- USDA certified organic foods must comply with certain standards in the US.
- The standards for organic food vary widely around the globe.
- Some organic foods contain more nutrients than their non-organic counterparts.
Growing and eating organic food is generally seen as a good practice for both your personal health and that of the Earth. Just how much healthier is organic food for you, however, if at all? Does it make a significant difference for your body if you eat organic broccoli, or does the regular, mass-produced stuff still provide you with good things? Here are some facts and figures to consider when making your food choices.
The definition of what is “organic” can be wide-ranging. Generally speaking, organic food is grown in ways that promote ecological balance and shun the use of conventional pesticides and factory farming.
The standards for organic farming vary worldwide. In the US, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s website, USDA certified organic foods are “grown and processed according to federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives.”
Pesticides are normally used to control weeds, insects, and fungi from destroying fruit and vegetable crops. They can be made from chemicals and harmful to human health, as well as the natural environment.
According to the Mayo Clinic online, organic food has lower amounts of trace pesticides compared with food that is grown with now-conventional farming methods. When you eat organic food, you have a greater chance of ingesting fewer pesticides. Whether or not this results in identifiable health gains for humans is uncertain, the Mayo Clinic states, but it is a fact that you are ingesting fewer chemicals when you go organic. Fewer pesticides have also been shown to be better for the environment in general.
Nutrients and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
You may think that a banana is a banana, but research has shown otherwise. Studies done comparing organically grown produce with their non-organic counterparts have found that organic food contains slightly higher levels of some nutrients, notably flavonoids.
When it comes to meat and animal products like dairy and eggs, organically raised animals have been shown to produce meat and animal products that are higher in omega-3 fatty acids, the Mayo Clinic states. This is because animals on organic farms eat grass and alfalfa, not genetically modified animal feed, which changes the consistency of the animal.
Is it Healthier?
In answer to the question posed by the title of this article, yes, generally speaking, organic fruits and vegetables, as well as meat and animal products, are a bit healthier for you to consume. It has yet to be revealed if the differences presented are enough to significantly affect your health, but they are there.
Eating organic food is also better for the planet, as it promotes more traditional ways of farming that subject our planet to less stress and promote more natural cycles in nature.
Consumers must be careful not to construe processed foods labeled as “organic” as being necessarily healthy, however. Are those cookies labeled “organic?” What about that ice cream? Both products still contain notable amounts of sugar and possibly fat, even if labeled "organic." As such, they would be no more healthy than another ice cream or sugary snack.
The biggest drawback of organic food, of course, is that it is more expensive. If you cannot afford to go organic, do not beat yourself up about it. Maybe someday you will be able to put organic food on your grocery list. For the time being, eat a healthy, balanced diet and do your best. Read your food labels, stay informed, and make the best choices you can for both your body and your world.