Organic food is becoming more and more popular. The sections with organic food in supermarkets grow bigger and in some countries there are even all organic supermarkets.
However, even though the popularity is rising, scientists keep arguing whether organic food actually contains more nutrients than conventional food and whether they are better for us.
Oftentimes I hear that organic is just a business and that there’s no added value to it.
So is organic food better and why? Should you buy it? What should you follow when you buy organics?
Why is there so much confusion around it?
So many studies have been conducted, yet there are big differences in their results.
Findings of several studies which are against the concept of organic food say that consumption of organic cannot be recommended, because there isn’t sufficient evidence that it contains more nutrients (1, 2, 3).
On the other hand a number of researches came to a conclusion that organic food contains for example higher amounts of vitamin C, zinc, iron and antioxidants (4, 5, 6, 7).
There are many factors which affect the results:
- When the fruits and vegetables are harvested
- Weather during the year
- Quality of soil
- Animal feed
These and other influences have a big effect on the amount of nutrients in food. In the end it is a very complex topic, which is not simply black and white.
… and we shouldn’t forget the influence of lobby on both sides of the barricade. Even the best scientists make “mistakes”.
However, the study mentioned previously analyzed 343 researches and came to the following conclusion: organic food contains significantly higher amounts of antioxidants, some minerals and vitamins.
Amount of nutrients is only one of the decision points
We don’t buy organic food only because it may contain more nutrients. The amount of pesticide residues and other compounds (e.g. antibiotics) plays a significant role as well.
Regarding this the studies are in agreement – organic food is better.
The well-known Stanford study was careful in its conclusions and stated that by consuming organic food we can decrease the risk of exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic resistant bacteria. Very interesting outcomes of this study were further discussed here.
Analysis of a few hundred studies resulted in these intriguing results:
- Organic food contains 48% less Cadmium. Cadmium is a highly toxic metal, which accumulates in the body. Besides the fact that it is carcinogenic, it also causes many other problems.
- Pesticide residue occurrence is 4x higher in conventionally produced crops (7).
It is said that the amounts of these residues are still well below the safety limits and there is nothing to be worried about. There are different opinions regarding this.
However, nobody knows what happens when we are exposed to a mixture of different dangerous compounds every day. That’s scientifically hard to prove.
That’s why I think it’s better to be careful.
But not at the cost that you’ll be eating less vegetables or fruits.
And that’s not all
Organic also provides further gains, especially in regards to the environment.
Concept of (eco)logical agriculture is in comparison to conventional agriculture wonderful and provides many benefits to the environment such as:
- It’s more considerate towards the land
- Animals live in better conditions
- It’s more respectful to the surrounding nature.
Organic: to buy or not?
Most of the time organic food is more expensive but you are also getting better quality. As the main advantage I see that in comparison to conventional food it contains only a minimal amount of residues.
That’s especially important for children, pregnant women and also for people who suffer from health problems. If you have an undeveloped or weakened body, then the more you burden it the more stress it has to deal with.
Nevertheless, even if you are healthy the role of good quality food in regards to prevention is no less important.
Another advantage is that producers don’t usually use so many pointless additives for processing the food.
However, at the same time I’m adding – all that glitters is not gold.
Organic doesn’t equal healthy food
People very often buy organic with a good feeling that if it’s organic it must be healthy or that it’s a “healthy snack“. Unfortunately it’s not so simple.
With some products it simply doesn’t matter what kind of quality you buy. Agave nectar is a great example. Whether you buy it organic or not it won’t do good to you.
Another example is processed food. Organic or not junk food is always junk food.
The way the food is processed is also important. When you buy organic milk you get a better quality. However, if it was pasteurized with the UHT (ultra high temperature) method then the gain is not so big anymore, because during the UHT pasteurization all the beneficial bacteria is killed anyway. Therefore, with milk it’s not about organic vs. conventional. It’s about pasteurized vs. non-pasteurized.
At the end of the day it depends on the particular food which you buy.
Which organic food are worth buying?
If you cannot buy everything organic because of limited availability or due to financial reasons, it’s not the end of the world (nor your health).
On the Environmental Working Group website you can find 2 well-arranged lists of fruits and vegetables according to the amount of pesticide residues they contain (Clean fifteen and Dirty dozen).
- Bell peppers
- Frozen peas (for the fresh one some preservatives have to be used like e.g. fungicides)
- Honeydew melon
- Cantaloupe melon
Those which belong to dirty dozen, buy organic. Especially if they are your favorites and you eat them often.
On the other hand, those which are part of clean fifteen doesn’t have to always be organic.
On the EWG website you can also find a more detailed list containing other kinds of fruits and vegetables.
Other very important food are meat and eggs. In conventional farming animals are usually treated badly. Living space is bad, animal feed is bad and stress is high. All that strongly affects the quality of the meat and eggs. Because of this it is especially important to buy eggs and meat of high quality.
It is definitely better to buy high quality meat less often, rather than buying it often and in a low quality. Every cell in your body will be much happier as a result.
Did I forget anything?
Organic food can contribute to our health a lot. But even among organic you can find a whole lot of overpriced products, which don’t have anything in common with healthy food. When choosing it use your common sense.
Whether organic or not the best is to buy whole food (or processed only to a minimal extent) and process them at home. You don’t have to spend a long time reading labels and thinking whether this or that food is good or if it’s bad.
Whether you want to preserve your health or to heal yourself, high quality food forms the basis, which will aid you a lot.
If you already suffer from dis-ease or disease then the next step for you is mainly to choose the right type of food that will support your body and cure it.