Organic Food - Is 'Natural' Worth the Extra Cost?

12 organic foods that are worth the expense -- and 12 that probably aren't.

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Once upon a time, organic food was available only at health food stores, marketed to "tree-hugging" consumers willing to pay extra for "natural," environmentally friendly foods. Today, organic foods are undeniably mainstream. Not only can they be found at most every neighborhood grocer, but even giants like Wal-Mart are getting into the act.

People who buy organic are seeking assurance that food production is gentle to the earth, and/or looking for safer, purer, more natural foods. But are organic foods really worth the added expense?

"If you can afford them, buy them," recommends New York University professor Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH. "It really is a personal choice but how can anyone think substances, such as pesticides, capable of killing insects, can be good for you?"

But American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Keecha Harris, DrPH, says, "There is no evidence that organic foods are superior over traditional foods."

Food does not have to be organic to be safe and environmentally friendly, she says. She recommends focusing on eating food grown close to where you live. She notes that some organic foods come from multinational companies and have been trucked across the country.

"They may be organic, but the ... environmental footprint includes lots of petrochemicals used in transportation, whereas if you buy produce from your local farmers market, it may not be organic but it is farm-fresh and less impactful on the environment," says Harris

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