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Is organic food healthier than conventional food?

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., March 15, 2013 - 1:02pm

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Here’s why you can feel good about organic: USDA–certified organic means your food is produced without synthetic pesticides, bioengineering or radiation; animals are raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. But the debate about whether organic foods are healthier for you continues. And two new studies add to the controversy. (Here are 14 foods you should buy organic.)

Don’t Miss: Save Money with these 15 Foods You Don’t Need to Buy Organic

In a recent study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, researchers fed organically and conventionally grown carrots to mice. Mice who ate organic had an increase in regulatory T cells, which are key for immune function. This study looked at the effects of eating organic food. In contrast, most simply compare nutrient and contaminant levels in organic versus conventional foods. And very few studies are of people who eat these foods. These are some of the points made in a recent review of studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It concluded that there’s "limited evidence for the superiority of organic foods."

The authors did find that organic produce contains more phosphorus. Whoop-de-do… You’d have to be near total starvation to be phosphorus deficient. Another bummer: bacterial contamination (like Campylobacter and E. coli) may be more likely in organic foods. It wasn’t all negative: the bacteria in organic chicken and pork are less likely to be antibiotic-resistant. Conventional produce also has a 30 percent higher risk of pesticide residue. And a few studies suggest organic milk and chicken may deliver more good-for-you omega-3 fats.

Related: See how to get more foods with omega 3s in your diet.

Bottom line? More research is needed, but if you worry about antibiotic-resistant bacteria or pesticides, buy organic.

Which foods do you buy organic? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., Health Blog, Eating green, Food & health news, Good choices, Health, Nutrition, Wellness

Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
Brierley holds a master’s degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

Brierley asks: Which foods do you buy organic?

Tell us what you think:

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