Discover the difference between organic foods and their traditionally grown counterparts when it comes to nutrition, safety and price.
Organic foods, once found only in health food stores, are now a common feature in most grocery stores. And that has created a small problem in the produce aisle. For example, you can pick an apple grown with the usual (conventional) methods.
Or you can choose one that is organic. Both apples are firm, shiny and red. Both provide vitamins and fiber. And no apple has fat, salt or cholesterol.
Which one should you choose? Know the facts before you buy. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an organic certification program that requires that all organic foods meet strict government standards. These regulations control the way in which such foods are grown, handled and processed. Any product labeled as organic in the product description or packaging must be USDA certified.
If certified, the producer can also use an official USDA organic seal. Products certified as 95 percent or more organic may display this USDA seal. No, natural and organic are different. Usually, the term “natural” on a food label means that the product has no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
What's natural on a label doesn't have to do with the methods or materials used to grow food ingredients. Also, be careful not to mix other common food labels with organic labels. For example, guidelines for certified organic beef include access to pastures for at least 120 days of the grazing season and the absence of growth hormones. However, the labels “raised in freedom” or “without hormones” do not mean that a farmer has followed all the guidelines for organic certification.
Some data show the possible health benefits of organic foods compared to foods grown using the usual (conventional) process. These studies have demonstrated differences in foods. However, there is limited information to demonstrate how these differences can provide possible general health benefits. Producing food without chemical pesticides has many benefits.
Organic systems have been shown to produce 40% more yield in times of drought, use 45% less energy and release 40% less carbon emissions than conventional cultivation methods (Rodale Institute). Organic agriculture promotes soil health, supports natural ecosystems and prevents pesticide toxins from polluting waterways. If you like the fresh taste of the farm, organic options are likely to provide you with the best dining and dining experience. Both conventional and organic foods have similar nutrient profiles, and choosing one or the other is a personal choice.
The researchers found very few differences in nutritional content, other than slightly higher levels of phosphorus in many organic foods and a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk and chicken. The nutrients found in fresh produce are based on numerous factors, including weather conditions and state of maturity, and not on whether organic or conventional practices are used. Organic meat requirements include that animals be raised in living conditions that adapt to their natural behavior (think of cows that graze on pastures), that they are fed with 100% organic feed and forage, and that they are not given antibiotics or hormones. Pesticides are often deadly to useful pollinators, including bees, so organic farming techniques provide much-needed support to the honey bee population.
The production of USDA-certified organic food must comply with a very specific set of standards, including the minimum use of chemicals in pesticides and soil management practices, the regulation of feed and livestock care, and the avoidance of genetic engineering. Unlike the non-organic products found on the shelves, these foods go from farm to table with little or no use of synthetic ingredients, so consumers avoid exposure to certain substances that have been linked to health problems, such as delayed brain development and bacteria resistant to antibiotics. If you're buying organic products solely for better nutrition, according to this review, there's no evidence that you're getting any real benefits. Rather than creating strict guidelines on organic versus non-organic foods, it may be more useful to evaluate your shopping list on a smaller scale.
The label could indicate that a product is organic, but the product could also be high in sugar, fat, calories and sodium. Health experts and consumers have long debated whether organic foods are more nutritious and safer than conventional foods. Realistically, there are likely ways in which you can enjoy organic and conventional foods in your daily diet. .