What’s the Big Deal about Organic Food? – Top Nutritionists Break it Down
Organic food is the latest buzzword among health and fitness freaks everywhere, and it doesn’t look like this trend is going to fade out anytime soon. Health nuts are going nuts (pun very much intended!) to get their hands on all things organic, which brings us to the question – what’s the big deal about it anyway?
What is Organic Food?
Actually, this is the first question that needs answering, because it provides the main reasons why people are hankering after organic food. Basically, organic food comprises of produce as well as meat (and its products) with no traces of anything synthetic. Which means:
- In the case of produce, it is grown with manure and compost, not fertilizers or chemicals, and pest control is established with natural methods, not with pesticides.
- For organic meat products (dairy and eggs included), the livestock are provided organic (hormone-free) feed, and any diseases or illnesses are taken care of using preventive measures like a healthy diet or clean surroundings, and with no antibiotics.
So as you can see, the result of such processes is pure, unadulterated food that also doesn’t harm the environment! Some of the following are the benefits claimed of consuming organic food over conventional food:
- The lack of pesticides used while farming makes the produce much safer to eat, and the food is fresher.
- Organic food is GMO-free (Genetically Modified Organisms), meaning that there is nothing artificially altered about the produce, which makes the food healthier.
- The lack of chemicals and hormones used to feed the livestock make organic meat products the healthier choice.
- Organic foods have way more nutrients in them than conventional food.
- Organic food is eco-friendly, considering that the practices followed do not harm the environment.
So It’s Definitely the Nutritious Choice, Right?
Now here’s where the confusion lies! There are facts about organic foods which state that they are packed with nutrients, right from vitamins to minerals to phytochemicals to antioxidants to you-name-it-the-food-has-it. Organic junk food is claimed to be healthier, meaning it can cut down on obesity and other health issues. But what exactly is the reality?
According to several nutritionists, there is mixed evidence or very little truth in the matter that organic food is more nutritious than conventional food. To break it down further, let’s go fact by fact:
- There are a few studies which suggest that certain fruits and vegetables that were organically farmed may contain more phytochemicals than those farmed conventionally. But the size of the organic produce can be smaller than conventional produce, possibly due to the lack of external growth hormones injected.
- The nitrate levels in organic food are comparatively lesser than in conventional foods. This is considered good, as high nitrate levels can lead to an increased risk of cancer.
- The fatty acid profile (such as Omega-3 acids) in organic meat and dairy products were seen to be almost 50% higher according to a couple of studies.
- Organic produce was found to have higher levels of antioxidants. This may be because they do not really depend on external or chemical protection, and therefore, produce their own protective compounds.
- Genetic modification of your food isn’t harmful; in fact, it’s been carried out for centuries now, through hybridization, which basically means that you breed produce to possess desirable qualities. Unless it’s conducted in a lab with chemicals all around, genetic modification is not going to cause any harm to human health. The World Health Organization has also stood by this fact, stating that GM foods are no more unsafe than traditional foods, except in terms of certain matters such as provoking allergic reactions (depending on the person consuming the food).
- Organic junk food is still junk food! Whether it’s cookies or cakes or other sugary or savoury treats, the fact that they are organic doesn’t change the other fact that they’re jam-packed with sugar, fat, and calories.
- When it comes to agricultural produce, it’s important to remember the soil the plants are grown in, or the season, because even simple variations exist from field to field or season to season. The health benefits offered can vary accordingly.
- Organic food can spoil faster owing to the lack of additional preservatives.
The summary? Going by these facts, the main advantages that organic foods have over conventional foods are the higher levels of antioxidants, phytochemicals, and a higher fatty acid profile as well. They also reduce your exposure to chemicals and pesticides. So while organic foods don’t really provide astronomical advantages over their conventional counterparts, they still do have a few health benefits. Also, with the way our planet is being harmed every single day, any eco-friendly practice undertaken is always beneficial.
Things to Keep in Mind to Ensure Your Health and Your Family’s Too!
- For starters, quitting conventional foods cold turkey and completely switching to organic foods will not provide you or your family with any major health benefits. So, if you’re unable to find the organic counterparts of your favourite fruits and veggies, it doesn’t mean that you skip buying them altogether. The conventional products haven’t caused you much harm before, so why would they now? Buy the available options and switch to organic once they’re accessible.
- Reiterating what we’ve covered above, organic junk food is still, very much, junk food! If you think stuffing yourself with the organic versions of your favourite foods would leave you risk-free, think again!
- The way you cook your organic foods matters just as much when it comes to their health benefits; if you’re dunking your portion of organic meat in a pot full of oil and deep-frying it, it’s not going to be any healthier than its conventional counterpart. Cooking your organic foods in a healthy way is required to keep any present health benefits intact!
- Read the labels on your food carefully, because even if it is marked as organic, a heavy dose of ingredients such as sugar or fat won’t give you the nutrition you need.
- When it comes to fruits and vegetables, buy what is in season to get the freshest produce. Remember to wash it nicely and thoroughly to remove any dirt or bacteria.
At the end of the day, the choice between organic food and conventional food boils down to your preference. Keep in mind that the former can be more expensive because of the costly farming practices involved, and it may not always be easily accessible either. But if you’re looking for options that ensure a sustainable lifestyle and incorporate eco-friendly practices, organic foods may just be the right thing for you!