Eating organic foods is gaining popularity again these days. While others think it may just be a fad, the thing is, history tells us otherwise. “Going organic” is almost second nature to our ancestors that we can see its benefits through their quality and length of life even to this day.
It’s probably only recently (sometime in the early 2000s) when consumers took organic food seriously. Over the years, people see its impact in our health and the environment. In fact, more food establishments and manufacturers promote organic foods as another option now. This is why we hear about farm-to-table restaurants and entrepreneurs venturing more in the organic food business.
Do organic foods taste better? Do they have a higher nutritional profile than other food products we know? Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute lists down the top ten (10) benefits of organic foods. Read on to find out more!
What is organic food?
The term organic is for farmers who grow their crops naturally and process their agricultural products including grains, vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy products.
Organic farmers design their practice to meet sets of goals. These are to:
- Prevent population
- Improve water and soil quality
- Promote natural livestock behavior
- Strengthen sustainability of farm resources
How are some foods classified as organic? Farmers process organic foods differently than the regular ones. They produce them while emphasizing the role of soil and water conservation, and the utilization of renewable resources. These organic poultry, eggs, and dairy products are nourished without growth hormones, conventional pesticides and antibiotics too.
Are organic foods more safe than non-organic food?
Food grown organically helps reduce risks in public health. Organic foods are rich in iron, phosphorus, vitamin C, magnesium, and antioxidants. These foods are also less exposed from residues of pesticide and nitrates that are typically found in non-organic food. Thus, they are less toxic and filled with essential nutrients but not necessarily more nutritious than conventionally grown foods.
For instance, organic meat and dairy may have slightly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and iron. Others like organic cookies or chips, despite being organic, may have low nutrients.
Nevertheless, one good tip to ensure food safety is to select different foods from a variety of sources. Mix and match the freshest produce, for example. Ask your local grocer which ones are in season or visit a local farmers’ market. Check the label always. Avoid anything high in fat, salt, and sugars. And lastly, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly in running water to remove traces of chemicals, dirt, and other contaminants.
What are examples of organic foods?
The key thing about organic foods that make them organic revolves around using natural substances only and not artificial products. No chemicals, GMOs, or antibiotics whatsoever.
Which foods can be organic?
- Fruits and vegetables
- Dairy and eggs
- Meat and poultry
- Rice and grains
- Herbs and spices
- Sauce, condiments and dressings
- Sugar products
- Oil and baked goods
- Frozen pizza products
- Infant foods (baby food/formula)
- Food coloring and additives
- Snacks (chocolates, licorice)
10 Benefits of organic food
1. Optimized overall health
One of the factors why people shift to eating organic food is because they are the healthier choice, which has truths in it.
Organic foods don’t have chemicals like pesticides, flavors, preservatives and artificial colors. So, if you are into clean eating, incorporating this in your diet would surely make sense.
A study reveals that the consumption of organic food may reduce the risk of various conditions like obesity, weight gain, and allergic disease. Organic foods also contain more antioxidants, nutrients and nitrate levels. All these mean more minerals and vitamins for the body which helps in the prevention of serious illnesses and diseases.
2. Antioxidant source
You consume antioxidants in their best form when you eat whole food. A research review suggests that organic produce is at least 20% to 40% concentrated in antioxidants compared to food that’s grown conventionally.
Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. The peels from fruit and vegetables have the highest concentration of antioxidants. Hence, you can be sure to eat the skins of your food without pesticides.
Unlike vitamins and minerals that are best taken daily, antioxidants in the right amount could help delay cell damage, resulting in slow aging and better health.
3. Better taste
Food experts and even chefs agree that organic foods are better tasting than the conventional. They credit it to the soil that is used for the produce. Strong nourishment has a big role to play for quality plants that yield to high-value food with optimal flavor.
The structures of mineral and sugar on organic food give them the chance to mature and develop naturally. The authentic and environment-friendly production is responsible for their distinct taste.
4. Stronger immune system
The excessive use of chemicals in conventionally-grown food may have a detrimental effect on your health leading to organic food occupying the top spot when it comes to safer and healthier options. The industrial and traditional food processing methods may have increased the amount of produce, but they may be compromised for the amount of pesticides and chemicals that they have.
Whole and organic food don’t undergo genetic modifications compared to their counterpart, the processed and non-organic which weaken the immune system. For example, the National Research Institute of Food and Nutrition based in Rome revealed that organic carrot consumption triggers immune stimulation.
Eating organic results in a stronger immunity which is an important defense against COVID 19. Support your mental and physical well-being by consuming natural and whole food that will nourish your body during stressful times.
5. Fresher option
If you want to change your experience with food, going organic may be right for you as it is a fresher option that doesn’t have chemical fake flavors in them. This is one of the reasons why its freshness easily shines through. Take a look at organic ketchups that taste closer to tomatoes than their counterpart.
Also, because organic food has little to zero pesticide residues, you are essentially getting its freshest possible form. Plus, you get low levels of toxic metals as organic food only get natural chemicals from the soils and/or plants they originally come or grow from.
6. Chemical-free food
Organic produce grows with natural fertilizers such as compost and manure. Hence, there are no synthetic or chemical fertilizers used. Moreover, the farmers control the weeds naturally by hand weeding, mulching, or crop rotation instead of chemical herbicides.
For livestock, poultry owners use only organic and hormone-free feeds. Their living environment is also maintained with natural methods through clean housing, healthy diet, and rotational grazing. Hence, there’s no need for medications and antibiotics to prevent livestock disease.
7. Nutritional Value
In relation to above, because non-organic food use synthetic fungicides and insecticides, consumers are either losing nutrients or getting synthetically produced ones due to this. Organically-raised livestock usually are allowed to move more freely which keeps them healthy. Therefore, their meat doesn’t have to be injected with antibiotics just to boost their growth and health.
However, Harvard Health Publishing wrote an article that organic food isn’t necessarily more nutritious than conventionally grown food. Why? Researchers found that there’s only a small difference in the nutritional content between organic and non-organic food. This is due to the fact that many organic foods may still have higher fat content, as mentioned above, particularly in organic chicken and milk.
So it’s still ultimately a matter of choice and intentional buying whether you select organic food or not for nutritional or dietary health purposes, etc.
8. Reduces GMOs exposure
Growers don’t allow the use of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, on local produce as per USDA organic regulations.
This means that organic farmers don’t utilize GMO seeds on their produce or that organic cows don’t consume GMO corn or alfalfa. This preventive practice also involves farmers planting their seeds early or late to avoid coinciding with the flowering of GMO Crops.
There are instances when local farmers harvest their crops before the flowering season, or they might also sign cooperative agreements with their neighboring farms to stay away from planting with GMO crops. Less exposure to GMO frees you from toxic chemicals, antibiotics and growth hormones.
Organic food production is environment-friendly. It doesn’t use farming pesticides which conserves water, reduces air pollution, prevents soil erosion, increases soil fertility and saves energy which is good for the earth.
Indeed, organic food helps build a better generation. Small animals and birds also benefit from it as chemicals are harmful in their reproduction. They are also deadly to living organisms. Chemical-free farming is less dangerous not just to the environment, but also to the farmers.
This practice makes organic agriculture sustainable for a long-term basis. The Organic Trade Association emphasizes that farmers who shift to organic production eliminate at least 550 million pounds of threatening pesticides which damage the environment regularly.
10. Support to local farmers
When you go organic, you support local farmers.
In the United States, organic farming yielded to at least 3% of total sales in its food industry in 2012. No wonder the governments of European countries such as Germany, Austria, and Finland are occupied in implementing policies and plans that would allot at least 20% of their land area to their organic farming industry.
The gradual transition to organic farming is due to the awareness of consumers with the health impacts of accidentally taking chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This means more work for local farmers and their produce.
How do you know they are organic food products?
The rationale behind choosing organic food is mainly about people’s concern about health and environmental concerns. In terms of diet, people who lean towards organic food say that they are generally healthier, safer, and more environment-friendly. These are valid points. However, as we’ve explained above, that’s not always the case, if we’re not careful enough.
Yes, we can say that there’s research that supports evidence of reduced cancer risk with consumption of organic products. This adds proof that organic food is good for the gut microbiome. Remember that many prebiotic-rich foods can be organic such as legumes, garlic, nuts and seeds, etc. Probiotics also contain beneficial microbe colonies that are good for your gastrointestinal tract.
Tips when buying organic
Check the label. Different regions may have different certification guidelines. Generally, however, these food products should be compliant to organic animal raising practices, pest control, soil quality, among others. USDA put out regulations that specify what makes an organic produce or not. There are many products that are not certified so make sure to check the label.
Ask the local store/supermarket. If unsure, ask your grocer if the products actually come from an organic farm. Compare prices and different organic items. You can research them beforehand, too. Check online and look for legitimate stores that sell legitimate products.
Natural vs. Organic. Remember that organic and natural food aren’t necessarily the same. Any food labeled “natural” has no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors. Thus, the word “natural” refers to the food itself and not whether or not the methods used to preserve or make the product is “natural” or “artificial.”
On the other hand, “organic” refers to how the food is prepared or produced. So, even if the label shows “hormone-free” or “free range,” it is still not considered “organic” if the farmer did not strictly follow organic certification guidelines.
Check with your doctor. Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute recommends that if you’re switching to organic foods, consult with your doctor or nutritionist first. This change in your diet, when done without guidance from a health professional, may drastically alter your digestion, for instance. You might have allergies you weren’t aware of or dietary needs that you can’t get from organic products.