Cancer Featured

Is organic best for reducing cancer risk?

Vegetables on a wooden table

Some consumers these days make a huge deal that organic foods are better than non-organic foods. But that is not entirely true. First off, what is organic? Organic foods are foods that follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) specific guidelines of growing, maintaining, and processing foods to earn the USDA certified organic seal if they are 100% organic. The main portion of the organic process that consumers question is the use of pesticides. Some people think there are absolutely no pesticides used in the processing of organic foods. However, the USDA has a list of approved and non-approved pesticides and fertilizers that are allowed. Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are the most forbidden to be used in the agricultural process. This reduction in synthetic items is beneficial to the environment, which we all know is important. While these practices of producing organic foods come with benefits, the main question remains: are organic foods better and if so, do they help to reduce the risk of cancer?

Organic foods are not “better” than non-organic foods. The less pesticides that are used the better people perceive the product. However, the potential residue of pesticides on non-organic products is exceptionally low to the average consumer and doesn’t increase your cancer risk. When it comes to cancer risk and pesticides, individuals that manage them while working on the farm have an increased risk. That is why adopting organic farming is better for the farmers and the planet. However, as an individual the risk for cancer is small. Now, if going organic makes the person decide to adapt to a healthier lifestyle, which is great! Especially if this is going to help the person add more fruits and vegetables to their diet, which can help reduce the risk of some cancers. One of the biggest decision factors is whether the patient will be able to afford choosing organic foods as they are usually more expensive than non-organic foods. For the patient whose food budget does not allow for organic foods, buying non-organic is better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.

But do organic foods really help reduce the risk of certain cancers? The short answer is no. The bottom line is that non-organic and organic fruits and vegetables have the same nutrient makeup. Would it hurt to get organic foods? Also no. When it comes to organic foods and reducing the risk of cancer, just remember that you do not have to choose only organic foods to receive the benefits. By choosing fruits and vegetables that resemble the colors of the rainbow and contain fiber and antioxidants, you are reducing your cancer risk regardless of if they are organic or not. Also, whole grain foods and lean meats produce a nutrient dense meal and/or snacks are ideal not only for reducing the risk of certain cancers, but for consumption as a healthier meal. Fiber is important in reducing risk of colorectal cancers. Fruits and vegetables with a peel such as apples, pears, and legumes are ideal for fiber. Eating fruits can also help in reducing the risk for lung cancer.

The important take away is that trying to adapt to a healthier lifestyle can prevent certain cancers whether a person decides to consume organic or non-organic foods. A plate that is half fruits and vegetables, a quarter whole grains, a quarter of lean meats, and include nonfat dairy are ideal to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle unless determined differently from your physician and dietitian. Choosing organic foods are a personal choice and not deemed better from non-organic foods. Just remember to make sure to thoroughly wash your fruits and vegetables before consuming to avoid bad bacteria and pesticides that may still be on the surface, regardless of if they are organic or not. Finances are also important if considering an “organic” diet, especially if you are on a budget. Just remember incorporating fruits and vegetables are important for reducing the risk of certain cancers.

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Augusta University Health