Is Organic Food Safe and As Nutritious As Non-organic?
We’ll explore the distinction between organic food varieties and their analogous non-organic counterparts from the perspective of cost, safety and nutritional value.
By IBS Clinic Staff
Turn the clock back a generation and organic food was a very expensive and hard-to-find alternative to “normal” food. It was only found in specialist outlets and usually cost a fortune. Nowadays it’s a different story, organic food is abundant, it still costs a little more but it’s not prohibitively expensive for most households even if they have to make a few small sacrifices elsewhere.
Is it worth it though?
If we consider a couple of avocados – one organic and one grown under standard farming conditions. They are both within the usual short ripeness window between rock-like and shriveled. But which should you plump for? Let’s have a look at the health implications.
What’s organic farming?
The word “organic” defines how farmers produce and process agricultural items, like fruits, veggies, meat, grains, and dairy products. Organic farming methods are intended to meet these objectives:
- Improve the quality of water and soil
- Decrease pollution
- Supply safe, healthful livestock environments
- Facilitate natural livestock activities
- Encourage a self-supporting cycle of farm resources
Raw material or practices organic farming doesn’t allow are:
- Artificial fertilizers for adding nutrients to the ground
- Using sewage sludge for fertilizer
- Majority of artificial pesticides for controlling pests
- Irradiation for preserving foods or to get rid of illnesses and pests
- Genetic engineering, utilized to enhance resistance to illnesses or pests or to enhance the yield of crops
- Feeding antibiotics and/or growth hormones to livestock
Practices and materials of organic crop farming are allowed to do:
Plant waste can be put onto fields (i.e. green manure), as well as you can use compost or manure from livestock for improving the quality of the soil
- Plant rotation can be used to preserve the quality of the soil as well as for interrupting illness or pest occurrences
- Cover crops which inhibit erosion whenever land parcels aren’t being used as well as ploughing up the fields to improve the quality of the soil
- Using mulch for controlling weeds
- Using traps or predatory insects for controlling pests
- Specific natural pesticides as well as several artificial pesticides which are approved for organic farming, applied infrequently and just as a final choice as coordinated by a certified agent USDA agent
Organic farming methods for livestock consist of:
- Healthful living environments along with outdoor access
- Grassland feeding for a minimum of 30% of animal’s nutritional requirements during grazing season
- Animals eat organic food
Is it really Organic? Read the product label
Governing bodies in the US, EU and the rest of the World operate in a similar manner but the UK Soil Association has instituted an organic certification system which necessitates that all organic foods must meet stringent government standards. The standards control the way these foods get grown, managed and processed.
For something to be labelled as being organic in the product’s description or its packaging, it has to be grown to the standards such as those laid out in the Soil Association’s guidelines.
The US has a similar system that is regulated by the Department of Agriculture. The USDA allows exceptions for producers selling under $5,000 in organic foods annually. The producers have to meet guidelines for producing organic foods, however they don’t have to be certified. They are allowed to put an organic label on the products, yet can’t put on the USDA’s official organic seal.
Is ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ exactly the equivalent?
No, these terms cannot be used interchangeably. Normally, “natural” put onto a food’s label means there’s not any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. However, it doesn’t indicate the techniques or materials employed to manufacture the food’s ingredients.
Additional common food labels ought not to be mistaken for organic foods’ labels. For instance, the standards for certified organic beef consist of (amongst several other requirements) having access to grassland at least during a 120-day grazing timeframe as well as doesn’t allow growth hormones. Still, the labels announcing something is “free-range” or “hormone-free,” have to be utilized honestly, but don’t indicate the farmer met all standards for getting certified to be organic.
Organic foods: Are they better for you?
There’s a widening amount of evidence showing a few possible health benefits of eating organic foods in comparison to foods grown conventionally. Whilst those studies showed variations in the foods, there’s not much data available to make a solid decision as to the way those variations translate to general health benefits.
Possible benefits are:
Nutrients. Research has revealed small to moderate boosts in a few nutrients found in organic produce. The greatest evidence of a substantial boost is in particular kinds of flavonoids that generate antioxidant properties.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Feeding obligations for organic animal production, like the major use of alfalfa and grass for cattle, normally results in greater concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, a healthier type of fat than some other fats. Those greater concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids are seen in organic eggs, dairy and meats.
Toxic metals. Cadmium is an example of a toxic chemical found naturally in soils as well as absorbed by plant life. Research revealed considerably reduced cadmium levels are found in organic grains, but then not in veggies and fruits, in comparison with crops grown conventionally. The decrease in cadmium concentrations in organic grains might relate to the existing ban on using artificial fertilizers for organic farming.
Pesticide residues. In comparison to produce grown conventionally, produce grown organically has smaller detectable concentrations of pesticide residues. Organic produce might still have residue due to it being ok to use some pesticides in organic farming or due to airborne pesticides coming from traditional farms. The disparity in health consequences isn’t clear due to safety rules for upper limit concentrations of residue permitted in produce grown conventionally.
Bacteria. Meats manufactured conventionally might carry a greater number of bacteria resistant to conventional antibiotic treatment. The total risk of organic produce having bacterial contamination is the same as that in foods grown conventionally.
Is there a disadvantage to purchasing organic?
A well-known organic food concern is its cost. Organic foods usually are priced higher than conventionally grown foods. The higher costs are partly because organic farming is more expensive to accomplish.
Safety tips for Food
No matter if you buy all organic or decide to get a mix of organic and conventional foods, be certain to remember the following:
Choose a range of foods from a range of sources. That will provide a better nutrient mix as well as lower the chances of being exposed to pesticides.
Purchase fruits and veggies when they are in season if you can. To buy the produce that’s the freshest, ask the grocer what’s in season or purchase foods via a local farmer’s market.
Read the labels on foods carefully. Merely because something claims to be organic or includes organic ingredients does not automatically mean it is a better option. A few organic products might still contain a high amount of salt, sugars or calories.
When washing fresh veggies and fruits, be certain to scrub them carefully under running water. This assists in getting rid of bacteria and dirt, as well as any chemical traces. You can’t get rid of pesticide residues on everything via washing. So, get rid of outer leaves from leafy vegetables to help lessen the chance of contaminants. Peeling veggies and fruits will get rid of any contaminants, but could additionally lessen its nutritional value.