Organic food has exploded in popularity over the past two decades.
In fact, American consumers spent $39.1 billion on organic products in 2014.
Popularity does not seem to be slowing down, with sales increasing by more than 11% between 2014 and 2015.
Many people believe that organic foods are safer, healthier and tastier than conventional foods.
Others say it’s better for the environment and animal welfare.
This article compares both organic and inorganic and their effects on the human system.
What does Organic Food mean?
The term “organic” refers to the process of producing certain foods.
Organic food has been grown or raised without the use of artificial chemicals, hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified organisms.
For a food product to be called organic, it must be without artificial food additives.
This includes artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colors, flavors and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Organic crops tend to use natural fertilizers such as manure to improve plant growth. Nor do organically raised animals to receive antibiotics or hormones.
Organic agriculture tends to improve soil quality and groundwater conservation. It also reduces pollution and can be better for the environment.
The most commonly purchased organic foods are fruits, vegetables, cereals, dairy products, and meat. Today, many processed organic products are also available, such as soft drinks, cookies, and breakfast cereals.
Organic food is produced using agricultural practices that use only natural substances.
Organic Foods May Likely Be Healthier Because They Contain More Nutrients
Studies comparing the nutrient content of organic and non-organic foods have yielded mixed results.
This is most likely due to natural variations in food handling and production.
However, the evidence suggests that organically grown foods can be more nutritious.
Crops Grown Organically Have More Vitamins and Antioxidants
Several studies have shown that organic foods generally contain higher levels of antioxidants and some micronutrients, such as vitamin C, zinc and iron (3, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
In fact, antioxidant levels can be up to 69% higher in these foods (6Trusted Source).
A study also found that organically grown berries and corn contained 58% more antioxidants and up to 52% more vitamin C (5Trusted Source).
In addition, a study found that replacing regular fruits, vegetables, and cereals with organic versions could provide additional antioxidants in the diet. This was comparable to consuming 1 to 2 additional servings of fruits and vegetables per day (6Trusted Source).
Organic plants do not rely on chemical pesticides for protection.
This may partly explain the higher levels of antioxidants in these plants.
Organic Food Product Have Generally Lower Nitrate Levels
It has also been shown that organic crops contain fewer nitrates. In fact, studies have shown that nitrate levels are 30% lower in these crops (6Trusted Source, 7).
High levels of nitrates are associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer (8Trusted Source).
They are also linked to a disease called methemoglobinemia, a disease in infants that affects the body’s ability to carry oxygen (8Trusted Source).
However, many people believe that the harmful effects of nitrates have been overestimated. The benefits of vegetable consumption far outweigh the negative effects.
Organic Milk And Dairy Products May Contain Higher Levels Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Organic milk and dairy products may contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and slightly higher amounts of iron, vitamin E and some carotenoids (7, 9Trusted Source).
However, organic milk may contain less selenium and iodine than non-organic milk, two minerals essential to health.
A review of 67 studies found that organic meat contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and slightly lower levels of saturated fat than conventional meat (10Trusted Source).
A greater intake of omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with many health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease.
There Are Likely Little To No Difference According To Research
Although several studies indicate that organic foods contain more nutrients, many others do not have enough evidence to recommend organic foods over inorganic foods.
An observational study comparing the nutrient intakes of nearly 4,000 adults consuming organic or conventional vegetables yielded conflicting results.
Although a slightly higher intake of some nutrients was observed in the organic group, this was most likely due to an overall higher intake of vegetables.
A review of 55 studies found no difference in nutrient content in organic crops compared to regular crops, with the exception of the lower nitrate content of organic products.
Another review of 233 studies found a lack of strong evidence to conclude that organic foods are more nutritious than conventional foods.
Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the results of these studies vary considerably.
The nutrient content of food depends on many factors, such as soil quality, weather conditions and when crops are harvested.
The composition of dairy products and meat can be influenced by differences in animal genetics and breed, what animals eat, the time of year and the type of farm.
Natural variations in food production and handling make comparisons difficult. Therefore, the results of these studies should be interpreted with caution.
So basically, Organic crops may contain fewer nitrates and more of certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Organic dairy products and meat may contain more omega-3 fatty acids. However, the evidence is mixed.
Benefits Of Organic Foods
There is some evidence to suggest that organic foods have beneficial health effects.
For example, several laboratory studies have shown that their higher antioxidant content helps protect cells from damage. And animal studies show that organic diets can be beneficial for growth, reproduction and the immune system.
One study also reported that organically fed chickens had reduced weight gain and a stronger immune system.
Observational studies in humans have linked organic foods to a lower risk of allergies and eczema in children and infants.
A large observational study of 623,080 women found no difference in cancer risk between those who had never consumed organic food and those who consumed it regularly.
Another study found that antioxidant levels were higher in men on an organic diet. However, this study was small in size and was not randomized.
When 16 people were on an organic or conventional diet for two three-week periods, those on an organic diet had slightly higher levels of some antioxidants in their urine. However, this study also had limitations that may have caused the differences.
Unfortunately, there is simply not enough solid evidence to confirm that organic foods are more beneficial to human health than conventional foods.
More high-quality studies are needed.
Junk Food Is Still Junk Food, Organic or Not
Just because a product is labeled “organic” does not make it healthy.
Some of these food products are processed in a high quantity of sugar, salt and added fat. Examples include ice cream, doughnuts, etc
Although they are organic, these products are still unhealthy. So if you try to lose weight or eat healthily, you could hurt yourself by eating these foods.
Organic product labels often indicate that the ingredients are “natural” – for example, use raw cane sugar instead of regular sugar. However, sugar is always sugar.
The majority of the population already consumes too much sugar. To think that it is healthy to consume a lot of organic sugar is simply not true.
Simply put, when you choose organic junk food, you may simply choose a slightly higher version of regular junk food.
However, since regulations generally prohibit the use of artificial food additives in these foods, the purchase of organic products is a good way to avoid many of the chemicals that are often added to conventional foods.
Organically made junk food is still junk food.