Walking down the aisle in a supermarket nowadays, you are likely to see more shelves dedicated to organic food. Their price can sometimes be three to four times more expensive than the conventional ones. One of the latest reports by Zion Market Research shows that the global organic food and beverages market was valued at approximately USD 124.76 billion in 2017 and expected to hit around USD 323.09 billion by 2024. Why the hype and extra cost? Of greatest interest to us, are they really better for health? Let’s take a look at some organic food facts!
Organic Food Facts 1 | “Organic” Refers to How the Food Is Produced
The word “organic” is actually referring to the ways farmers grow and process the agricultural produce such as vegetables, fruits, grain products and livestock. The farmers do not use most artificial fertilisers and pesticides when growing the food. The animal products are free of antibiotics and hormones. Organic farming practices encourage soil and water conservation, as well as reduce pollution. It’s actually better for the environment!
Organic Food Facts 2 | Certain Countries Regulate Organic Food Very Strictly
The regulatory body will audit the organic farmers at least once or several times a year. This is to make sure the farmers follow the rules set strictly. The soil where the crops are grown has to be inspected for pesticide residues. Live stocks are able to roam freely, fed with organic feed and receive no antibiotics and hormone. Only foods that met these criteria can carry the “Organic Food” seal.
Organic Food Facts 3 | Organic Vs Conventional, Nutritionally the Same
Many people purchase organic food because they believe it is healthier. Some say that organic food tastes better, while some state that they actually taste the same. While organic food has fewer artificial fertilisers, pesticides and is free of antibiotics and hormones, they actually do not offer any nutritional advantages over the conventional counterparts.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the US says that the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant levels in organic foods are no different from the conventional foods. A review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2010 found no evidence showing that organic products are healthier than conventionally grown products. So, if you are buying organic food solely based on the belief that you will be getting more nutrients, it may not be the case then.
Organic Food Facts 4 | Organic Food Has Lesser Pesticide Residue
The evidence is pretty conclusive that organic food has lesser pesticides residues compared to the conventional food. Having said that, the amount of artificial pesticide residues found in conventional foods is still well below the level that the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed unsafe. The verdict is still whether these small doses, accumulate over years, might add up to an increased health risk down the line. Is this something to worry about? The answer for now is, it has not been proved.
Organic Food Facts 5 | Eating Plenty Fruits & Vegetables is Essential No Matter How It’s Grown
It is important to include a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy into our diet regardless they are organic or conventional. They are nutritious and contribute to a healthy dietary intake. Make sure you wash the fresh produce under running water. Rub fruits and vegetables with hands or a piece of soft cloth to remove dirt and some pesticide residues. No soap or special solutions are necessary; plain, cool water is good enough.
Besides that, do be extra careful not to fall for some marketing gimmicks. Just because a product is organic or contains organic ingredients does not mean it is always a healthier option. Some organic products can still be high in sugar, fats and salt that are bad for health. A chip is still a chip nutritionally, no matter it is organic or not, consumption in moderation is still necessary. Read and make good use of the food labels before purchase!
You’ve Decided to Go Organic and Now What?
You can consider buying the organic version of foods on the Dirty Dozen list. This list is published each year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The list ranks fruits and vegetables by the amount of pesticide residue detected, according to findings from USDA. This list is made available on https://www.ewg.org. This year’s list includes strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers. Although standards vary around the world, this list acts as a reference for people who want to reduce their contact with pesticides.
Other than this dirty dozen list, EWG also puts out a Clean Fifteen list showing conventional produce lowest in pesticides, so check it out! Extra tip: Produce with thicker skins tend to have fewer pesticide residues because the thick skin protects the inner fruit or vegetable. Remove the skin, and you’re removing much of the residue.
You shouldn’t limit your fruit and vegetable intake based merely on pesticide usage. We still do not fully understand the effect of pesticides on health. However, the importance of eating fruits and vegetables for health, regardless of conventional or organic, is firmly established. So eat your fruit and veggies! Check this out to find out easy ways to include adequate fruits and vegetables into your diet!