You’re probably like the rest of us and have spent at least thirty minutes considering whether or not to purchase an organic or inorganic head of lettuce for your salad.
Organic, on the one hand, has a more pleasant ring. We all want to be that hipster with the hand-embroidered bag who always carries fresh organic fruit and vegetables and guzzles fresh green juice every morning.
However, that head of lettuce that isn’t organic costs cheap. Would it make a difference if you go about your day holding this non-organic package of strawberries?
Perhaps more importantly, would your physical body even perceive a difference? How different are organic and conventionally grown foods, really?
Our team at VINA has done the legwork, so you don’t have to. Here, we’ll explain the difference between organic and non-organic goods and how it affects your regular grocery store purchases.
The definition of “organic” is the crux of the debate between organic and conventionally grown food.
Produce certified organic is grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or antibiotics. These foods have no added sugar, artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or monosodium glutamate (MSG). Meat and dairy products will only be allowed if the animals are given organic feed and handled humanely.
Foods labeled as “non-organic” may have any of the aforementioned synthetic inputs used in their production, including in the growing or raising of the associated animal or plant.
However, the most important question is, “What effect does this have on the food?” Is there any proof that there are health advantages to eating organic food? Or is it simply a way to justify higher prices for certain items?
Let’s discuss some key distinctions between organic and conventionally grown foods.
How Organic Food Affects the Environment in Comparison to Conventional Food
It’s no secret that organic farming practices, especially organic produce farming, are healthier for the environment than conventional agricultural practices.
Using synthetic chemicals or genetically modified organisms to increase crop output or the effectiveness of chemical fertilizers is prohibited in organic farming. This means more focus is being placed on environmentally friendly farming methods that boost soil health and fertility without potentially harmful artificial additives.
Water efficiency is enhanced in organic food production as well. Groundwater may be tainted when chemical pesticides and fertilizers (and even the sewage sludge occasionally employed) seep through the soil and into the water table.
Instead of utilizing synthetic chemicals like these as pesticides and weed killers, organic farmers seek more natural means of controlling pests and weeds without endangering the quality of the water supply. The use of natural fertilizers and techniques like mulching and crop rotation may replace the need for synthetic ones.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization finds that organic farming is preferable to conventional farming in almost every way.
Organic food is preferable to conventionally grown to produce if you care about environmental health and sustainability.
How Organic and Conventional Foods Compare in Terms of Nutrient Content
Whether organic food is healthier than conventional food has been the subject of several research, with varying conclusions. In spite of the fact that it is impossible to make direct comparisons due to the unique characteristics of each crop or animal, there seems to be evidence that organic food may be more nutritious than non-organic food on average.
Several studies have shown that antioxidants, an essential component that helps combat chronic inflammation and balance free radicals in the body, are naturally greater in organic foods. According to recent research, antioxidants in organic food may be up to 69% greater than non-organic food.
Nitrates, substances that have been linked to an increased risk of developing certain forms of cancer, are also present in lower concentrations in organic foods. Some studies have shown that organic foods have 30% lower nitrate levels than their conventional counterparts.
Additionally, the fatty acid profile of organically reared meat and dairy seems more balanced. There were more omega-3 fatty acids and less saturated fats in organic meats, according to a meta-analysis of 67 research.
However, some research has shown no correlation between consuming organic and conventionally grown foods regarding nutritional density.
To provide just one example, a meta-analysis of 233 research concluded that there was insufficient evidence to advocate for the use of organic food over conventionally grown food.
The question of whether or not organic foods offer greater amounts of vitamins and minerals is a topic of some debate.
Remember that whether a product is organic or not, there will always be inherent variances due to various circumstances.
Quantities of Chemicals and Drug-Resistant Bacteria in Organic and Conventional Produce
You probably already know this. Still, compared to conventionally grown goods, organic fruit contains much fewer chemicals and is less likely to harbor antibiotic-resistant germs.
The research discovered that the levels of cadmium, a harmful metal used as a pesticide, were 48% higher in conventionally grown fruits and vegetables compared to organically grown ones. According to the same research, exposure to pesticide residue may be increased fourfold in conventionally grown foods compared to organic foods.
There is also mounting evidence that eating non-organic vegetables increases your risk of contracting bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. Bacteria that have developed mechanisms to withstand the effects of antibiotics are known as “resistant bacteria.” Chemical insecticides foster these antibiotic-resistant microorganisms.
Organic vegetables are your best choice if you want to avoid chemical residues and bugs that have developed resistance. The Dirty Dozen lists the twelve conventionally grown foods most likely to contain detectable pesticides. These often consist of:
Vegetables and fruits, including tomatoes, spinach, nectarines, celery, and kale
How can I know if the Organic Food I Purchase Really Is Organic?
To address your excellent question, the solution is more complex than just selecting organic options while food shopping.
The USDA offers three tiers of organic certification (United States Department of Agriculture). To use the “organic” label in the United States, food must first be certified as such by the United States Department of Agriculture.
You can see the following tags:
- Products labeled “100% Organic” have been produced entirely using organic ingredients and procedures.
- If a product has a simple organic label, then at least 95% of its constituents are certified organic. This would permit the use of up to 5% non-organic ingredients in organically branded goods.
- When a product with the Made With Organic Components designation from the USDA guarantees that at least 70% of its ingredients are organic. In accordance with USDA regulations, anything with a lower organic content than 70% cannot be labeled as such.
When grocery shopping, it’s important to read labels carefully and give first consideration to organic products that meet or exceed the USDA’s organic criteria. This means concentrating primarily on those that are either 100% organic or clearly labeled as such.
Key Differences Between Organic and Conventional Food
Produce, meat, and dairy products labeled “organic” were grown or reared without synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, or hormones; genetic modification; or synthetic flavors, colors, or preservatives.
Organic produce is safer for humans and animals, may be more nutrient-dense, and contains fewer pesticides and antibiotic-resistant microorganisms than conventionally grown produce. Even when you’re ordering online, ensure that you order online food deals that are organic in nature.
Ensure you obtain authentic organic items by reading labels and learning the USDA’s three-tiered organic labeling system. Consider carefully where you want your next onion or avocado to come from before you buy it.