Don’t Get Hung Up On Organic

I caught an article, “Eating Food That’s Better For You, Organic Or Not” in The New York Times that I felt organic_wedgebrought up a fantastic point. The author discusses how Americans have done what they always do when it comes to their health and nutrition: they found a new reason why they can’t eat healthily. And it’s got everything to do with eating organic:

No matter how carefully I avoided using the word ‘organic’ when I spoke to groups of food enthusiasts about how to eat better, someone in the audience would inevitably ask, ‘What if I can’t afford to buy organic food?’ It seems to have become the magic cure-all, synonymous with eating well, healthfully, sanely, even ethically.”

What I’m about to say may seem like a stretch, but stick with me. It’s actually a very common fallacy found in logical arguments. That fallacy is known as the “Straw Man” or “Scarecrow” argument. Here’s a quick definition of the straw man argument (Wiki):

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position.[1] To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.”
So in this sense, people have taken the act of eating organic to be the only answer to a healthy lifestyle, and since they feel they can’t afford to eat organic they, therefore, can’t be healthy. But as the author of the article shows, eating organic is not the be all and end-all of living a healthy lifestyle:

And the truth is that most Americans eat so badly — we get 7 percent of our calories from soft drinks, more than we do from vegetables; the top food group by caloric intake is “sweets”; and one-third of nation’s adults are now obese — that the organic question is a secondary one. It’s not unimportant, but it’s not the primary issue in the way Americans eat.”

So the moral of the story here is don’t get hung up on eating organic. When you compare the jump between eating a diet high in processed foods to whole foods to going from whole foods to organic foods, it’s obvious that the first step is more than half the battle.




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