Is Organic Food Healthier?

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | September 4, 2018

Have you ever chosen organic milk over regular milk thinking that the former is the healthier choice? How about organic cookies? Bananas?

Of course, you have. We all have. But what are we really buying into? Is a product healthier just because it has a label that says "organic"? Is it worth the higher price tag?

It depends.

By definition, organic means that there has been an approved method of farming and production of a food or food product. Companies that label their products as organic cannot use synthetic additives or preservatives in production, nor can they use antibiotics or hormones. The USDA approves these methods; and if 95 percent or more of the product is organically made, then it is worthy of the USDA Certified Organic Seal.

The truth is that we don't really know if organic food is healthier than conventional, non-organic food. There have been inconsistent results in the research comparing the nutrient density of organic foods with that of conventional foods. No conclusive long-term studies have been conducted on the link between traditional food intake and negative health effects such as increased cancer risk.

The one thing that we do know is that organic food is perceived as healthier. If you ask anyone which is healthier, organic or conventional, they will say organic. It does sound like a healthier word. Or, perhaps, we have fallen for clever marketing.

I do know that just because a product says organic doesn’t mean it’s always a healthy choice. Take organic chocolate chip cookies, for example. They are just as high, if not higher, in saturated fat, added sugar and calories than conventional cookies are. They cost at least twice as much when you buy organic, and the box contains fewer cookies! Are cookies really considered healthy in the first place?

Whether or not organic is the healthier way to go is still up for debates, but one thing’s for sure: whole foods are healthier than processed foods. The good news is that the purchase of whole foods compared to that of packaged foods is on the rise. This means that people are buying into the basic principle that eating whole foods as much as possible while limiting processed foods is the path to overall good nutrition and overall superior health!

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles's profile picture

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/ Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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