There is an ongoing debate as to whether it's healthier to choose organic foods versus non-organic foods. Many people on the organic side claim that organic fruits, vegetables and other foods contain more nutrients, while touting the dangers of chemicals, pesticides and additives found in conventional foods. Those on the inorganic side claim that organic foods are costly, using the label as a marketing ploy to charge heftier prices for foods that have little to no difference in safety and nutritional value. Here is some useful information that might help you decide on whether you want to go organic or inorganic the next time you go to the grocery.
What is Organic Food?
The word organic can be attributed to the following agricultural products:
- Dairy products
Organic foods are grown and processed using a particular set of farming practices that eliminate chemicals, while helping the environment by conserving water and nurturing soil. Some of the key aspects of organic farming include:
- Using natural fertilizers, like compost, instead of chemical fertilizers.
- Utilizing insects, birds, plants and other natural means of pest control instead of spraying insecticides over crops.
- Manually managing weed growth through farming techniques, like crop rotation, eliminating the use of herbicides.
- Using natural methods to care for animals like using organic feed rather than giving animals growth hormones.
Is Organic Food Healthier than Inorganic Food?
While there are still on-going studies and tests to determine if organic foods are actually more nutritious than conventional foods, researchers have yet to determine any significant differences in nutrients between the two. However, the removal of chemicals and additives from their daily meals may be enough reason for people to stick with organically grown and processed foods.
The Dangers of Organic Food
Some researchers argue that organic methods of farming can be just as dangerous as conventional use of chemicals, pesticides and insecticides. For example, manure used as an organic fertilizer may increase the risk of E. coli bacteria on food products, which could lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea and other conditions related to food poisoning. Another general concern is the public's perception of food products labeled "organic" as being healthy, without actually reading nutrition labels to determine the sugar, sodium, fat and calorie content.
Determining if a Food is Actually "Organic"
Another mistake that people commonly make is thinking "natural" is the same as "organic" when reading food labels. The USDA regulates organic food labels to help consumers make the best choices:
- A "100% Organic" label certifies that the food product is made entirely of organic ingredients.
- An "Organic" food label indicates that at least 95 percent of the ingredients found in the product have been certified organic.
- Sometimes a food product might not meet the requirements to obtain an organic label from the USDA. If certain products contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients, they may carry the label, "made with organic ingredients."
- When a product is made up of less than 70 percent organic ingredients, the organic ingredients can only be listed in the ingredients list, and not as an actual food label.
Pros and Cons of Organic Food
Although they still may have the same nutritional benefits of conventional food, people may still want to purchase organic foods for the following reasons:
- According to the USDA, organic fruit and vegetable crops have significantly less pesticide residue than inorganic crops.
- Organic foods do not contain any additives or substances that may enhance the product like preservatives, artificial sweeteners or food coloring.
- Some may prefer organic food because it does not allow the use of growth hormones on animals since many consider them to be a form of animal cruelty.
- Organic agriculture can be better for the environment by reducing pollution and conserving natural resources.
The negative aspects of organic foods that might compel people to stick with inorganic foods include:
- No clear evidence of a higher nutritional value in organic foods.
- Higher prices than inorganic foods due to the increased cost of farming, production and processing.
- Organic foods may look less appealing than inorganic foods.
- Organic foods may taste slightly different than inorganic foods.
The Bottom Line
At this point, choosing between organic and inorganic food is all up to a person’s preference. You should choose whichever sounds, tastes, smells or looks more appealing to you. As far as nutrients and safety issues are concerned, neither type of food has an advantage over the other.