Going Organic? Here’s What You Need to Know

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Once upon a time, the only place you could go for organic produce was a specialty health food store. Over the past decade, however, it’s become much more popular for supermarkets of all kinds to stock organic fruits and vegetables, and you’re probably used to seeing them here at Bliss Shurfine and other local grocery stores.

The truth is that organically grown foods look exactly like their non-organic counterparts. So what’s the difference?

    It starts at the farm. Foods that are organic (and we’re talking here about fruits, vegetables, dairy products, grains, and meat) are grown and processed with the following in mind:

  • Organic farmers use insect traps, careful crop selection, predator insects, or beneficial microorganisms to control crop-damaging pests, while conventional growers use synthetic pesticides that often leaves residue on the produce itself.
  • Organic regulations ban or severely restrict the use of food additives, processing aids, and fortifying agents commonly used in nonorganic foods. This includes preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings and flavorings, and monosodium glutamate
  • Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality.

And it’s true that you cannot tell how something was grown by looking at it: look instead for the label showing that it has been certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to meet strict government standards that regulate how such foods are grown, handled, and processed.

Are organic foods healthier than others? The jury is still out. A study cited by the Mayo Clinic examined 50 years of scientific articles about the nutrient content of organic and conventional foods and concluded that organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs are not significantly different in their nutrient content. On the other hand, another analysis concluded that there are "statistically significant, meaningful" differences, with a range of antioxidants being "substantially higher" – between 19% and 69% – in organic food.

So: better for the environment, possibly healthier, and certainly more natural, organic foods deserve a place on your table!