it really that much better? Is it worth the extra expense?”
This is a question that I get almost every day, so if you happen to be someone who has thought this, you are in good company.
My response to someone who is asking this to me has two main points:
Eating organic is a bargain.
I know, I know, organic food costs more. On the surface, that is true – one pound of organic vegetables costs more than one pound of conventionally grown vegetables. In reality, though, in the last few years, that gap has closed due to the increased demand for organic food thanks to well-informed consumers.
So it is slightly more expensive (in some cases) and more expensive in others.
But….what are you paying for when you buy that one pound of vegetables?
My philosophy on that is you are buying life-sustaining nutrients. It has been demonstrated that organic food contains more nutrients than the same food grown conventionally. (while this is debated in terms of how many more nutrients per pound of food, ultimately, it is higher in organically grown food).
The reason for this is that produce grown with herbicides and pesticides lacks the inherent “strength” in its own plant to fight off natural predators, such as bugs and bacteria. They have adapted over time to their environment and have essentially gotten “lazy” and therefore, they don’t need to create the nutrients and phytochemicals that contain all the wonderful goodies that we want when we consume them.
The result? Less nutrition per pound of food. Don’t quote me here (because I have seen different exact figures depending on the study) but we are talking in the ballpark of average of 15-25% more nutrients. Meaning, that an organic apple is approximately 15-25% more “nutritious” than a conventionally grown one. (The exact number means less than the point I’m trying to make.)
Therefore, you need to eat less of it. One of the reasons we as a society eat as much as we do is that much of the food we eat is lacking nutrition, and is therefore less satisfying, so we eat more. Therefore, you also buy more non-organic food which in the end, is a wash financially.
Another point – calorically, organic and non-organic is essentially the same. So you get more nutrients per calorie of food. In Clinical Nutrition terms, that concept is called nutrient density.
Have you noticed that conventionally grown strawberries lack the flavor of their organic counterpart?
The next time you think to yourself that organic costs too much, think of this paradigm shift.
What ARE you buying food for?
Hence, the bargain.
What you don’t know CAN hurt you.
Many of us are busy and honestly do not make the time to make it a priority to learn more. After all, our health is pretty good and we don’t have any major complaints, so what we are doing must be working, right?
Disease conditions begin developing in your body anywhere from 5-10 years before they manifest in symptoms.
One way you can take some control of this is with what you put into your body. Hippocrates said “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”
Once you educate yourself about this topic, you might find that the choice is easy. I know it was for me. Even though I have always been health conscious, and thought I was eating “well,” I did not realize the extent to which I was not. Once I learned more, it became clear that what I thought were healthy eating habits, were actually violating several foundational tenets of obtaining optimal health.
I have had clients who have taken the time to learn more, and they have often commented on that idea as well. The sad thing is how many well-intentioned people don’t even have the information, and are unknowingly impacting their health, and their children’s health, in a negative way.
So rather than summarize the points made by educators in this arena, I simply suggest to my clients that they make the time to learn more. That way, they can at least understand the value of organic versus non-organic foods and decide what is better for them and their family. I can tell them what I believe is better, but until they make the decision themselves, they are unlikely to make any long-standing changes.
There are countless resources available to those interested in starting this learning. Some resources to start: Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, Food Politics, by Marion Nestle, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. For those of you who are more visually-oriented, Super Size Me, Food Inc. and The World According to Monsanto, (all documentaries) are another good starting point.
One final thought: You might save money in the short-run, but you’ll pay for it later – in health care costs.
I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but this is a point many people don’t really think about.
While I can’t prove this as absolute fact, we all know that eating organic, healthy, whole foods, is far superior to one’s health than eating processed foods made with chemicals, preservatives, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and pesticide residues.
Nobody can argue that truth.
Yet despite the fact that many FDA approved food additives have been proven definitively to be carcinogenic, they still remain in the food supply – in absurdly high quantities.
So just using simple logic here, I prefer to pay a little more for healthy, life-sustaining, alive, whole foods, than buying cheaper alternatives that over time, will lead me down the road of less than optimal health. I’d rather my hard earned money go towards wonderful foods, than prescriptions, lab tests, and health costs down the road. (Oh, and I’d rather live a better, more vibrant quality of life, too, but we’re talking money here, aren’t we?)
The very same people who won’t buy organic food because they think it’s not worth it, can be found spending $4-5 a day on a Starbucks latte with high fructose corn syrup sweeteners and artificial flavors, and non- organic milk or cream. To me, that is merely and educational issue, because if they truly understood, or believed in the benefits to their health, the choice would be simple.
Erika McDaniel is a utritionist, writer, speaker, mom, and founder of ConsciousParents.org. She is passionate about conscious parenting. Read more about Erika McDaniel and check out her resourceful blog.