The organic food craze hit the shelves just a few decades ago, and the popularity of this diet does not seem to be going away anytime soon. According to Executive Director of the Organic Trade Organization Katherine DiMatteo, “We’ve had a strong 20% a year growth rate since 1990.” She also adds that more land is being devoted to the production of organic foods, but is the organic food lifestyle all that it claims to be?
What Exactly Is Organic Food?
According to organic.org, organic foods are foods that are “grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms or ionizing radiation.” Organic food is not only limited to fruit and produce. Any meat or dairy products, including eggs, labeled as organic come from animals which were not given growth hormones or antibiotics.
The question that arises from this remains – is organic food actually any better for you than “conventional” options? People remain divided on this topic for a variety of reasons. Below is a brief and simple summary touching on the pros and cons of implementing an organic diet.
The Case for Organic
You Know What You Are Putting in Your Body: With organic food, you know exactly what you are putting in your body, as most organic foods are limited to a single ingredient. If you are munching on an organic apple, you know it is just an apple grown in nutrient-rich soil without any harmful pesticides gracing its waxy surface. Organic and sustainable farming is also credited with having a lower environmental impact than those using synthetic substances such as pesticides.
Full of Phenolic-Rich Nutrients: When you hear the argument between keeping an organic versus nonorganic diet, it usually comes down to the question, “Is organic really healthier?” Several studies conducted have revealed organic produce to contain 18-69% more of antioxidant compounds, as well as higher levels of vitamin C and zinc, making it a valuable resource in the natural movement.
It Tastes Better: One’s sense of taste is an entirely subjective matter, but there is a reason many top chefs reach for the organic meats, veggies and produce – the taste! Because organic food relies on more natural methods of fertilization such as compost, which release nitrogen levels at a slower rate, these foods are allowed to grow as they would naturally. This usually translates to a sweeter, richer flavor all-around.
The Case Against Organic
Price: There is the old saying “you get what you pay for,” and in the case of organic foods, pay for it you will. Not only does organic farming operate on a smaller scale than more “traditional” farms, it also takes more time to produce crops because farmers do not rely on growth hormones in order to yield more abundant crops which amount to extra dollars on your grocery bill.
No Real Recorded Evidence That Organic Is Healthier: Despite all the positive things organic foods have to offer, there is still no robust evidence that it is actually any better for you than conventionally-created varieties. Some people argue that higher antioxidant levels found in organic foods can simply be supplemented by additional servings of their non-organic counterpart.
What Are You Really Getting With That Label: Despite the term “organic,” the organic foods that we buy in stores fall into one of two categories: 100% organic and organic. The former term describes any food which can be deemed completely organic or made up of 100% organic ingredients. Organic foods only have to be 95% organic in order to be considered as such, and do not generally bear the USDA seal of approval that the 100% organic variety boasts. There is also the term “natural” that gets thrown around quite a bit, which should never be confused with organic items as they do not necessarily meet USDA organic guidelines.
In the case of organic versus non-organic, this one will obviously come down to an individual’s personal preference, which is why we suggest trying out different types of foods and making the choice that works best for you. If you are looking to explore the world of organic food, a general rule of thumb for foods which make a more impactful organic option are foods which you might eat the skin of, mainly fruits, such as strawberries, apples, peaches, grapes, and leafy veggies like spinach and celery. Happy eating!