Think organic is healthier? You might just be wasting your hard-earned cash

Think organic vegetables are more nutritious than regular varieties? You're not alone. A Pew Research Center study published Thursday reveals that 55% of Americans believe organic produce is healthier than conventionally grown produce. But this is not necessarily true. Interestingly, the study found that believing organic foods are healthier has nothing to do with a person's political beliefs, education, income or geography.

Think organic is healthier? You might just be wasting your hard-earned cash
The organic section of a supermarket.
Source: Robyn Beck/Getty Images

So where'd we get this idea from? Food marketers have made organic foods seem synonymous with health, leading many American consumers to believe they're doing their bodies good by buying pricey organic food. A whopping 72% of U.S. consumers purchased organic food products for health reasons, while 69% made food decisions based on environmental or ethical reasons, a study from Mintel noted.

RELATED: 10 supermarket traps you should always avoid:

10 supermarket traps
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10 supermarket traps

Large shopping carts

According to Martin Lindstrom, the larger the shopping cart, the more likely you are to spend. The marketing consultant told The Consumerist"We doubled their size as a test, and customers bought 19% more."

Pleasing aromas and colorful sights

Walking into a grocery store and smelling freshly baked goods and flowers, especially if you're in a good mood, is a surefire way to get you to throw a few unnecessary items into your cart as your begin shopping experience.

Fresh produce first​

After you've already been tricked into picking up a loaf of bread or some flowers, supermarkets also get you by placing the produce in the front of the store. By doing this, they fool you into believing you're being healthier by shopping for fruits and veggies first so you won't feel bad if you decide to stock up on a few unhealthier snacks along the way to checkout, too.

Mist on produce

You may think the mist on fresh fruits and veggies is helping the produce, but in all actuality, it makes them rot faster. Also, be sure to shake off the access water before purchasing your produce -- the mist tends to add additional weight, making the price go up.

Slow, boring music

Have you ever wondered why most grocery stores play some sort of elevator music? It's because they want you to take your time while shopping. Many stores play music slower than the average heartbeat, so pop your headphones in and play upbeat music to combat this trick.

10-for-$10 promotions

It's common to believe you're getting a great deal during a 10-for-$10 promotion, but say, if a can of beans was originally 87 cents, you're actually paying more versus buying 10 of the same cans when they aren't on "sale."

Dairy being in the back of the store

The reasoning behind the age-old trick of placing milk and other dairy products in the back of the store may surprise you. Although it forces you to walk through various aisles, the true reason is because trucks unload their shipments in the back of store, and since milk needs to be refrigerated immediately, the easiest place to keep it is in the back.

More expensive items at eye level

If you've ever wondered why all of the expensive items seem to be the most accessible, there's a reason behind that, too. Supermarkets place cheaper items on the lower and higher shelves and reserve the middle, or eyesight level, shelves for their most expensive products.

Buying premium deli products

Just because you are buying a seemingly fresh cut of meat or fish from the deli and paying a higher price, doesn't necessarily mean the product is of better quality. Often times, the meat was previously frozen meaning you may have to use it sooner than meat you would buy from the frozen section.

Changing the layout of the store... often

Don't get too comfortable with your local supermarket's layout. Markets believe that when a person remembers where there items they plan on buying are, they'll spend less time in the store and will ultimately spend less money.


Plus, the word "healthy" is pretty vague — even the Food and Drug Administration doesn't have a formal definition for it, Mic previously reported. Here's what you need to know about organic food and your health:

Is organic produce healthier than regular produce?

While some individual studies have found that certain types of organic produce contain more beneficial vitamins and nutrients, broader studies demonstrate there is no significant health benefit to eating organic, NPR reported. Nutrient density in produce can vary greatly and isn't necessarily tied to whether a fruit or vegetable was grown using organic or conventional farming methods. For example, a carrot can have two to three times more vitamin A than another carrot due to the weather conditions when it was harvested or its state of ripeness.

Think organic is healthier? You might just be wasting your hard-earned cash
Source: Giphy

"There isn't much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you're an adult and making a decision based solely on your health," Dena Bravata, senior author of a Stanford University-affiliated study, said in a Stanford Medicine press release. A 2016 meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that organic foods could have more nutrients, but only marginally, NPR reported.

But what about pesticides?

Some researchers criticized the Stanford study for not taking pesticide residue on conventionally grown produce into account, but it should be noted that organic produce is also grown using pesticides, albeit non-synthetic (aka not man-made chemical) varieties.

Farmers growing genetically modified crops, conventional crops or organic crops all use pesticides to protect against harmful organisms that can ruin a harvest. A 2011 survey found that 20% of organic lettuce had a significant amount of Dow Chemical pesticide, NPR reported.

Organic pesticides aren't necessarily less toxic than conventional pesticides. It all depends on how much a farmer is using, Jeff Gillman, a professor of nursery management at the University of Minnesota, told NPR. "I could use a tiny amount of a potent synthetic that has proved safe over the last 50 years, or a much larger amount of an organic pesticide," he said. "I want people to know that there are definitely trade-offs."

The United States Department of Agriculture has lots of regulations to ensure safe use of pesticides, but if you feel strongly about minimizing your conventional pesticide exposure, you can always buy organic for for the produce that has the most pesticide residue. Apples, potatoes, nectarines and strawberries have relatively higher amounts of pesticide residue.

Think organic is healthier? You might just be wasting your hard-earned cash
Organic produce
Source: Fred Tanneau/Getty Images

So what does"organic" really mean?

Organic food is grown using organic agriculture. TheUSDA states that organic agriculture is meant to promote ecological balance, conserve biodiversity and cycle resources. But the "organic" label does not have any bearing on how healthy a product is.

"There are plenty of cookies, crackers and bars labeled organic that are nowhere close to healthy," Alissa Rumsey, registered dietitian and personal trainer, said in an email.

Unfortunately, the pervasive belief that conventional produce isn't healthy can deter people from eating a healthy diet, Toby Amidor, registered dietitian and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen said in an email, explaining that a recent study revealed that low-income people who couldn't afford organic actually skipped purchasing produce altogether because they thought conventional fruits and vegetables were not healthy. "As a registered dietitian, these results sadden me," she said.

Rusmey tells her clients who are looking to get healthier that eating organic is a matter of preference and that they should still eat fruits and vegetables even if they can't afford organic produce. Amidor echoed this sentiment, noting that 90% of Americans don't eat the recommended amount of vegetables. "Choosing conventional produce can absolutely help minimize the gap," Amidor said.

Will the USDA ever proactively clear up the confusion surrounding organics and health? "The USDA organic regulations do not address health claims or food safety, so this type of action would fall outside of the scope of the National Organic Standards Board," a USDA Agricultural Marketing Service representative said in an email.

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