This is a guest post by one of our guest authors, John Brooks about the benefits of Organic Food and if it is really better than conventional foods.
In this day and age of fast food and sedentary lifestyle, eating healthy food becomes a must. Eating healthy food refers to eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. But nutritionists suggest another form of healthy eating – go organic.
At first, you would have doubts about whether organic food is really a healthy alternative. One question that will probably come across your mind is: Should I go organic?
This article will guide you on the benefits of eating organic food as well as its benefits on your health.
What is Organic Food?
Before October 2002, states adopted different rules for certifying and labeling organic products. Now, the US Department of Agriculture has implemented strict national standards on how to grow and process organic foods.
To meet strict national standards, organic crops must be produced free from traditional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, bio-engineering, or ionizing radiation.
For organically raised animals, they should be given organic feed and kept free from growth hormones and antibiotics. Organic farm animals should be taken outdoors such as in pastureland for grazing.
For food with “USDA organic” label, it should have at least 95 percent organic ingredients. The farm where it was produced should have been inspected by a government-approved expert to make sure that the farmer adhered to USDA requirement.
“Before the standards started to show effect, you never knew what you were consuming,” says Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD, director of nutrition for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic.
“My advice to people always used to be, ‘Buyer beware,’ so I’m relieved that now we as consumers can be doubtless that when we buy something organic, it really does adhere to certain required standards.”
Benefits of Organic Food – Is it Safer?
While some people say that organic food is safer and more nutritious and better tasting than non-organic food, many experts say that there is not much evidence proving the benefits of organic food.
In addition, they also say that organic produce is more environment-friendly and kinder to animals. But is it really safer?
Compared to non-organic food, the chances of getting pesticide residue is lesser with organic food. The amount of man-made pesticide residues found in conventional food is well below the level considered by the Environmental Protection Agency as unsafe.
However, the real concern is whether these small doses can increase health risks along the way.
Aside from man-made pesticides, there is also the issue of natural toxins produced by the plants themselves. This is where non-organic foods may have an advantage.
Their organic counterparts actually avoid synthetic insecticides and herbicides and usually deal with more pests and weeds than conventional weeds. As a result, organic plants produce more natural toxins.
Is Organic Food More Nutritious?
At the moment, no one can say whether organic food is more nutritious than conventional food. Few studies have revealed that organic food contains higher levels of vitamin C, certain minerals, and antioxidants which is believed to protect the body against aging, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
However, the difference is so small that they probably have little effect on overall nutrition.
However, there is one way to be certain that your organic food is nutritious and that is to eat it fresh. Nutrients like vitamin C do oxidize over time.
While organic food contains a high amount of nutrients, that benefit becomes lost if you keep it in your refrigerator. In addition, fresh food tastes better.
For this reason, many people report that organic food is more flavorful. According to this guide from wellfed, organic food is more “farm fresh” than conventional produce.
Is It Worth the Cost?
Safety and nutritious concerns aside, there is one more reason for going organic—the health of the environment and society in general. Since the pesticides accumulate in the soil, water, and in the human body, they do not contribute to pollution anymore.
However, the most important thing is to make the most sensible decision for you. If you are okay with the higher cost and like the idea of fewer pesticides and an eco-friendly production system, it is worth considering organic food. However, do not skimp on conventional foods just because you want to save on organic foods that you can afford.
The best thing to do is add variety to the fruits and vegetables you will be eating whether its organic or conventional. If you decide that you are not yet ready to go completely organic, then you can always pick and choose.
When it comes to organic food, higher price does not always mean higher quality. A Consumer Reports analysis revealed that on average, organic food is 47% more expensive than regular food. However, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science revealed that it is only 5 – 7% more expensive. But just because organic food is costly does not mean it is good for your health.
There is little scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of organic food. Several studies concluded that there was no nutrient difference in organic and conventional foods.
In 2012, a study found out that there is a slightly higher phosphorus level in organic produce. Two years later, another study revealed that there are higher antioxidant levels and lower cadmium levels in organic food.
There is also a common belief that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious but this is always not the case. When it comes to environmental benefits, organic food is more environment-friendly and ethical than conventional food. However, this only applies to animals but not with vegetables.
It is also often believed that organic food does not have chemical pesticides. A 2010 study, however, revealed that some organic pesticides may have worse effects on the environment than traditional food.
What should be done?
In the end, organic food is not that bad. The best thing to do is buy and eat healthy and be conscious of what you eat. Just because it is organic does not mean it is better.