Organic Foods: Are They Safer Than Conventional Meals?

Organic Foods: Are They Safer Than Conventional Meals?

Is it true that organic foods are safer than conventional meals? Is it possible to make it more nutrient-dense? And, as a family, how can you make the switch to an organic lifestyle?

Organic food, which was once solely available in health food stores, is now widely available in most supermarkets. As a result, there's a bit of a conundrum in the produce section.

On the one hand, you have an apple that has been grown in a traditional manner. On the other hand, there's one that's natural. Both apples are sturdy, lustrous, and bright red. Both are high in vitamins and fiber, as well as being low in fat, salt, and cholesterol. Which one should you pick? Before you go shopping, learn the facts.

What does it mean to farm organically?

The term "organic" refers to the methods used by farmers to grow and prepare agricultural products such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and meat. Organic agricultural operations are intended to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Improve the quality of the soil and water
  • Pollution should be reduced.
  • Ensure that cattle environments are safe and healthy.
  • Allow natural livestock behavior to flourish.
  • Encourage a farm's resource cycle to be self-sustaining.

The following materials or techniques are not authorized in organic farming:

  • Synthetic fertilizers are used to enrich the soil with nutrients.
  • Fertilizer made from sewage sludge
  • For pest control, the majority of synthetic insecticides are used.
  • To preserve food or to eradicate disease or pests, irradiation is used.
  • Genetic engineering is a technique that is used to improve disease or insect resistance, as well as crop yields.
  • For livestock, antibiotics or growth hormones are used.
  • Materials or procedures used in organic agricultural cultivation include:
  • To increase soil quality, use plant waste (green manure), cattle dung, or compost.
  • Plant rotation is important for maintaining soil quality and interrupting pest or disease cycles.
  • When parcels of land are not in use, cover crops are used to minimize erosion and to plow into the soil to improve soil quality.
  • Mulch to keep weeds at bay.
  • To control pests, use predatory insects or insect traps.

Certain natural pesticides and a few synthetic pesticides have been permitted for organic farming, but they are only used as a last option in collaboration with a USDA organic certifying agent.

Among the organic livestock husbandry approaches are:

  1. Access to the outdoors and healthy living circumstances
  2. During the grazing season, pasture feeding should cover at least 30% of the nutritional needs of animals.
  3. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an organic certification scheme that mandates that all organic goods meet stringent government guidelines. These guidelines govern how such goods are farmed, handled, and prepared.
  4. USDA certification is required for any product labeled as organic in the product description or packaging. The producer may also use an official USDA Organic seal if it is certified.
  5. The USDA allows an exception for organic food producers who sell less than $5,000 per year. These growers must adhere to organic food production rules, however, they are exempt from the certification procedure. They are permitted to label their products as organic, but they are not permitted to utilize the USDA Organic logo.

USDA Organic Certification

This USDA seal can be seen on products that are at least 95% organic. The USDA also has criteria for describing organic foods on product labels and below are the following:

  • 100 % natural. This label appears on organic fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, and other single-ingredient goods that are certified organic. It can also be used on multi-ingredient dishes if all of the ingredients, save salt and water, are certified organic. There may be a USDA seal on these.
  • Organic. If a multi-ingredient food is branded organic, at least 95 percent of the ingredients, excluding salt and water, are certified organic. The nonorganic ingredients must come from a USDA-certified list of extra substances. There's a chance they'll have a USDA seal on them as well.
  • Made using organic ingredients. A "made with organic" ingredients label may appear on a multi-ingredient product if at least 70% of the ingredients are certified organic. A breakfast cereal, for example, might be labeled "made with organic oats." What ingredients are organic must be identified in the ingredient list? It's possible that these items don't have the USDA seal.
  • Ingredients that are organic. A multi-ingredient product may not be labeled as organic or carry the USDA logo if less than 70% of the ingredients are certified organic. Which ingredients are organic can be determined by looking at the ingredient list.

Do the terms 'organic' and 'natural' have the same meaning?

No, "natural" and "organic" are not interchangeable terms. A food labeled as "natural" signifies it has no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. It has nothing to do with the procedures or materials that were used to make the food ingredients.

Organic labels should not be confused with other common food labels. For example, access to pasture during a minimum 120-day grazing season and the absence of growth hormones are among the requirements for certified organic beef. However, while the terms "free-range" and "hormone-free" must be used accurately, they do not imply that a farmer follows all organic certification standards.

What does it mean to eat organic food?

The term "organic" refers to the methods used to produce particular foods. Organic foods have not been grown or farmed with the following chemicals:

Hormones, antibiotics, and genetically modified organisms are all examples of artificial substances (GMOs).

A food product must be free of artificial food additives in order to be labeled organic. This includes artificial sweeteners, preservatives, coloring, flavoring, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Organically grown crops tend to use natural fertilizers like manure to improve plant growth. Animals raised organically are not given antibiotics or hormones.

Organic farming tends to improve soil quality and the conservation of groundwater. It also reduces pollution and may be better for the environment.

The most commonly purchased organic foods are fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products, and meat. Processed organic products are also available, such as sodas, cookies, and meat substitutes.

Organic food: Is it safer or more nutritious?

There is a growing body of evidence that shows some potential health benefits of organic foods when compared with conventionally grown foods. While these studies have shown differences in the food, there is limited information to draw conclusions about how these differences translate into overall health benefits.

Consumers want more information on where their food comes from and how it was produced, as well as reasons to eat healthier. There are hundreds of reasons to prefer certified organic products over conventional products, but we've whittled it down to the top 14.

Potential benefits include the following:

  1. Persistent Pesticides

Organic food lowers the number of toxins in your diet, particularly persistent pesticides. In organic food production, the use of pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, and weedkillers is rigorously regulated.

Without the use of hazardous pesticides, organic farming delivers wholesome food. While some organic farmers use pesticides, they are mostly made of natural ingredients. Natural pesticides must be certified for use in organic farming. A list of items certified for use in organic production is maintained by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and the National Organic Program (NOP). Farmers, business owners, consumer advocates, and the general public all contributed to the creation of this list. There are few exceptions to the basic rule that naturally occurring materials are allowed and synthetic materials are excluded on the national list. Third-party organizations such as the Organic Materials Review Institute examine new products to ensure they are compliant after the NOSB and NOP add them to the national list. Hundreds of technical professionals are involved in the procedure. The Rodale Institute has more information on this technique. Natural insecticides that have been approved can only be used if other pest control measures have failed. Learn why pesticides can't just be "washed off" in this article.

  1. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

The greatest approach to avoiding GMO foods, components, and contamination is to eat organic. Inorganic products, the use of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is prohibited. This means that an organic farmer cannot grow GMO seeds, that an organic cow cannot consume GMO alfalfa or maize, and that an organic soup maker cannot utilize GMO components. Farmers and processors must demonstrate that they are not utilizing GMOs and that they are preserving their goods from contact with forbidden substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table in order to comply with USDA organic requirements.

  1. Physical well-being

In organic food, no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives are permitted. Cleaner food implies cleaner diets, which translates to a healthier body.

In organic food, no artificial preservatives, colors, or tastes are permitted. Only about 40 synthetic compounds are allowed in organic packaged goods, and they must be approved by independent government specialists. Thousands of chemicals, including preservatives, tastes, and colors associated with health issues, can be added to typical packaged foods. EWG has further information on the differences between organic and conventional foods.

The problem with these synthetic compounds present in processed conventional meals is that they are aimed at youngsters and their parents. Chemically addicting chemicals cause a slew of health issues. The expenses that Americans pay for their health are the hidden cost of this "cheap" food. Food-related ailments are at an all-time rise, ranging from diabetes to obesity to ADHD. "Our Food Is Killing Us," as the New York Times recently put it.

  1. The state of the soil

Organic farming promotes soil health. Healthy soil produces a healthy atmosphere and food. Organic agriculture relies on healthy soil. To produce healthy soil, organic farmers utilize natural organic fertilizers and soil supplements such as organic matter (compostable materials), green manures (cover crops grown expressly for soil enhancement, such as legumes), and animal manures (with safety limitations). Crops that are grown in healthy soil are more disease resistant, drought-resistant, and pest resistant. The USDA's Guide for Organic Crop Producers has more information on improving soil fertility on an organic farm.

  1. The Future of Food

Consume organic foods because demand exceeds supply. We have three votes per day as consumers for the future of our food. This puts us in a strong position to shape the $1 trillion food business in the United States. Investing in the organic sector is a direct vote for a long-term sustainable future for future generations. Organic food is the fastest-growing segment of the food market, but it still only accounts for about 5% of total purchases. The greater the demand for organic food, the more readily it will be made available in greater quantities. Organic food is available at large grocery stores like Costco and Wal-Mart, as well as small Co-ops and corner stores. In 2016, Costco surpassed Whole Foods as the organic heavyweight champion in the United States, with yearly sales of $4 billion. Organic farmers couldn't supply the retailer quickly enough, so they decided to lend money to farmers to help them buy land and equipment so they could grow more organic produce. If the organic sector continues to grow, additional possibilities, such as the one offered by Costco to farmers, will become available to those interested in entering the organic market.

  1. Sewage Sludge

Sludge from sewage treatment plants is never used in organic farming. Sewage sludge is a waste product that contains a variety of known and unknown harmful elements, including everything that is flushed down the toilet. Sewage sludge can be used as fertilizer on agricultural crops once it has been processed, which means that this chemical soup, which is often full of hazardous substances, nanomaterials, hormones, and harmful pathogens, gets put into the food we consume. But not when it comes to organic food!

Planting, cultivating, raising, and handling organic crops all follow a set of procedures. The banning of particular practices in organic production and handling is an important aspect of the process-based regulatory framework. When cultivating or preparing organic crops, methods like irradiation, sewage sludge, and genetic engineering are all specifically prohibited.

  1. Irradiation

Irradiation is never used on organic produce. Food that has been irradiated has been subjected to a high dose of ionizing radiation. This is done for a set amount of time in a processing room. Radiant energy (electrons, gamma rays, or x-rays) destroys chemical bonds in food irradiation, with the goal of reducing bacteria. Radiation is known to cause cancer, which is a source of concern. Food that has been irradiated does not meet the USDA's definition of organic.

Wherever possible, the USDA collaborates with the FDA to implement food irradiation. The use of the term "organic" on food labels is likewise regulated by the USDA. Irradiated foods cannot be branded as USDA-certified organic products, regardless of how they are cultivated or processed.

  1. Cancer

Eating organic foods can lower your cancer risk. According to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, people who ate organic foods on a regular basis had a decreased overall risk of cancer. Those who ate mostly organic foods were more likely to avoid non-Hodgkin lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer than those who ate organic foods only seldom or never.

  1. Farmworkers

Neighboring communities and farm workers are not exposed to harmful persistent pesticides when organic farming is practiced.

Farmworkers are at a high risk of being exposed to agricultural pesticides and suffering the negative health effects that can arise. Neighbors who live near a large farm or a traditionally managed park or playing field are similarly at danger of pesticide drift exposure. Pesticide drift is hazardous to human health, wildlife, and ecosystems.

The Organic Center produced a paper in 2018 that analyzes the effects of conventional synthetic pesticide use on the farmer and farmworker health, as well as how organic can be utilized as a model to reduce this key segment of our society's exposure.

A new study published in Environmental Research adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that consuming organic foods may help to reduce pesticide levels in the human body. Over the course of six days, families consuming 100% organic food lowered their exposure to four types of pesticides by an average of 60 percent, according to the study.

  1. Nutrients

Studies have shown small to moderate increases in some nutrients in organic produce. The best evidence of a significant increase is in certain types of flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties.

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids

The feeding requirements for organic livestock farming, such as the primary use of grass and alfalfa for cattle, result in generally higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a kind of fat that is more heart-healthy than other fats. These higher omega-3 fatty acids are found in organic meats, dairy, and eggs.

  1. Toxic metal

Cadmium is a toxic chemical naturally found in soils and absorbed by plants. Studies have shown significantly lower cadmium levels in organic grains, but not fruits and vegetables when compared with conventionally grown crops. The lower cadmium levels in organic grains may be related to the ban on synthetic fertilizers in organic farming.

  1. Bacteria

Meats produced conventionally may have a higher occurrence of bacteria resistant to antibiotic treatment. The overall risk of bacterial contamination of organic foods is the same as in conventional foods.

Are there downsides to buying organic?

One common concern with organic food is cost. Organic foods typically cost more than their conventional counterparts. Higher prices are due, in part, to more expensive farming practices.

Food Safety Tips

Whether you go totally organic or opt to mix conventional and organic foods, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

  • Select a variety of foods from a variety of sources. This will give you a better mix of nutrients and reduce your likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables in season when possible. To get the freshest produce, ask your grocer what is in season or buy food from your local farmers' market.
  • Read food labels carefully. Just because a product says it's organic or contains organic ingredients doesn't necessarily mean it's a healthier alternative. Some organic products may still be high in sugar, salt, fat, or calories.
  • Wash and scrub fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water. Washing helps remove dirt, bacteria, and traces of chemicals from the surface of fruits and vegetables, but not all pesticide residues can be removed by washing. Discarding the outer leaves of leafy vegetables can reduce contaminants. Peeling fruits and vegetables can remove contaminants but may also reduce nutrients.

Challenges in Making the Conversion to an Organic Diet as a Family

Your family may be resistant to the idea of living solely on natural foods.

Organic foods can range in price from low to high, so consider how they will affect your food budget.

Your family may believe that anything "healthy" isn't "tasty," which may exacerbate their opposition.

What is the best way to deal with it?

When it comes to switching to an organic lifestyle as a family, you probably won't be able to go cold turkey. And that's fine. Take little steps toward an organic lifestyle for you and your family instead. Here are some pointers that will assist you and your family in making the transition smoothly.

Make your family aware of the advantages of going organic. Inform them that eating organic fruits and vegetables reduces your exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticide residues.

When it comes to eating, we all have preferences. Rather than pressuring your family to adopt an organic lifestyle, respect their wishes and speak with them to learn about their concerns. Then devise a strategy to assist them in making the shift.

Let your family know that eating healthy doesn't have to entail denying themselves their favorite foods.

Make organic gardening a fun activity for the whole family! To cultivate organic vegetables at home, you don't need a large plot of ground. An herb or two can be grown in a small container on your window ledge. Parsley, "methi," coriander leaves, and "tulsi" are all easy to grow. To get your daily dosage of antioxidants, toss a handful of these leaves into your salad or eat them raw. Make watering the plants a household chore.

Take it in turns!

Make it a family affair to go grocery shopping. Pay a visit to a local farmer's market. Allow each member of your family to select one or two vegetables. Involve them in the creation of your supper meal and look for ways to integrate organic variants. Learn to read labels and teach your family to do so as well. Choose products with the words "100% organic," "organic," or "produced with organic ingredients" on the label.

Don't be too set in your ways when making decisions. Instead of making a huge shift, start small by adding one or two organic products to your meal.

Going fully organic is not an overnight process. It’s about willingness and choice to do it. You have to do it slowly and will not force your body at once. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.