• Family Life

Is Organic Food Really Worth The Price?

February 24, 2016 | Catherine Alford
KEY POINTS
  • Why we recommend the nutritional and financial benefits of organic food.
  • Investing in organic food can reduce your family’s health care costs.
  • Don’t eat organic all the time, but find the balance and save big.

The relationship between food, health and wealth is becoming a front and center issue in our society. Many people, parents especially, wonder if there is a way to strike a balance between food, health, and the cost of pricier organic options. Will organic food actually make a difference and help us save money on healthcare costs long term?

Is Organic Food Really Better?

The first step to deciding whether or not to spend extra money on organic food is to determine whether or not it’s worth the cost. Many researchers have looked into the nutritional value of organic food, trying to determine if they do, in fact, provide an extra nutritional boost. Of course, like many studies, researchers have arrived at different results.

For example, a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition says that organic milk and meat specifically “are healthier than conventional products in a number of ways.” After reviewing data from 196 studies from around the globe, “The investigators discovered that organic products provide higher levels of beneficial fatty acids, certain essential minerals and antioxidants.”

There were other studies, though, including one in 2012 from Stanford that was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that found “Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” but also says that the “literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.”

In other words, the verdict is still out and definitely up for debate. Still, many parents choose organic food for their children. According to a recent Time article, one of the main reasons for this is that eating organic food exposes their kids to less pesticides. There was actually a fascinating study where researchers measured “pesticide exposure in a group of 23 elementary school-age children” and found that an organic diet over the period of just a few days reduced exposure. The Time article argued this is significant, since exposure to “agricultural chemicals” can lead to cancer.

In 2012, though, the American Academy of Pediatrics spoke out on this issue. They said, “Organically raised animals are also less likely to be contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria because organic farming rules prohibit the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics. However, in the long term, there is currently no direct evidence that consuming an organic diet leads to improved health or lower risk of disease. But, no large studies in humans have been performed that specifically address this issue.” Basically, more research needs to be done to come to a concrete answer.

I can tell you that as my income has increased over the past year, I’ve allocated more money to purchasing organic food. My husband is graduating from medical school in just a few weeks, and we try to place a strong emphasis on health. The CDC reports that, “childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.” Because obese children (and adults) have more health issues, including high cholesterol and other chronic problems, their health costs will be higher over the course of their lives.

So, because it is up to us as parents to choose the food our children eat and establish a healthy relationship with food, we strive to give them quality, nutritious food even if it’s more expensive.

Why This Matters Financially

According to an actuarial firm called Milliman, Inc., a typical family of four will now spend $24,671 annually on healthcare. This is a scary number to me as the mom of a family of four who is already facing the frequently touted statistic of it costing $245,000 to raise a child until they become age 18.

Just last week both of my children were sick, and each time I bring them to the doctor, it costs us a significant amount of money even with insurance. Health care costs keep rising, and one way to stay healthy long term is, of course, to eat healthy food. This is not just for parents with young kids but for all adults in a range of professions, ages, and lifestyles.

Plus, healthcare costs don’t just weigh on us as individuals. They affect employers too, who see health care costs for their employees rise year after year. Steven Burd, who is the CEO of Safeway, the nation’s third largest grocery chain, explained that back in 2005, he was spending $1 billion on his employee’s health insurance policies and the cost rose every year. So, many corporations are trying to educate their employees on the importance of health and how to make sure their diets are nutritionally sound.

Why It Matters For Your Family’s Health

According to research by the International Journal of Obesity, “Parental style is a critical factor in the development of food preferences. Children are more likely to eat in emotionally positive atmospheres.” What this means is that children will formulate their relationship with food from a young age, and their parents will greatly influence this relationship. So, it’s up to us to select the foods they eat and allow them to learn about healthy food choices.

The studies can’t really tell us if the ultimate healthy food choice means eating 100% organic, but that’s where I believe the balance comes in. I know not every single thing I eat is organic. My children might have organic cheese quickly followed by fistfuls of goldfish crackers. I don’t expect my two year old twins to be the image of organic food perfection. They are going to eat cookies and other junk from time to time. However, they’re also going to drink organic milk and eat organic veggies and organic meat (that is, if my son ever decides he actually likes meat.)

Do you know your monthly spending on food and organics?

Ultimately, I don’t think all of us have to be perfect when it comes to what we eat, but I do think it’s important to be more conscious about food choices and be aware of the financial implications. Health care costs and obesity rates are rising in our country, and we all know how expensive it is to go to the doctor or buy medication for chronic issues. So, if eating better and having a healthy lifestyle can help me spend less on medical costs then I’m all for it, especially if it increases my quality of life and the growth of my wealth long term.

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