Are the health benefits of organic foods worth the expense?
I would say yes, but not in the way you're thinking. Generally, the pesticide levels in well-washed conventional foods appear to be safe for human consumption. People who do consume conventional foods have small yet detectable levels of pesticides. Switching to entirely organic foods can cause pesticide levels in the body to become undetectable after just a few days. Does this translate to any health benefits? It's not known. Some studies have found slightly larger amounts of certain vitamins in organically grown vegetables. So far the evidence is slight and sketchy. However, what's important when considering organic foods, especially processed, packaged organic foods, is the targeted demographics of such organic foods: health-conscious people. Many of these packaged organic products are formulated in a way that are superior to conventional products: with whole grains, lots of fiber, little saturated fat, less salt, no hydrogenated oils, etc. These nutritional differences are obvious from the label. Additionally, organic foods are targeted at a demographic willing to spend extra on their food. For such reasons, many premium food products containing expensive, better tasting ingredients are made organically. People may say "organic food tastes better" but this really isn't true because the food is organic. If a grower happened to divide their field in half, grow one side conventionally, the other organically, all other things the same, the food would taste the same. A grower that produces smaller crops will be more willing to undertake more expensive growing methods including organic, knowing they will be able to sell their products at a premium since they would have difficulty competing with a larger grower. As a result, the organic products found on the shelf happed to be made using premium products and more expensive methods and so might taste better, again, not because they are organic. So while these organic foods are "better", it's necessarily not because they're organic. Certain food products are available only in organic varieties. "Wild" or lowbush blueberries, have much higher antioxidant activity as compared to traditional blueberries. Wild blueberries are typically only available in organic varieties. Are wild blueberries worth it? They're perhaps 30 cents extra per pound. Do I buy wild blueberries? Sure. They're smaller and sweeter, and the higher antioxidant content makes me willing to gamble an extra 30 cents. Perhaps down the road, it's shown that such additional antioxidants no added benefits. In such a case, I'll be out 30 cents for something that was a little sweeter. Should you pay more for organic products? It depends. Comparing identical foods, no one's going to say an organic product, say an organic orange, is any WORSE than a conventionally grown one. Consider it a gamble then: you're betting X extra dollars that a organic product will be better for you than a conventional but otherwise identical product. Either you're right and you've gained whatever health benefits organic products happen to have or organic products are identical to conventional products and you've wasted X dollars, though still have consumed a nutritional product which might taste better than the cheaper stuff. In this situation, if you have money to spare, and spending X dollars won't affect how many fruits and vegetables you consume, it might possibly be worth it. On the other hand, if money is tight for you, and purchasing organic fruits and vegetables would force you to consume fewer fruits and vegetables due to the higher cost, organic vegetables are out of the question. In comparing packaged foods with differing nutritional content on the label between conventional and organic products, always consider the nutritional facts and ingredients before considering whether or not something is organic. 100% Whole grain, low sugar waffles made with canola oil and dried fruit bits are most definitely better than enriched wheat flour, sugary, hydrogenated Eggos, whether or not the whole grain ones or the Eggos happen to be organic or not. Whole grains products low in saturated fat and free of trans fat are most definitely more healthful, there's no gamble here. By all means, if you can afford healthier products like this, buy them, whether or not they're organic. Likewise, organic food can also be unhealthful simply because of the product. Conventionally grown lean turkey beats organically grown, corn-fed, hand-raised beef anytime due to the lower cholesterol and saturated fat content. Don't believe that you're doing yourself a favor just because you're eating organic food. Organic milled sugar or organic is still just a bunch of empty calories which could be replaced by better foods, including conventionally grown fruits. So what really contributes to making an organic product worth the expense is not because it's organic, but rather for its nutritional content. In all cases, consider the nutritional content between the organic product and its alternative first. If one comes out on top, no question, buy the most nutritional product regardless of its organic-ness. If they appear equal nutritionally, consider the added cost of the organic product and decide how it will impact you based on your financial situation.