These are foods produced following a government-regulatedpractice of growing and processing that minimizes exposure topesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals used in traditionalfarming. Organic food is one of the country's fastest-growingmarket segments; sales have risen more than 20 percent per yearsince the 1990s, according to the USDA's Economic ResearchService.
Why it's here to stay:
Some organic foods may provide a nutrition boost. A researchreview of 41 studies conducted by the University of California atDavis found that, on average, organic produce contains as much as27 percent more vitamin C, 21 percent more iron, and 29 percentmore magnesium compared to traditionally grown foods. The kinds ofpackaged organic foods that now fuel the category's growth, likecookies, baked goods, and boxed meals, also benefit from a similarperception of healthfulness.
What it means for you:
"An organic stamp isn't necessarily a guarantee ofnutritional quality, but it is a sure sign that the food is lessadulterated," Stokes says. An organic cookie, for example, may havejust as many calories and grams of saturated fat as a nonorganiccookie. But in the case of produce crops that are commonly treatedwith high concentrations of pesticides, like peaches, apples, andstrawberries, choosing organic can minimize your exposure to thesechemicals, according to tests conducted by researchers from theEnvironmental Working Group in Washington, D.C.