Is buying organic food worth the extra cost?

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Wednesday, a new organic food market opens in Overland Park.

The Sprouts Farmers Market store, near 135th and Metcalf, opened at 7 a.m. with a few dozen customers.

The store features fresh, local and organic food, produce and dietary supplements.

We wanted to find out if buying organic or fresh food is worth the extra cost.

Suzanne Friesen, a Kansas City registered dietician, says while eating organic is the way to go, be choosy about the items you buy.

Friesen says if you can afford to buy organic food, it's worth the splurge.

Organic basically means the meat, dairy or produce is raised without pesticides, antibiotics or herbicides. Some foods will have a label showing they are "certified organic," but Friesen says that really doesn't matter.

What you want to look for is local food grown without antibiotics or hormones.

"You can buy foods that are not certified organic that are just as good," she said. "That organic label is costly for farmers so maybe you buy locally raised meat that is not certified organic but is raised without pesticides and antibiotics."

Friesen also says organic foods like crackers and chips are not worth the extra money, since you eat most of those things in moderation and they won't impact your health much.

She says if you choose to buy organic you should focus on meat, dairy and produce.

Another nifty tool is a list referred to as the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean 15."

Produce like apples, cherry tomatoes, spinach, strawberries, celery, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, kale, collard greens, summer squash, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, sweet bell peppers and zucchini can have high levels of pesticides.

Friesen suggests trying to buy those "dirty" foods organic.

Others like onions, asparagus, corn, kiwi, avocado, cabbage, cantaloupe, eggplant, grapefruit, mangos, papayas, pineapples, sweet peas, sweet potatoes and mushrooms are considered "clean." Those items may not be as important to make the splurge for organic, because they naturally are grown with fewer pesticides and herbicides.

Another secret for saving money is to shop in season.

"It can be a little more time consuming and costly to eat organic and fresh, that's true. You can try to buy the produce when it is in season to save cash," she said. "You don't need to eat strawberries in January. You should eat citrus fruit in January when it's in season and save the strawberries for June."

Sprouts is a chain fresh food market and this is the first one in the Kansas City Metro.

Donna Egan, public relations specialist for Sprouts, says the store works with local farmers to bring in fresh produce and meat. The store says that also allows them to sell products at a cheaper cost, since most of the cost of fresh food comes from shipping.

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