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Are Organic Foods Worth It?

Foods from the Earth on Earth Day

Nutritious, Delicious and Kosher: Are organic foods worth it?

April 22nd is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Back in the 1970s, organized rallies took place protesting offenses to the environment including toxic dumps, factories that created pollution, harmful car emissions and pesticides, just to name a few.

Fast forward to today and the question of the use of pesticides still exists. Organic foods are now more popular and more abundant than ever, but the big question remains: are organic foods healthier and are they worth paying the premium? The answer is not all that simple. Just because a food is labeled “organic,” doesn’t mean it gets to wear an automatic neon sign, glowing with the words, “healthiest option.” There are organic foods that are wholesome and healthy and there are organic foods loaded with fat, sodium and sugar (organic chips and cookies, for example.) So basically, buyers beware because not all organics are alike.

Guidelines for Organic Food Labeling

On food labels, products that use the term "organic" must meet the following guidelines.

  • Products labeled as "100 percent organic" must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients.
  • Products labeled "organic" must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt).
  • 100%” and “95%” organic products must use an organic seal.
  • Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may only list those ingredients that are organic on the information panel.
  • Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients can use the phrase "made with organic ingredients" and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel.

Look at Each Food's Nutritional Bottom Line

The bottom line is that you don’t have to go home and empty every shelf in your cabinets and fridge to convert to organics. Start small when possible and when affordable. You might save money by purchasing private label organic products instead of those that come from name brand manufacturers. In any event, remember fruits and vegetables are an important part of your daily diet, whether they are organic or conventional.

Most importantly, include lots of variety in your diet to limit your exposure to any one type of pesticide residue. And look beyond the organic label—the number one priority to keep in mind is the product’s total nutritional package first, looking at saturated fat, trans fats, sodium, sugar and calories, and consider how this particular food plays a role in your diet. Organic candy is still candy.

- BONNIE TAUB-DIX, MA, RD, CDN authors's "Nutritious, Delicious and Kosher: Tips for Healthy Kosher Living and Eating," providing nutritional insight to site visitors/users. She is a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and Director and Owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants with offices on Long Island and in New York City. She is also a specialist in behavior and lifestyle modification, nutritional psychotherapy, obesity and weight management.