How important is organic nutrition to effective weight loss and maintenance? Assuming that optimum health includes effective weight loss and maintenance, perhaps it might be helpful to re-frame the question as “How important is organic nutrition to optimum health?” First, let’s review the criteria a food must have to qualify for the USDA organic label from the official website:
“USDA organic products have strict production and labeling requirements. Organic products must meet the following requirements:
- Produced without excluded methods, (e.g., genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge). Here is the USDA policy on genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- Produced using allowed substances. View the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List).
- Overseen by a USDA National Organic Program-authorized certifying agent, following all USDA organic regulations.”
The lists above are quite detailed and specific. Here are more details. In order to qualify as “organic”, foods must fulfill certain production standards, as follows:
- Animal products such as meat and dairy: grown without the use of growth hormone and routine antibiotics.
- Crops and derivative products: cultivated without industrial pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste, or sewage.
- Organic produce is usually not genetically modified.
These criteria intuitively seem healthier, but what does science suggest? Here is an article entitled Is Organic More Nutritious? New Study Adds To The Evidence, and another (among many): New study finds clear differences between organic and non-organic milk and meat. A third report – “What Are the Benefits of Organic?” As is often the case when reading finding and opinions online, there is mixed evidence, but common sense should always be applied. This article – ORGANIC NUTRITION What Is Its Role in Weight Control? – summarizes some of the ‘elephant in the room’ aspects nicely:
… in conclusion, when evaluating organic foods as well as other foods:
• The composition of the food is important (how much fat it contains, what type of carbs, etc)
• Portion size is important. (Over-sizing portions in the long run will cause weight gain, regardless whether it’s organic food or regular food.)
Common sense would also suggest that those interested in optimum health (who may prefer organic food) tend to correlate with other proactive healthy behaviors and choices.
Another consideration is simply choosing organic foods (by priority) for one’s shopping cart where the worst non-organic ‘offenders’ (e.g. pesticide/herbicide/GMO exposure, etc.) are replaced by organic counterparts. A general rule of thumb might be to ‘go organic’ first where the outer parts of a fruit or vegetable aren’t consumed directly, assuming that most of the harmful chemicals, etc. are sprayed or otherwise concentrated on exterior surfaces. This article “The New Dirty Dozen: 22 Foods to Eat Organic” lists foods where organic choices might be most effective, particularly on limited budgets; some of the foods that top this list where organics may provide the best health difference include:
- sweet bell peppers
- cherry tomatoes
- hot peppers
It would seem that with the abundance of organic alternatives for produce (such as the specific items above) and other foods, it’s now a fairly simple, and reasonably cost-effective option to choose organic fare for most of your food choices to minimize the potential impact on your family’s bodily health as well as other direct and indirect environmental impacts.
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