As supermarkets boast aisles of organic foods and well-known name brands from Tositos to Nestles roll out their own organic products, the conscientious grocery shopper – with cart in tow – might wonder, “Is organic really better for me?” Let’s first cover what it means for a food to be truly organic and whether or not it’s better to pay the extra costs for these types of foods.
A good start towards attaining a healthier life is making a commitment towards healthy eating. This not only means consuming more fruits, whole grains or even healthy fats, but it’s also about consuming what is safe for your body as well as the nutritional value the food contains. The manner in which food is grown can have a great impact both on the environment and on a person’s health. It is therefore always important to know which foods are the best for consumption when considering both safety and nutritional value.
Organic foods are those created with certain production standards in mind. Farmers must take care to keep certain chemicals and pesticides away from their produce. The foods they grow cannot be genetically altered in any way. Producers who grow foods meeting this criteria must obtain a special license to call their foods “organic”, but it’s important to keep in mind that there is not just one type of certification. Some licenses allow for the use of certain chemicals and pesticides to be put on their products.
The term “organic” refers to the manner in which agricultural products are matured as well as processed. There are specific requirements that must be followed for a product to be named “organic”. One of the requirements which must be met is to grow the organic crops on safe soil. The crops should not be modified while growing and must be separated from conventional produce. Farmers who grow organic crops are restricted from using synthetic pesticides, fertilizers containing petroleum and bio-engineered genes. On the other hand, organic livestock must have access to the outside world (free range) and must be fed only on organic feed. It is not advisable to give organic livestock any type of antibiotics or growth hormones.
Organic food offers a variety of benefits. Some studies have indicated that organic foods are more nutritious as compared with conventional foods. Additionally, organic foods are great for people with food allergies or issues with foods that contain preservatives.
Organic food does not contain any pesticides. Pesticides are chemicals which are sprayed on a crop while it’s developing. Pesticides include herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. Studies have shown that these chemicals are associated with certain cancers such as Leukemia, breast cancer and prostate cancer. Pesticides are widely used in conventional farming and the residue can remain on the food when people purchase it from their local grocery store.
Organic food is usually much fresher than non-organic and fresh food usually has a better taste. What makes organic food fresher is the fact that it does not contain preservatives to prolong its shelf life. In most cases, organic food is grown on smaller farms which are located near the local grocery stores.
Animals which are raised organically are not given any growth hormones and antibiotics. They are also not fed with any type of feed containing animal byproducts. The use of antibiotics while producing conventional meat plays a great role in developing strains of bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics. It therefore means that when someone falls ill to one of these strains, treatment may be very difficult. On the other hand, avoiding animal byproducts in the livestock feed minimizes the risk of mad cow disease and other foodborne illnesses.
Organic food is a little more expensive than conventional food. Organic food is possibly richer in nutrients which could make it better than conventional food and worth the higher price. The fact that organic food is mostly safe considering that it does not contain any chemicals which are associated with health risks is a huge benefit for paying a little extra at the grocery store. However, when it comes to the debate over whether organic foods or traditional foods are more nutritious, the jury is still out.
“We don’t know enough to say that one is better than the other,” says David Klurfeld, chairman of the Nutrition and Food Science Department at Wayne State University. Some studies say the nutritional value of the organic food is higher than regular food, but the difference is minimal, producing little to no life-changing effects in your body.
One thing experts can say for sure about organic food, however, is that they use less pesticides and chemicals in the production process. This means organic foods are safer for you. It also means that by eating organically, you will be doing your part to make sure those chemicals stay out of our soil, water and air. Some foods you might want to be particularly wary of are:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
For those shoppers on a budget, traditional foods take the lead in being the more economical purchase, but if you are concerned, the best advice is to stay aware of the products you are buying and continue to educate yourself. If safety and overall health is your main concern, choose organic foods the next time you’re in the produce section of your local grocery store.