The word “organic” has grown in popularity over the last few years. Almost everybody is jumping on the bandwagon of eating organic food and practicing mindfulness when it comes to their diet. Many people who are making a conscious choice to eat healthy have also made the choice to eat food that is organically healthy.
But what does “organic food” actually mean? And is it better than your conventional, non-organic food?
Meaning of Organic Food
The term “organic food” refers to the process of growing agricultural produce. Organic products are free from external chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. To be labeled organic, the food must be free for additives and preservatives.
While the regulations vary from country to country, in the US, UK, and Australia, organic crops must be grown and processed without the use of synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and petroleum based fertilizers. It’s important to clarify here that just because it is organic, doesn’t mean that there were no pesticides used, just that the pesticides were regulated and non-synthetic.
For animal byproducts such as meat, eggs, and dairy, organic livestock must be raised on non-synthetic feed and have access to the outdoors. Organically raised animals must not be fed growth hormones or antibiotics.
Many countries are adopting the practice of organic farming to produce nutritionally dense food- it is considered animal and environment friendly. Organic farming is known to improve soil quality and conservation of groundwater.
Difference between Organic and Natural
While there are plenty of food labels out there that state the product is “all natural” and “nutritious”, it doesn’t mean that it’s organic. The USDA states that at least 95% of the product must contain organic ingredients to be termed as organic food. The difference between natural food and organic food comes down to regulation, mostly. There are more rules in place to define an organic product than a natural one mainly because natural food isn’t concerned with the agricultural process of how it is grown.
Benefits of Organic Food
The food we consume can have a big impact on our emotional and mental health. Being mindful of the foods we eat goes a long way in nourishing your health. A 2014 study has shown that organic food is not just good for the environment but also good for you, nutritionally.
Due to the way it is processed, organic food tends to be more rich in nutrients, like antioxidants, than conventional food. People with chronic illnesses or allergies often prefer to eat organic as they find that their symptoms lessen over time.
Organic produce contains fewer chemicals
Since organic farming relies on natural resources and lack of chemicals, the food tends to be safer to eat and higher in nutrition value.
Organic food is fresher
The lack of preservatives used in organic produce means that the food is fresher and therefore, uncontaminated.
Organic food is environment friendly
Organic farming practices have a smaller carbon footprint, build and nourish soil health and also replenish the natural ecosystems in place.
Organic animal byproducts are healthier
Livestock raised on foods that are non-synthetic contain a higher density of healthy acids and fats. Since they are not fed antibiotics or growth hormones, these animals are healthier.
Organic food is GMO free
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) or genetically altered foods are plants whose DNA has been changed to be more resistant to bacteria or pests. Such alteration is a part of conventional farming practices, however it does affect the quality of the produce it makes.
Extra Food Safety Points
If you opt to go to fully organic or a mix between organic and conventional, here are a points to keep in mind:
-Certain foods such as asparagus, avocado, mushrooms, cabbage, and eggplant can be bought conventionally as they have a considerably low level of pesticides.
-Try to buy fruits and vegetables in season. This ensures that you get the freshest produce and also benefit from the nutrients and antioxidants present in it.
-Shop around for a variety of foods. This will give you a better mix of nutrients and will reduce your risk of ingesting one kind of pesticide.
-Read labels carefully. It’s important to remember that just because it’s organic doesn’t automatically make it healthy. In the case of “organic desserts”, especially, they still contain a high amount of sugar and calories.
Organic food may be better for you and the environment, but it’s also expensive. When making a lifestyle changing decision, it’s always best to know all the options and the consequences.
If you’re unsure about your current diet, and want to switch you can consult a dietitian on TABIIB to know more.