There is a lot of information out there on organic food, but is organic food healthier? Is organic food really worth the expense? Can it be more nutritious than non organic food?
What are the differences between traditionally grown food and organic food? Especially, when it comes to nutrition, safety and price.
Learn more about organic foods and even try to make a recipe of the healthiest organic food dishes.
What Is Organic Food?
Organic Food Definition
The result of agricultural farming is called organic food, and it is practiced without using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and growth regulators. This means that the focus of organic agriculture is on an environmentally, socially, and economical sustainable production system.
Perhaps, there are still some questions that you might have, such as ‘is organic food healthier?’ or ‘what are the benefits of organic food?’, among others regarding this relatively new topic…
It is not easy to answer these questions, because each situation is different. In general nutrition specialists accept that organic food is healthier and more nutritious than traditionally grown foods. However, it all depends on the conditions in which the normal foods are grown in, and how the foods are prepared. For example, deep-frying organic food is just as unhealthy as deep-frying non organic food.
Imagine that you have two tomatoes in your hands, one is organic and the other one is conventionally grown. Both have certain vitamins and minerals, but which one would you eat? Think about it. In the meanwhile you can read this article for more information on organic food.
Organic Food vs Non Organic Food
Health Benefits of Organic Food
The most considerable health benefit of organic food is that it helps people sleep better. Since there are less unnatural consistencies in the produce, your body has to work less hard to get rid of them. So, your body has one less thing to worry about.
Other health benefit of organic food is that it has more antioxidant compounds, which are linked to better health than those foods that are non-organic. The levels of toxic meals and pesticides is also much lower in foods that are produced organically.
Switching to organic fruit and vegetables can give you the same benefits as adding one or two portions of the recommendation of ‘five a day’, according to the international team which leader is Professor Carlo Leifert from Newcastle University.
Leifert concludes that there are significant and meaningful differences regarding the range of antioxidants. In organic food this is between 19% and 69% higher than in the conventional counterpart.
According to research, the higher level of antioxidants in organic foods is due to the fact that they have to protect themselves from pest attacks. While non-organic foods receive chemical sprays. However, this might be also because organic varieties are breed for toughness and non organic are sprayed with artificial fertilizers.
Many antioxidants are known to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and even certain types of cancer. However, long-term results are not conclusive yet.
A research which was funded by the European Union found higher levels of cadmium, a toxic metal, in non-organic crops. The residues of pesticides were found 4x more often on conventional crops than on organic crops.
From the research, the levels of cadmium and pesticides found in non-organic foods was still below the agriculture regulatory limits. However, many people still try to avoid cadmium, as it accumulates in the body over time. Pesticide limits are set individually and not for the cocktail of chemicals used on the different crops.
The biggest criticism to organic food is that there is too little evidence on their potential health benefits. Organic food still needs to prove with strong evidence that it is more nutritious than its counterpart.
Five A Day
Another focus point is that by eating organic food you are not nourished better. What you eat is more important than it being organic or not. Do you eat fruits and vegetables? Or is it mostly packaged products? We should not forget that.
Natural Organic Food
Yes, you read that correctly, natural organic food. Do not freak out by that term, it is not that confusing. Probably you have seen both of the terms on product labels separately, and this is because they have different meanings.
Natural products do not contain artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives. Meaning that it is not important to know how is the food produced.
On the other hand, organic products have requirements regarding how they must be grown, handled, and processed.
You now probably understand what natural foods and organic foods are , but what are natural organic foods? Well, basically organic foods that do not consist of artificial ingredients. As simple as that.
Natural foods do not have to be organic. Agricultural goods might not contain artificial additives, while being farmed on an non-organic way. The same goes for organic foods not having to be natural, they can be grown organically, while still having certain artificial additives.
What Does Organic Farming Mean?
As you might know already, the word ‘organic’ is given to a certain way farmers grow and process agricultural goods. Which include fruits, vegetables, and meats. Is organic food healthier this way? Well, organic farming practices are designed to meet the upcoming goals.
Soil and water quality have to be improved, pollution has to be reduced, safe and healthy livestock living areas have to be provided, natural livestock behavior has to be improved, and a self-sustaining cycle of resources.
Many materials and practices are not allowed in organic farming . Some of these prohibitions are using synthetic fertilizers to add nutrients to the soil, applying sewage sludge as a fertilizer, using specific synthetic pesticides for pest control, preserving food or getting rid of diseases or pests by irradiating, improving disease or pest resistance or improving crop yields with genetic engineering and feeding livestock antibiotics or growth hormones.
Organic farming does not prohibit the use of some specific materials and practices. Some of these are using plant and livestock waste left on the fields to improve soil quality, preserving soil quality and disturbing cycles of pest or diseases, covering crops that prevent erosion from happening when parcels of land are not used and to plow into the soil to improve the soil quality, using mulch to control unwanted weeds, utilizing certain insects or insect traps to control pests and spraying specific natural pesticides and synthetic pesticides that are approved for organic farming.
Practices & Requirements
Practices for livestock in organic farming consist of requirements including, having healthy living conditions for the livestock, making sure the livestock is pasture feed for at least 30% of the nutritional needs during their grazing season, giving the animals organic foods to eat and using certain vaccinations on the animals.
USDA Organic Certification
Obviously, not all foods can be labelled as organic, because of the many standards and requirements this has. That is why in the United States they established an organic certification program, which checks if goods can be labelled as organic or not, depending on how they are grown, handled, and processed.
If the USDA labels a product as organic, it will be certified as such. A special USDA Organic Seal is going to be labelled on those products. This way customers will know exactly which products are organic.
The USDA has guidelines on how organic foods are described on labels:
- 100% organic. The agricultural product is labelled as fully organic;
- The multi-ingredient product is labelled as at least 95% organic;
- Made with organic. The product which is multi-ingredient is at least 70% organic (and has no label); and
- Organic ingredients. Less than 70% organic of the product that is multi-ingredient (but has no label).
Myths About Organic Food
Organic Food Is Not Healthier
Is organic food healthier? Well, people often think that organic food is less nutritious than its counterpart. While some studies state that both are just as nutritious, other studies do prove that organic food tends to be on a healthier side. Mostly because it does not contain killing poisons like pesticides.
Pesticides Are Not That Bad
Certain people assume that pesticides are okay, which is proven otherwise. Pesticides are poison designed to kill pests in agriculture. These pesticides are absorbed by the human body and can remain in your body for several years. Some pesticides that we thought were safe have been banned over time. We can only hope that pesticides used today are a ‘relatively safe’ poison.
Organic Food Is Very Expensive
It is true that organic food can be quite pricy, however it does not have to be like that. In some cases organic food can be even cheaper than its inorganic counterpart. This is because conventional food has hidden costs, like health costs spent on pesticides and cleaning up the environment.
Organic Farming Can Not Supply Enough
Often organic farming takes more time, effort, and money, none the less it does not mean that it will be able to feed the whole world. According to the Iowa State University, organic growing methods have similar output to the conventional produce, but it also gives off a better soil quality over time.
Organic Food Has Less Taste
While most people are actually not able to tell the difference between the two, this has nothing to do with how they are processed. This is because of how both goods are shipped in, which always results in fruits and vegetables having less taste. A golden tip from us is to try to buy as much local foods as possible, they will taste fresher, no matter if they are organic or not
Try to find organic foods near you or non-organic, but from local produce.
It Is Just A Marketing Hype
Many consumers think that organic food is nothing more than a marketing hype. This way people will spend more money on these foods, which is not the case. Organic food has many benefits and are grown with certain standards and requirements to maintain public health, sustainability, and biodiversity.
Recipes With Organic Food
What would an article about organic food be without a recipe? Exactly, it would be very incomplete! Underneath is one of the healthiest organic food dishes.
Organic Lamb Burger With Quinoa
This lamb burger is one of the healthiest organic food dishes that you will ever cook. Recipe courtesy of Amanda Freitag.
- Dry organic quinoa, 1 cup
- Ground organic lamb meat, 1 pound
- Organic ground cumin, 2 teaspoons
- Chilli flakes( organic ), a pinch
- Minced organic garlic, 1 clove
- Free range organic egg, 1 piece
- Small finely diced organic red onion, 1 piece
- Salt preferably organic, to your taste
- Vegetable organic oil, 2 tablespoons
- Greek organic yogurt, 1 cup
- Chopped organic fresh mint, 2 tablespoons
Method Of Preparation:
- First, rinse the quinoa in a large strainer with cold water, then put it in a small saucepan and cover it with 2 cups of cold water. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer on a low stand for 15 to 20 minutes. Afterwards, remove it from the heat and let it cool before mixing it into the lamb.
- Mix the quinoa, lamb, cumin, chilli flakes, garlic, egg, onions, and salt together in a large bowl. Do this until the mixture comes together and has a smooth consistency. Make 4 patties from the mixture and place it on a baking sheet.
- Heat a large non-stick saute pan for 1 minute over high heat, after which you add the oil. Cook the patties until browned, which is 3 minutes per side. Then cover and cook over low heat for 10 to 12 minutes. Mix the yogurt and mint together in a separate bowl and season it with salt to your taste.
- In order to make a nice plate out of the prepared lamb burger, it could be accompanied with a nice salad, or with fresh tomato puree. Top it with the mint yogurt and serve.