Getty: Anderson Ross

Organic produce had as much as 60 percent more antioxidants and lower levels of toxic metals such as cadmium, research shows. (Photo: Anderson Ross/Getty Images)

New research shows it’s worth it to eat organic. 

All healthy eating buffs have experienced “organic sticker shock.” That’s when the price of the organic fruit, vegetable or meat product you’re about to buy takes your breath away. Considering the high price of lots of organic fare, many a sister on a tight budget is likely to wonder, is there really a health benefit to spending more on organic food?

A new study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, adds to existing evidence that yes, organic foods are worth the dent they may put in your budget.

An international team of experts in nutrition and health looked at research from around the world, reviewing 196 papers on milk and 67 papers on meat and found distinct differences in the nutritional composition of organic and non-organic products. The organic meats and dairy samples had much higher levels of antioxidants (they protect against aging and disease), minerals and other healthy compounds and healthier fat profiles.

Organic Meat & Milk Benefits

The study found:

-Organic milk and meat contain nearly 50 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced products. Omega-3’s reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.

-Organic meat was lower in saturated fat—the kind of fat that’s most harmful to heart health.

-Organic milk contains 40 percent more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), it decreases body fat and high blood pressure.

-Organic milk contains higher concentrations of iron, vitamin E and some carotenoids, essential nutrients for any healthy diet.

“Omega-3s are linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease, improved neurological development and function, and better immune function. But, getting enough in our diet is difficult. Our study suggests that switching to organic would go some way towards improving intakes of these important nutrients,” said Chris Seal, a professor of Food and Human Nutrition at Newcastle University, where the study was conducted.

Why are organic meats and milk different? It’s simple—the animals that produce them live the old-fashioned way; they are reared outdoors and fed grass that has not been sprayed with non-organic fertilizers.

Earlier studies—conducted by the same group of scientists from the United States, Britain, Norway and other countries—also found nutritional benefits in organic fruits and vegetables.

They found that organic produce had as much as 60 percent more antioxidants and lower levels of toxic metals such as cadmium. Both studies suggest that organic foods might help black women lower disproportionately high rates of chronic health problems, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

Woman grocery shopping.

Buying Organic on the Cheap

While the research provides great clues to eating a healthier diet, there’s still the issue of organic food busting your budget. Organic foods and certification are costly, so the foods will always cost a little more as well, but here’s how to eat better and spend less.

  1. Find a food coop: Food coops offer high-quality organic produce at prices that are often as much as 250 percent less than regular grocery stores. In addition, they usually make deals with farms so that the products you do buy are fresher and last longer in your fridge. Use this national directory to find a coop near you.
  2. Form a collective. If you can’t find a coop, consumer groups can often make agreements with local, organic farms that will deliver produce, sold at wholesale prices, to a local pick-up spot, like a church or community center, if they can get enough buyers. But, you only need a few buyers to begin. Try this guide to get started.
  3. Shop the dot. Green Polka Dot is an online, organic buying group that offers food at as much as 60 percent off and your Green Polka Dot box can be delivered directly to your door. It’s a great concept for families too busy to shop or seniors who can’t easily get to a market or coop.
  4. Print and pack your coupons. Several websites offer a broad selection of coupons on organic products. Take a look at: Healthy Life Deals, Organic, Stock Piling (great for baby and child-friendly foods), and Couponing 101 organic deals. Search for new coupon sites often. New ones seem to crop up every month.
  5. Buy it in bulk. Find a health food store with a bulk section. It can save you a bundle on dried fruits, granola, rice, nuts, grains, coffee and other items that have high-pesticide residues when grown conventionally.
  6. Switch your grocery store. Years ago, you could only find organic produce and meat in small health food stores that are known for high prices. Now, lot’s of well-known grocery chains offer organic foods at bargain prices or have well-priced organic lines of their own. Look for a local Stop & Shop, especially for their Nature’s Promise products. Safeway, their brand is O organics and they are carrying more organic produce. Trader Joe’s, shop the store organic brand and others, Albertson’s, especially the Wild Harvest Brand. Do an online search for stores near you that carrying more organics, most large chains have realized it’s time to get onboard.