What’s So Great About Organic Food ?

April 20, 2009 | | Comments Off on What’s So Great About Organic Food ?

In recent years, there has been a lot of focus on healthy eating, and particularly about eating organic foods. Most organic food purchasers do so for one of two reasons. They believe either that organic food is more nutritious or that is better for the environment. There continues to be conflicting evidence about whether organic foods are actually healthier than “regular” food. The only thing that is clear is that a well balanced diet is key to staying healthy. Whether one chooses to purchase organic or conventional fruits and vegetables to balance their diet does not really make a difference.

One of the supposed benefits of organic food is that it is environmentally friendly. It is true that organic farmers do not use the same pesticides that conventional farmers use. On the flip side, however, because organic farming produces half as much as conventional farming, more land is required to yield the same amount of food as modern conventional farming techniques.

It has also been alleged that organic foods are more nutritious. Organic food advocates claim that Organic food has 50% more minerals and vitamins than conventionally farmed produce. Advocates not only claim conventionally farmed produce is less nutritious, they also claim that it may be detrimental to one’s health. The pesticides conventional farmers use on their crops have been said to cause many desieases such as, cancer, Alzheimer’s, birth defects, and obesity. A study found that there is more ascorbic acid in organically grown vegetables. There is a lower protein content, but the quality of protein in organic vegetables is higher.

The most controversial claim concerning organic food is that it has the power to cure cancer. Dr. D. Collins conducted a study on five cancer patients who changed their diet to include organic foods. Autopsies conducted years later, after they passed away from causes unrelated to cancer, revealed that their bodies had no trace of the cancer. Many have been skeptical of this claim, including many members of the medical community.

In response to the assertion that organic foods are superior, it has been said that the length of time the produce has been on the shelf makes the biggest nutritional difference. Also, there is evidence that there is little to no difference in the amount of vitamins in organic versus conventional fruits and vegetables. Of course, the best diet contains seven to ten servings of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains daily. Some extremely nutritious foods which most Americans typically do not consume include kiwis, Brazil nuts, edamame, canned salmon, and pomegranates. The claims that pesticides contribute to the inferiority of conventionally farmed produce may be without merit since organic farmers use pesticides, they just use pesticides from natural resources.

Some people purchase organic produce because it tastes better. It is true that some people believe that organic produce has a superior taste, but others cannot tell the difference. One definite myth about organic produce is that it does not have to be washed as thorougly. All produce whether farmed organically or not, is exposed to bacteria, which needs to be removed before consumption. Many people believe that buying organic supports local farms. Some of the biggest organic producers are Kellogg, which owns Morningstar, and Kraft, which owns Boca Burger. In 2007, only 16% of whole foods sold were grown locally.

Overall, the biggest difference between organically grown foods and non-organic foods is that they are more expensive. Organic farming does not produce as high a yield of product resulting in an inefficient use of land, and organic farmers use natural pesticides. As far as the nutritional advantages of organic foods, there is evidence that organic foods are more nutritious. There is also evidence that organic foods and conventionally farmed foods have the same nutritional content. The bottom line is that fruits and vegetables are an important part of any healthy diet. As far as choosing organic or non organic produce, that is all a matter of personal preference.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user vanillagrrl.

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