Because of numbers of health benefits, the trend of consuming organic foods have exploded over the past two decades.
According to the Organic Trade Association, in the organic industry survey, US consumers spent $39.1 billion on organic produce in 2014. Since then, the popularity does not seem to be falling down as the sales of organic foods increased by more than 11% from 2014 to 2015.
Some people believe that the consumption of organic food Is safer, healthier and tastier than the non-organic food while others think it is better for the environment and the well-being of animals.
This article compares both organic and non-organic foods, including their merits and demerits on human health.
Foods produced without the use of synthetic chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified organisms, defines organic food. Organic food is produced by following organic farming methods. In order to be defined under the organic foods, a product must be free of artificial food additives which includes artificial food colours, sweeteners, preservatives, flavouring and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Crop grown organically use natural fertilizers like manure to improve plant growth. Organically raised animals are also not given any kind of artificial chemicals.
Due to not using any chemicals in food production, organic farming helps to improve the quality of soil and the conservation of groundwater. It also tends to reduce pollution and may be better for the environment.
The most commonly purchased organic foods include fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and meat products. Some examples of processed organic foods available in the market are sodas, cookies, and breakfast cereals.
Though the majority of people believes organic food is more beneficial to health, studies comparing the nutrient content of organic and non-organic foods have provided mixed results. This might be the reason for natural variation in food production and handling. However, the evidence collected while comparing suggests that organic foods may be more nutritious.
There has a number of studies done regarding health benefits from both organic and non-organic foods where most of them found that organically grown foods contain higher levels of antioxidants and certain micronutrients, including vitamin C, zinc and iron says National Library of Medicine.
In fact, antioxidants levels can be up to 69% higher in organic foods than non-organic foods. A comparative study has found that organic berries and corn contained 58% more antioxidants and was 52% higher amounts of vitamins C.
One study reported that replacement of non-organic fruits, vegetables and cereals with organic versions could provide extra antioxidants in the diet which was like eating 1-2 extra portions of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis.
Organically grown foods do not depend upon chemical pesticide sprays to protect themselves. Instead, they produce more of their own defensive mixtures named antioxidants.
This should explain the higher levels of antioxidants in organic foods.
Organic foods also contain generally lower levels of nitrate, in fact, the studies have shown organic foods have 30% lower nitrate levels. Higher levels of nitrate consumption are linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
Higher nitrate is also linked to a medical condition called methemoglobinemia, a disease in the infants that affects the body capacity to carry oxygen.
With that being said, many believe that the harmful effects of nitrates have been overstated.
According to the review written in the National Library of Medicine, organic milk and meat products may contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acid and a slight high amounts of iron, vitamin E and some carotenoids. A review of 67 studies found higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and slight low levels of saturated fats than non-organic meat.
However, the minerals selenium and iodine are less in the organic than in non-organic milk.
Some evidence suggests that organic foods have more health benefits. For example, higher antioxidants containing in organic foods helps to protect cells from damage. And animal studies show that the consumption of organic diets may benefits growth, reproduction and immune system. In fact, one comparative study reported that chicken raised by feeding organic diet showed reduced in weight and had stronger immune systems.
Observational studies have also found that the increasing number of organic food consumers have increased to lower the risk of allergies and eczema in children and infants.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has come up with an organic certification program which means farmer or food producer seller of organic foods must meet strict government standards. If the people in the US decide to go for buying organic food, it is very important to look for the USDA organic seal.
Also, organic food can be identified from the labels of foods such as:
Remember, if a product contains less than 70% of organic ingredients, do not come under organic food.