We know that organic food may be produced without the use of harmful pesticides and other synthetic food additives. But then, how does organic food really make a difference? Is it actually going to boost your health? Let us help you find answers to such questions.
The Science Behind Organic Food
‘Organic’ refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, which involves naturally enhancing soil and water quality, reducing pollution, and enabling safe and natural livestock habits and behaviors.
Organic farming practices don’t allow the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones (to livestock), or genetic engineering.
Foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, etc.) produced from such methods are often considered to be healthier and far more nutritious than conventional food production.
All of these show us how organic food can be better as compared to non-organic food. Now, we shall get into the specifics.
- Organic Food May Offer More Nutrients
Studies show that organic food offers little to moderate increases in certain nutrients. This is especially true in the case of some flavonoids that possess antioxidant properties.
Research is ongoing, though. Animal studies show slightly higher levels of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) content in organically grown green leafy veggies and potatoes. Also, organically grown cereal crops contained better quality of protein
- Organic Food May Cut the Risk of Chronic Diseases
Consumers of organic food are more likely to live healthier lives and have a far lower risk of developing chronic diseases. This is because they tend to choose more fresh veggies, fruits, and wholegrain products.
Organic produce contains higher levels of bioactive compounds. It also contains lower levels of unhealthy substances (like cadmium and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers) when compared to conventional agricultural products.
Some studies hint at the need for more research. For example, a study conducted at the University of Oxford found that intake of organic food showed little or no reduction in the incidences of cancer.
- Organic Food May Boost Your Immunity
Some animal studies show that intake of organic foods can boost your immunity. A study on the immune system of chickens revealed that after a health challenge hurt their immune system, chickens receiving organic feed demonstrated faster recovery than those that feed on non-organic feed.
In the same study, chickens fed with conventionally grown, non-organic feed showed a higher overall weight gain in their lifespan. This wasn’t the case with organic feed.
- Organic Food May Prevent Premature Aging
Organic food may have higher levels of vitamin C – and also of better quality. Studies show that vitamin C can help slow down aging.
- Organic Food Is Environment-Friendly
Organic food is good for the environment, which means it is good for us. Organic agriculture, where organic food comes from, considers the long-term positive effects on the ecosystem. Organic food is produced with the aim of establishing an ecological balance, thereby maintaining soil fertility and preventing pest problems at the same time.
The use of organic fertilizers (like animal manure or compost) for producing organic food also improves soil structure and prevents water pollution.
Organic food also prevents topsoil erosion. Since soil is the foundation for organic farming, the food produced through such practices benefits the environment.
- Organic Food May Taste Better
Research tells us that when plants grow organically without the use of synthetic pesticides, their taste is naturally enhanced. Higher antioxidant levels (which are characteristic of organic foods) can affect the food’s organoleptic qualities – including the sensations of aroma, taste, and mouthfeel.
Now you know why organic food can be far better than regular produce. But then, what do we actually mean by regular produce? How is organic produce different from it?
How Is Organic Food Different from Regular Food?
Apart from the way they are produced, another difference is the antioxidant content – organic food is found to have relatively higher levels of antioxidants
Ideally, all. But there are certain foods, which, as per research, are more likely to get exposed to harmful chemicals and pesticides during their production.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an American activist group that specializes in agricultural research and advocates clean eating, stated that the following are the conventional foods that are most likely to contain pesticides. EWG labels them as the Dirty Dozen*.
Dirty dozen and Clean 15
If you want to go for these foods, you may pick the conventional variety. Of course, nothing beats organic. But if you are under a budget, it is alright to stick to conventionally grown forms of these foods.
Thankfully, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has established a program with strict government standards that help us identify almost all organic foods. These standards also regulate how organic produce is grown, handled, and processed.
In order to check, you can look for the following descriptions on products:
“100 percent organic” – Used on certified organic fruits and vegetables, eggs, meat, and other single-ingredient and multi-ingredient foods (excluding water and salt). These may have the USDA seal.
“Organic” – This description means at least 95% of the ingredients of the product are certified organic. The remaining non-organic ingredients would be from a list of additional ingredients also approved by the USDA. These may also have the USDA seal.
“Made with organic” – This means at least 70% of the ingredients in the product are certified organic. The remaining non-organic ingredients would be from a list of additional ingredients also approved by the USDA. These may not have the USDA seal.
“Organic ingredients” – This can mean that less than 70% of the ingredients in the product are certified organic. This may not have the USDA seal.
- You can also check for the Price Look-Up sticker. The sticker contains a code that helps you identify if the particular food is organic.
Conventionally grown foods have a 4-digit code (conventionally grown apple: 4050).
Organic foods have a 5-digit code, starting with the digit ‘9’ (organic apple: 94050).
Genetically engineered foods have a 5-digit code, starting with the digit ‘8’ (genetically engineered apple: 84050).
Though, there is still a lot of research going on with organic food. But the studies carried out so far have determined two outcomes – one that shows how organic food can be better than conventional food, and the other that shows how it is no better than the latter.
We would like to conclude by stating that organic food is a better option, and it may offer additional benefits. What about you? What do you think? Do let us know by leaving a comment in the box below.
Expert’s Answers for Readers’ Questions
Q: Is organic food the same as natural food?
A: No. While organic means the way a particular food is produced, natural simply means the absence of artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives in the food.
Q: Why is organic food so expensive?
A: One major reason is the way it is produced. Since organic food doesn’t involve the use of synthetic chemicals, it takes a longer (and the natural) time to produce organic crops. This makes it expensive.
Also, the prevention of synthetic chemicals calls for the use of more labor – thereby increasing the cost.
Do you often eat organic food? Maybe you switched to organic foods and didn’t notice any benefits? Comment and share your experiences, we would all love to learn and share together!
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