Organic food was earlier found only in certain food stores but is now made available in all the supermarkets. It is more costly over the inorganic counterparts. So, if you have that dilemma whether to go for organic or inorganic foods, understanding the facts on organic foods can help you with a right shopping from the next time.
Conventional versus organic farming
The term “organic” is based on the method employed in producing these vegetables, grains, fruits, dairy products and meat. The main idea behind producing organic foods was to protect the soil and conserve water while reducing pollution. Therefore, such farming does not involve the use of artificial fertilizers or pesticides for the production. Instead, natural fertilizers and techniques such as crop rotation are employed.
Is organic food really beneficial?
The first two things, which pop up in your brain while choosing any food, are its nutrient values and the safety. So, let us break it down and understand them piece by piece.
You might have the question if you still cannot be free of that high pesticide intake. But the answer is “NO”. The overall pesticide levels in the organic foods is nearly 10 to 100 times lower than the conventionally produced food. The pesticide residues in the organic foods is 3 to 4 times less likely than in the regular foods.
The toxic metals such as cadmium in the organic foods are also relatively low compared to the regular foods.
Organic foods such as chicken and pork are less likely to harbor the resistant bacteria and are especially good for children who have lower immune levels.
Organic foods also regulate the use of food additives and processing aids such as artificial sweeteners, flavors, and coloring agents.
It is not certain whether organic foods are more nutritious over the inorganic foods. Few studies have shown that they have little higher levels of vitamin C, antioxidants, and certain minerals which offer protection against cardiovascular diseases, aging and cancer. Antioxidant content is nearly 60% higher in the organic fruits, vegetables and grains over the inorganic counterparts.
Flavonones which can reduce your risk for stroke are found to be 69% higher in the organic foods over the conventional foods.
Organic foods are generally sold to the nearby markets from the place of their harvest and that gives them their extra freshness over the conventional foods.
Overall, the nutrient values of organic food are a little higher than inorganic foods. But definitely, they are good for the environment which has an indirect effect on your health.
Are there any disadvantages with organic foods?
Organic plants produce more amounts of natural toxins over the conventionally grown plants. This is due to the use of synthetic insecticides and pesticides in the conventional farming which are not used in organic farming. For example, solanine is a substance produced by the potatoes during their course of turning green. This substance is harmful when taken in large quantities or on a regular basis).
The other concern is the use of manure fertilizers which is believed to increase the growth of microbes such as E.coli in the soil. However, there is little evidence of bacterial contamination of organic foods. Strict rules are followed in composting and application of manure for such crops. Improper handling of the organic foods after the harvesting could be the main reason behind the bacterial growth.
Organic foods may spoil faster as they are not treated with preservatives or waxes.
Is it worth investing more on organic foods?
Yes, the main concern about the organic foods is their cost due to the expensive farming technique. But if you like the idea of low pesticide and the environment-friendly production of organic foods then don’t hold on to having the inorganic foods just to save few pennies.
If it is not possible for you to go for 100% organic food, at least replace those inorganic foods which have higher pesticide levels. These include green onions, spinach, apples, strawberries, blackberries, beans, peaches, pears. If you want to promote the large-scale cultivation of such eco-friendly foods, then buy foods such as wheat, corn, dairy foods, grains, and beef. If you are interested in reducing the antibiotics and hormones intake, then buy milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt, and meat.
Tips for your health
- Always select a wide variety of foods to get the better mix of nutrients and also to reduce your chances of getting exposure to a single type of pesticide. Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables.
- Wash the fruits and vegetables thoroughly to protect yourself and your family members from the pesticide residues. Even the foods with inedible (which is not for consumption) should also be washed due to the possibility of contamination while cutting open such fruits or vegetables.
- Eat the food while it is fresh to get the maximum nutrients out of it. Refrigerating the food for a long time reduces the nutrient value. Also, fresh food tastes better.
- It is a good idea to grow your own food to have the ready supplies of the fresh foods at a lower cost.
What’s with “natural” vs “organic”?
Don’t get confused with the terms such as “natural”, hormone-free”, “free-range” on the food labels! They are not interchangeable with the term “organic”. Guidelines provided by the USDA might not have been followed strictly in the production of such foods.
Organic food is better for the environment, soil and body. More and more shoppers are convinced to buy organic food, and their market is steadily increasing. So join this list! Doing so, you are not only targeting for more nutritious food, but also you are including the tastier ones.
Pick those products labeled as “organic” and certified by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture), when you shop through the food lanes this time. If this seal is not present, then the product is not 100% organic, and might contain very few organic ingredients.
Barański M et al. Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. Br J Nutr. 2014 Sep 14; 112(5): 794-811.