Over the past few years, organic foods have increased in demand and popularity, with more people buying organic than ever before. Across the country, companies and suppliers have struggled to keep up with the growing demand, causing multiple organic food shortages, including organic apples from Wenatchee, WA., and organic and cage-free eggs from Portland, OR.

organic produce

Does going organic really make a difference?

Grocery stores like Whole Foods are amongst the better-known leaders in the market, with other stores quickly trying to insert themselves into the health-food niche.  Target is in the process of going organic by launching its “Made to Matter” collection, in which it expands upon its organic options, including 17 big organic brands such as Chobani Greek yogurt, Method cleaning products, and Burt’s Bees health and beauty products, according to Forbes.com.

Despite such large demands and increasing marketing trends towards the organic lifestyle, are organic products better for your health than conventional products? A recent article from the Washington Post begged the question, taking a look at organic milk, meat, eggs, and produce.

The findings of the article, which utilized recent FDA reports and independent research studies, essentially stated that there are few significant nutritional differentiations between conventional and organic foods, at least in those categories. For example, while organic milk does have higher levels of omega-3 fats than conventional milk, fats which can help protect against heart disease and other fatal diseases, the higher levels are not significant enough “to make a difference”. The premise is similar with conventional versus organic meats: grass-fed (organic) animals have slightly higher levels of omega-3 fats than grain-fed (conventional) meats, but like milk, the difference is not significant enough to make an impact. There were also very few nutritional differences between organic and conventional eggs.

Perhaps the only food group with slightly varying results was produce. While organic produce has lower pesticide residue than conventional produce, the amount of pesticide residue in conventional produce is also low and potentially not harmful for humans when consumed over the course of a lifetime. However, scientists and researchers haven’t agreed on the risk of ingesting those residues pose: some scientists believe that the level of pesticides in conventional produce is not harmful, while others argue that there is a correlation between pesticide consumption and neurological issues within children, such as ADHD.

There are many sources, including a recent infographic posted by USA Today, that say if a person can only afford to buy certain organic products, it should be primarily produce–including strawberries, grapes, kale, spinach, and potatoes.

It remains to be seen, however, if scientific evidence can back-up any real need for going organic.