should we spend more on organic fruits and vegetables?

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It’s a late Saturday morning at the supermarket. You’ve planned the shopping for the week and you’re ready to get in, out and get on with your weekend. Everything is going according to plan – until you reach the fresh produce section.

Spoiled for choice but unclear, you wonder if it’s really worth paying double the price for organic avocados. And while regular carrots all look crispy and orange, the organic broccoli on offer today looks worse.

So should you buy based on what’s available on the organic shelves, or is your healthy diet still intact if you opt for the regular – and presumably cheaper – versions of the products you want?

According to experts, buying what is fresh and affordable is the key to a healthy and happy life.

“Nutritionally, the differences between organic and conventional produce are negligible,” says Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD of Street smart food. “While there may be minute differences in micronutrients and antioxidants, either option will provide the benefits associated with higher overall fruit and vegetable consumption.”

Considering that only 27% of adults in the UK receive their five a day – a figure that drops to one dismal 12% in the United States – most of us should prioritize consumption over labeling.

What does “organic” really mean?

“An organic label or certification is not a marker of superiority or nutritional quality. Rather, it tells you how that fruit or vegetable was produced,” says Harbstreet.

“Organic growers face the same pest, climate and weed pressure as non-organic growers, and in my experience they both care deeply about providing safe, high quality and nutritious food for our pleasure.”

These fancy labels, by the way, don’t grow on trees. Getting certified is a tedious processand entities controlling organic certification vary in both cost and criteria.

This means that small producers, like local producers who set up shop at weekly farmers’ markets, often cannot justify pursuing organic certification even if their farming methods meet or exceed regulatory standards.

Not all organic food is labeled as “organic”

“I grow produce under organic protocols, but I would never go through the certification process,” says Diane Kuthy, a smallholder farmer and founder of How to grow everything.

Despite all the time and money a producer must spend to have the privilege of jumping the certification hoop, labels are, in essence, a marketing tool. Organic certification protocols in the UK and USA specify that products must only be 95% organic. That doesn’t leave much room for vague interpretation, but it does mean there’s a 5% discrepancy.

“This 5% discrepancy,” Kuthy notes, “was created to allow for the inclusion of ingredients that cannot be certified organic, such as salt or baking soda. However, this also leaves room for small indiscretions among producers.

In short, unless you grow these tomatoes yourself, it’s hard to know exactly what went into the growing and harvesting process, let alone packaging and transportation. The road from farm to table via the supermarket is typically winding and product labels offer little direction.

“Food labeling is often unclear or misunderstood, even among food and health professionals,” says Harbstreet.

That said, some labels include sourcing information, such as the name of the farm and packing facility. The product manager at your favorite grocer can also direct you to certain producers or importers. But if you really want to connect with the source of your fruits and vegetables, buy direct.

Only you can decide your food priorities

“Buyers will have different priorities,” says Barbara Bray MBE, food safety and nutrition consultant and founder of Alo Solutions. “Health, environment, animal welfare – focus on what is important to your household. If you buy directly from the producer, you can ask about their production methods.

Bray recommends online resources such as Eat on the farm nowthe Soil Associationand LEAF to learn more about the impact of farming methods on the food we eat. She also encourages curious consumers to take advantage of opportunities to visit farms, whether on demand or at events like Farm open on Sunday.

There is no nutritional difference between organic and non-organic

And in the debate between organic and non-organic, Bray echoes earlier sentiments.

“The level of vitamins and minerals in crops can actually vary more due to the type of vegetable than agronomic practices – the important thing is to eat as wide a range of foods as possible. evidence to say that the differences between organic and conventional foods are all important to human health.

So, in the end? Buy what you can. Buy fruits and vegetables that fit your budget, dietary needs and cooking habits. the UK organic market could grow steadilybut it seems to be linked to a growing desire for awareness of what is happening in the supply chain as a whole.

We are more keen to understand the impact of our eating habits on the world around us – on farmers, gatherers, animals, the environment, etc. – which is, to be clear, a very good thing. It’s also easy to confuse it with the feeling of “doing good” simply by looking for organically labeled products.

“There are other food production systems [besides organic] that help the environment and are ethical,” says Bray. “This includes foods produced from regenerative agricultural systemsfood of Fair trade Farmers, Rainforest Alliance producers and eco-labeled foods for their carbon footprint and their impact on the planet.

“There are a range of alternatives available that may suit people’s underlying values ​​- it’s time for buyers to look beyond the idea of ​​just two choices.”

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