Health Watch -- Organic Foods

Health Watch is a Public Service of the  Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Is organic food always good for you?

Sales of organic foods are on the rise, and more grocery stores are making organic products available. But nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that buying organic doesn’t mean you can quit reading food labels.

For one thing, an organic food isn’t necessarily a completely natural food, according to Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern. “Organic” has more to do with the way a food is grown, and organic foods still can have things added to them that aren’t good for you. For example, you may find that organic foods have added fats, such as coconut oil, which is high in saturated fat. Organic foods also could have sodium added. To be sure you know what you’re getting, read the nutrition and ingredient labels, just as you would when you’re buying any other food.

Meanwhile, growing a vegetable under organic conditions – without chemical fertilizers or pesticides – doesn’t change its nutrition content. It will still have all the same good stuff and bad stuff. Organic foods are just less likely to contain traces of potentially harmful chemicals.

There are also different kinds of “organic.” Again, read the labels. A food labeled “100 percent organic” must have all components grown or produced organically and certified by an organic producer. “Organic” means that the product contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients. “Made with organic contents” means a product must contain at least 70 percent organic components.