Organic food is steadily rising in popularity, and what was once reserved for the farmers market can now be found in supermarkets all over the country. It’s widely known that organic food is healthier, but what exactly are the benefits and why are so many people turning to organic?
What is organic food?
The term “organic” used for ingredients and food products refers to the way ingredients are grown and processed. To be labelled as “organic” an ingredient or manufacturing process should be certified against stringent organic standards. These standards mandate the use of only natural fertilizers, the use of no synthetic pesticides, no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and no synthetic additives or processing aids.
Organic foods must be grown in what is considered safe soil with no toxic residues and be left to grow naturally without the aid of most conventional farming inputs. For organic livestock, the use of antibiotics, growth hormones and other animal-by-products are strictly forbidden. Animals must also be able to graze on organic pastures or eat organic feeds as well.
What are the health benefits of organic food?
Several studies have shown that food grown in the absence of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers can contain more vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, iron, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus
Other studies have shown that food grown without many widely used chemicals may have increased levels of antioxidants in them. Antioxidants boost the immune system and also help fight off the appearance of ageing. In fact, the more antioxidants are packed into the food you eat, the better you will feel.
There have also been documented connections between some chemicals widely used in agriculture and the increase in some cancers.
Organic foods have also been found to contain up to six times more salicylic acid than genetically modified foods. Salicylic acid is known to protect against stress and disease. It also acts as an inflammatory, reducing the risk of hardened arteries.
Some further studies have shown that conventionally farmed foods are at higher risk of containing residues of synthetic pesticides. Children are most at risk from these residues, with even the smallest amount having potential adverse effects on a child’s hormone, nervous and immune systems.
There has also been some links proposed between the chemicals being used in agriculture and increases in asthma and chronic fatigue syndrome.
What are the environmental benefits?
It’s more than just our health that can be improved by eating organic foods. Organic farming means healthier soil, water and air and a greater emphasis on animal welfare.
Certified organic production ensures the livestock are given more space to move around their outdoor environment and their health is maintained in a very holistic way, particularly as antibiotics and many conventional veterinary practices and medicines cannot be used. Not only is this great for the animals, it also actually leads to better tasting food. Put simply, the healthier the animal, the tastier the meat.
Organic farming is also better for the environment, reducing pollution released from conventional pesticides and paying special attention to water conservation, reducing soil erosion, gaining higher fertility levels in soil and lowering energy use in production. Nearby native animals are free from the exposure of chemicals and town water runs less risk of pesticide contamination.
Which foods are the most important to you that they’re organic?