Vail Daily column: Are organic products worth the price? | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Are organic products worth the price?

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

I was coaching a good friend of mine on Friday morning. Typically we skip the small talk and jump right into politics, the state of our military, powder skiing, good food and the problems with the Denver Broncos. Our discussion on Friday involved a thorough analysis of marketing and how it relates to our consumption of groceries.

If you were born no later than the late 1970s, try to reminisce the landscape of your local grocery store when you were young. How many different brands of milk were available? Two or three at the most? What about eggs? When it came to snack cakes, it was Hostess or Little Debbie. Hostess was the Rolls Royce and Little Debbie was the Chevrolet. I think both companies are still fattening kids around the country to this day, but I digress. Anyway, the variety of companies and products within a food category were sparse. Today, there is an entire aisle dedicated to crackers. There are more than 38 different brands and varieties of crackers for goodness sakes.

IS IT REALLY BETTER?

The conversation came to pass because I was still recovering from the sticker shock when I checked out at City Market the night before. My $225 grocery bill was accompanied with a mere four bags of sustenance. Food is expensive, but I want to believe that the Horizon organic milk at a dollar more than the generic organic milk is in fact better. Or perhaps there is something inherently wrong with the generic brand as my friend Chris put it. How often do we make our food selections based on the instinct that the higher price tag and the colorful label compared to the cheaper counterpart is better?

Here’s the real burning question. Are organic foods truly healthier than the inorganic counterparts? For the record, I eat reasonably well; I buy mostly organic whole foods, and I eat fairly close to a proper Paleo diet because I feel my best and operate best on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet and the Paleo diet resembles this makeup. I eat a Paleo diet not because I necessarily believe it is the optimal blueprint for vitality, but rather because of the higher protein to carbohydrate ratio. But will I live longer than the individual who eats inorganic processed foods and rarely exercises, all else being equal?

Of all the food consumed in the United States, only 4 percent of total food and beverage sales are organic products according to the Organic Trade Association. Considering that our country at large still doesn’t buy into eating organic whole foods, is our life expectancy going to dramatically drop because of it? Is quality of life going to be directly affected by the vast majority of people continuing down the path of what we call poor dietary choices?

Frankly, based on data from 237 previously conducted studies, a Stanford University report concluded that when it comes to certain nutrients, there is not much difference between organic and conventionally grown food. Do we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that since the agricultural boom and the rapid growth with inorganic processed food manufacturing, that this will somehow wipe out our population because of degenerative disease processes that these foods are reportedly, anecdotally responsible for?

A reasonable example that has nothing to do with organic foods but within context of making a relevant point, the Neolithic Revolution around 10,000 B.C. was the initial transition from hunting and gathering to settled agriculture and the ability to farm crops. This period is commonly referred to as the “First Agricultural Revolution.” It is ever so popular today to promote a diet rich in free range meat, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that were popular during the Paleolithic era. Common grains and products from the Neolithic era to today are blamed for a host of diseases and conditions. Yet the Paleolithic man only lived an average of 34 years. From the Neolithic Revolution through today our life expectancy has more than doubled. Even in the midst of large scale big business farming and pesticide use, we are doing just fine in terms of longevity. Even considering technological and medical advancements aside, we’re doing better than Tarzan’s days of chasing down deer for survival. Life expectancy and quality of life clearly have more to do with other factors than diet alone, and I wonder how much time and energy we put into eating the right foods when it appears that food is only a small factor in the big picture of good living.

These points in this article aren’t to suggest that organic products aren’t worth the price or that you should expect to live a shorter life if you eat a Paleo diet. It’s really food for thought; we ought to consider other variables to good living beyond dropping big dollars at our local grocery store expecting to live a healthier life from organic products when in reality, I’m not completely sold out in believing this is the case.

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at http://www.r2hp.com or 970-401-0720.