I'm going to write this with regards to personal physical health concerns. If you have concerns involving environmental impact and sustainability of organic vs. non-organic, this is not the thread for them.
**Disclaimer** The majority of this is from research I've done on food items that I eat and am interested in and is by no means exhaustive.
I'll first start out by saying that there is not proof that organic produce is more nutrition than any other. In fact, there have been studies comparing the two and the nutrient profile of the two is almost identical.
Organic produce is more expensive than it's non-organic counterpart. If you're buying organic for fear of what pesticides may do your insides then you don't need to blindly take the plunge into a purely organic grocery cart. The truth of the matter is, some produce is minimally affected by pesticides, some plants just don't need the pesticides, and some plants suck up the pesticides like sponges. The spongy ones are the ones you want to buy organic.
Here's the beginning of a list that are known to put the most pesticides into your body, regardless of washing. It is not exhaustive because it is comprised mostly of foods that I researched individually due to the large quantities of them that I consumed. I'll add to it as I find more.
Red and Green Bell Peppers
Berries (blueberries and strawberries)
Peaches and Nectarines
And here's a list of the safe:
Asparagus (bug hate it so no need for pesticide, people actually grow it in home gardens to keep bugs away)
Corn (though I'm not saying you should eat it)
Broccoli (need to do a bit more research on this)
Now for some interesting findings that make things difficult. The United States has outlawed a number of pesticides as our wonderful (<-sarcasm) FDA has deemed them unsafe. Naturally, the chemical manufacturers continue to make them, opting to export them to other countries, from whom, we import about a quarter of our produce. Duh.
For this reason, some fruits (like certain melons) are safe if from the US, but not imported from Mexico.
Most of the evidence I've found supporting spending extra on organic meat has a basis in minimizing environmental impact and sustainable farming/ranching.
However, a few things do bear mentioning.
Naturally Raised: It's a gimmick. There's no standard for it and anyone can put it on the package.
Raised without antibiotics: Don't trust them.
Grass fed (beef): If you can afford it, it's nice. The Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio is better. The reason it's better is grass-fed beef has higher omega 3 content, no that it has higher omega 6 content. If you can't afford it, no big deal - just take a fish oil capsule and avoid copious amounts of seed oil and nuts.
Chicken: If you're just buying the breast, any is OK (not great). If you're looking to buy the whole bird (which I like to do) going organic is worth it. Poultry fat is full of omega 6 fatty acid and having too much can encourage or cause inflammation.
Fish: I'm still learning here. I know wild caught is better, but apparently even some of that has been contaminated with enough mercury that it should be limited to once/week. I do believe cold water fish typically has a better fatty acid profile than most tropical fish. I'll update this when I know more.
Cow's milk is for baby cows.
There. Now that I've got that out of the way...
Ok. I'm not ready to write this section yet, but I'll work on it. It's have at the very least a Grass-Fed Milk subsection, an Organic-fed Milk subsection, and a raw milk subsection.
I've recently hear that coffee beans are excellent at soaking up pesticides. It made me sad as I love coffee. Like I said, this is from hearsay, so I need to look a bit more into it.
Brown vs white - There is absolutely NO difference in the nutrition or processing. They don't bleach the white ones to make them white. They brown eggs don't indicate that the chickens at better feed. You know thing that we can tell from the color of the egg shell? The color of the chickens earlobes. Chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs, chickens with brown earlobes lay brown eggs. I've purchased organic fed, cage free eggs that were white.
Free range - Means very little. The only thing that has to be true is that they have access to a small doorway to get outside. They have the ability, but they are not forced. I've spoken to a few veterinary students about this and they always mention an interesting study on chickens and stress levels. Chickens raised truly without a cage (they didn't have one if they wanted it, with the exception of maybe an open door coop) had much higher cortisol levels than chickens kept in a coop their whole life. Chickens are prey and they know it. They feel safer and happier in a cage so don't buy cage free/free range for the sake of the kitchen. That's all about making you feel good.
Cage Free - They aren't individually caged, but still confined to a barn - which is basically just a bigger cage.
Organic Feed - This actually might provide slight health benefits. Much like dairy, what the animal eats affects the nutrition of what comes out of their bodies. What I can say without a doubt is that the Omega-3 Eggs DO have higher levels of omega-3s as they are fed feed with higher omega-3 content.
Vegetarian Feed - Chickens are omnivores for Christ's sake - this is like my hippie vegan friend who had the brilliant idea to make is cat some organic VEGAN cat food. THEY'RE CARNIVORES. The cat got sick and almost died.
This post has been edited by High-T: Wed Apr 27, 2011 07:54 AM