Organic food can be a lot more expensive than non-organic, but the price difference can vary. People may choose to buy organic food for nutritional, environmental or ethical reasons. As a Nutrition and Dietetics student I will focus on the nutritional effects.
This meta-analysis (data combined from multiple studies) showed that organic crops can contain up to 20-40% more antioxidants (such as vitamins C and E) than non-organic. It was suggested that this is equivalent to 1 or 2 portions of fruit and vegetables. However, it’s still not fully understood whether increasing antioxidant intake makes a huge different to your health.
Another meta-analysis found that organic cow’s milk contains significantly more omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic milk. Omega-3 may be cardio protective and contribute to maintaining a good memory. However oily fish and nuts and seeds are generally richer sources of omega-3 so if you want to increase your omega-3 intake it is probably more beneficial to eat more of these.
This interesting study found that organically labelled food is often perceived as more nutritious than non-organically labelled food, even though the food in the study was exactly the same. The calorie content of the organically labelled food was also hugely underestimated, sometimes by as much as by 24%. It is important to remember that the calorie content of organic food is not any different to that of non-organic food.
More research needs to be done to discover whether organic food makes a significant difference to our health. It is up to you whether you decide to buy organic produce, but I won’t be making the swap for nutritional reasons yet.
In developed countries,where supply of food is not an issue, I believe that organic farming should be encouraged over mass production. Organic food (or just high quality food) should become the norm. This will ultimately drive down prices. The more we can shift people away from quantity to quality when it comes to food, the healthier we will become as a society.