What Does Organic Food Mean & Is It Worth It
|By Nell Jones - daughter, writer,
The great thing about most grocery stores today is the array of options. There are at least ten different kinds of chickens and eggs you can choose from.
One of these choices is whether or not to choose the organic option. To some people, organic products seem to be the current trend and to others it seems to be the only option or no option at all.
You might find people who will only shop at Whole Foods, and others who avoid grocery stores like Whole Foods at all costs (or because of them!). So what is organic? And how important or unimportant is it to our diet?
Sometimes I get looped into choosing the organic option over the others just because it seems healthier and better for me, but why? What does the label organic actually mean?
Organic describes the farm where the food is grown. To be labeled as “organic”, the food must be grown on a farm that does not use fertilizers or pesticides made with synthetic ingredients or any kind of bio-engineering in the growing process.
Similarly, organic poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy come from animals that are not given any antibiotics or growth hormones and must be organically fed with access to the outdoors. The food is labeled as a percentage organic by government regulators.
Something can be considered organic if the ingredients themselves are over 95% organic. While there are strict rules put in place by these government agencies about what can and cannot be labeled organic, they do not confirm that there are any health benefits to buying and eating organic.
So then why are so many Americans spending the extra dollars to purchase organic food?
Is Organic Food Better For You?
There has been a lot of research done to see if organically grown food has more health benefits than conventionally grown food, however there are few conclusions so far. Health-wise, I think it is a question of short term versus long term.
If you eat and compare an organically grown apple to a conventionally grown apple, you are not going to notice a difference in that day. However, some studies have shown that organically grown foods have more antioxidants, so if you keep eating organically grown apples, maybe you will get sick less frequently.
Taste-wise, organically grown produce is going to taste better because the lack of preservative require the food to be fresher and grown more locally. However, buying and eating organically is a privilege, due to the high prices, that not everyone has.
So when is it really important to eat organically?
One worry about conventionally grown foods is the pesticides that the produce is grown with. People argue that these pesticides are linked with birth defects and even cancer.
While researchers have stated that the conventional produce sold has levels that are safe for healthy adults, it might be a good idea for pregnant women to spend the extra money to eat organic produce. With meats and dairy products, it seems like organic is always the better choice.
Ethically, the animals are treated a lot better when raised organically. Looking at it from a health perspective, most conventionally raised animals are given antibiotics similar to those given to humans.
Especially today, we are seeing a lot of antibiotic resistance occurring in the population, which makes it harder for us to fight simple infections. Buying organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy may help slow down this antibiotic resistance in your body.
For me, one of the most important parts of buying organic is the environmental aspect. I am trying to make as many small changes as I can to lower my carbon footprint and help the global warming issue.
One of the ways I find that I can help is buying organically and locally grown products. As I mentioned before, because organically grown food does not use pesticides like conventionally grown food, it is more likely to come from local, smaller farms.
This decreases transportation pollution. Similarly, organically grown produce does not use pesticides and artificial fertilizers, so there is no chemical water contamination from the soil. Organically grown food also supports biodiversity and keeps the ecosystems balanced.
That all being said, it is hard to categorize conventional and organic food into two distinct groups because not all conventional food is grown the same and not all organic food is grown the same. If this is important to you, then to really be sure, it is best to understand where your produce is coming from and how it is being grown.