What is Organic?
The term “Organic” is a certification awarded to products grown and processed without the use of unnatural or harmful chemicals.
These harmful chemicals can include toxic or synthetic pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and sewage sludge.
Yes, you read that right. SEWAGE SLUDGE. I’m not sure I want to know what that is ending up in.
When I first started down my whole foods journey, I was surprised to discover there are a variety of products that can be certified organic outside of food and beverages alone.
Certified organic products can include food and beverages, flowers/plants, restaurants, textiles, toys, body care products, cosmetics, gardening supplies, pet products/foods, and other household items.
In my earlier years I interchanged the terms organic foods and locally-grown foods. Naive as that may sound, I made the assumption that local suppliers would- without a doubt- be using organic ingredients in their foods.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Obtaining the organic certification is a grudgingly long process that could take farmers and businesses YEARS to achieve.
So what is the difference between organic food and locally grown food?
Organic Food vs. Locally Grown Food
As mentioned earlier, organic food is food produced without the use of unnatural or harmful chemicals. This means there are no toxic fertilizers when the seeds are first planted in the ground, and no synthetic growth hormones, artificial colors or preservatives added during processing.
Locally grown refers to food and other agricultural products that have been produced/grown within a specific area. This could be defined by miles, regions, cities, or states. (think: Texas Local, Houston Local, Fort Bend County Local, etc.)
The definition of “local” has no strict guidelines and can be easily misconstrued.
You can learn more about local-grown businesses in this article.
The 13 Benefits of Eating Organic Food
Now that we’ve set the record straight on what constitutes a product to be organic, why would someone want to eat organic foods?
Well, there are a number of highly compelling advantages to eating organic food. Organic foods are better for our health, they use naturally-derived pesticides, they’re poison-free, non-GMO, environmentally safe, and just tastes better.
Organic Foods Are Better for Our Health
Wouldn’t it be grand if we were at the forefront of anti-aging technology. Boy, how happy would I be if I knew my life could be extended with a simple procedure or pill!
Unfortunately, we are not there yet and we still must take a deep look at the food we allow into our bodies to ensure a long, healthy, and happy life.
On a brighter note, we can easily determine what foods to eat by choosing to eat organically.
From minimizing our exposure to nitrates and pesticides to offering our bodies foods that are richer in nutrients, organic foods offer us better health than non-organic foods.
Food grown organically has been found to be richer in key nutrients, such as Vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. There are a few main reasons for this. All organic products have high nutritional content because:
- They do not contain modified ingredients.
- They are given a natural time frame to properly and fully develop.
- They are grown within the most natural environment and nutritious soil.
There have been a growing amount of studies examining specific organic products and their conventionally grown counterparts to compare the nutritional value.
After reading over 40 of these published studies on the nutritional profiles of organic versus conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains, the overall conclusion was organic foods do hold significantly more nutrients.
Some of the specific products examined were whole milk, soybeans, strawberries, blueberries, kiwis, oranges, and tomatoes. These items included 27% more vitamin C, 21.1% more iron, 29.3% more magnesium, and 13.6% more phosphorus.
Organic Foods Provide Us With A Stronger Immune System
You might be asking yourself why commercial farmers would even begin to include toxic chemicals and genetic engineering in their practices. Well, there are wide held food insecurity concerns that these farmers and scientists were hoping to combat.
If we can produce more food and larger fruits and vegetables this might help solve our limited resources dilemma. However, when we solve one problem, it may cause a few others to emerge.
Long-term consequences of these inorganic farming practices will increase our sensitivity to allergens and decrease our immune system strength.
With the nutrition we receive from organic foods, our bodies can maintain a strong immune system and have a better fight against the string of viruses and diseases prevalent.
Some studies have also linked pesticides- even at low doses- to an increased risk in certain cancers.
Organic Foods for Pregnant Women and Children
Pregnant women and children are especially vulnerable to the toxic chemicals and pesticides in conventionally grown foods.
A woman’s body undergoes a significant amount of stress on their body and organs when pregnant. When coupled with pesticides, there could be irreversible consequences to their unborn child’s health. It is highly encouraged that women planning to become pregnant, are currently pregnant, or who are breastfeeding take precautionary measures by eating organic foods.
Pesticides can be passed to the child in the womb or through breast milk. This may harm the development of the baby’s brain, cause behavioral disorders, or have long term consequences to their immune system.
These risks are heightened for babies and children because their bodies and immune systems are still developing.
Organic Foods Provide Higher Antioxidant Content
Another bonus from incorporating organic foods into your diet is their higher antioxidant content. Antioxidants are the firepower our bodies use to protect against free radicals.
To give you a quick science lesson:
Electrons are a part of molecules and usually run in pairs. When electrons don’t have their “pair” they spend all of their time trying to find one. This process causes the molecule to be highly chemically reactive and dangerous to the body.
There is research studying the effects of free radicals on the body and they may be a contributing factor to cancer, heart disease, cognitive decline, aging, and vision impairment.
Organic foods have been reported to have much higher levels of these antioxidants because they are free of foreign chemicals that normally react with common antioxidants (i.e vitamin c, vitamin e, carotenoids) in a negative way. Thes antioxidants protect us from free radicals and help keep our bodies healthy.
Organic Foods are Free of Antibiotics
To protect our bodies from diseases we usually take precautionary steps. We inject ourselves with vaccines and antibiotics to counteract the latest bacteria or virus. Livestock and feeds at conventional farms do this as well.
Did you know there has been an increase in our antibiotic resistance to bacteria?
Farm animals that have been injected with vaccines, growth hormones, and antibiotics begin to resist these substances and it is easily spread to humans.
When we consume non-organic food products, we indirectly consume these vaccines, growth hormones, and antibiotics that weaken our immune system. Making us more susceptible to the diseases we try so hard to avoid.
Organic farms allow their animals to roam in natural conditions which help limit their risks for infection and restrict their need for antibiotics.
By eating food from organic farms we can keep the extra antibiotics out of our system and our immune system strong.
Organic Foods Improves Heart Health
Organic farmers allow their livestock to roam free and have high, if not exclusive, natural grass diets. Animals, such as cows, goats, and sheep, who eat majority grass have been found to have 300-500% more conjugated linoleic acid in their system.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a polyunsaturated, omega-6 fatty acid that is believed to have many health benefits. It has been shown in clinical studies to have antiatherosclerotic, antidiabetic, anti‐inflammatory, and immune‐modulating properties.
While conventional farming methods rely heavily on grain diets, their livestock lack the necessary CLA.
Organic meats and dairy products may provide the CLA’s necessary for bolstering cardiovascular protection.
Organic Foods Use Naturally-Derived Pesticides
Farmers use pesticides to control pests and disease carriers. This can include weeds, mosquitoes, ticks, rats, mice, etc.
Both conventional farms and organic farms use pesticides.
The difference with organic farms is that they use naturally-derived pesticides rather than the synthetic pesticides used by conventional commercial farms.
Natural pesticides still have their risks, however, they are far less likely to occur than those from synthetic pesticides. Organic farms use lower levels of pesticides and are believed to be less toxic.
Organic Foods are Not Genetically Modified
Have you seen the ongoing battle about the effects of GMOs on health and the environment? If not, you should look into it. It’s an eye-opening and controversial subject.
Organic foods are not genetically modified or genetically engineered and this is a huge win for whole food enthusiasts like myself.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered (GE) foods have been altered to resist pesticides or produce insecticides. They are plants whose DNA is changed in a way nature or natural crossbreeding couldn’t produce.
Since GMOs have been introduced into the farming world, the use of toxic herbicides (like glyphosate) have increased exponentially.
The World Health Organization announced glyphosate as being “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
To put it plainly, our society is greatly relying on GMOs to protect us from cancer-causing herbicides when there are no long-term studies to test its safety.
Some of the only studies available are on animals and have shown consuming GMOs may cause increased food allergens, internal organ damage, slow brain growth, and gastro-intestinal problems.
I would very happily eat organic foods to avoid those unknowns.
Organic Foods are Environmentally Safe
The organic approach is safer for everyone and everything involved in farming. It’s better for the farmers, the local animals, the soil, the climate and for us consumers.
Farmers who follow organic practices have a reduced carbon footprint, conserves our water, reduces soil erosion, increases soil fertility, and uses less energy overall.
Organic Farming Increases Soil Fertility
In addition, organic farmers are known to actively protect and preserve the environment for future generations. Conventional farming is known to strip the soil of its essential nutrients leaving the land desolate and unusable. If we continue to devastate our lands through these non-organic farming practices, one day we won’t be able to grow food.
And if that isn’t terrifying enough, read the UN Climate Report.
Organic Farming Aids in the Fight Against Climate Change
The UN Climate Report found that we are headed down an irreversible path and by 2050 we will hit a point of no return. This means if more organic practices and purchases aren’t made now, future generations won’t have a chance to keep up the fight against climate change.
Other recent reports have shown organic farming can take a great leap forward in our fight against climate change because organic farms sequester carbon in the soil. The research showed we have the ability to sequester 100% of the current annual CO2 emissions too.
That’s fantastic. And I truly hope these findings are further explored and executed on.
Organic Farming Protects the Surrounding Animals and Ecosystem
Organic farming practices are also beneficial for the local animals and ecosystem. Given organic farming avoids harsh chemicals and pesticides, biodiversity is able to thrive.
These practices allow for greater plant diversity on the farm which has been found to increase the number of birds, predators, insects, and pollinators in the proximity.
I want you to think about the last time you drove through a major farming area. Did you see expansive fields all producing the same crop? Probably.
Could you imagine eating only corn for a whole year? That is what these animals have to survive on around conventional farms. They don’t receive all or even most of the essential nutrients they need to survive.
All in all, organic practices greatly impact our environment and neighboring animals in a positive way.
Organic Food Tastes Better
As an added bonus, Organic Food just tastes better. That really hits the nail on the head, doesn’t it?
Organic Food doesn’t contain any preservatives so it usually ends up on your plate much fresher than the conventional farm counterpart.
We can offer our thanks to the organic farmers who give the crops more time to develop which leads to a higher quality food.
Organic foods are not just for those who are set on going green. They’re also a great option for those who want to improve their overall health.
With a plethora of benefits from improved health, concentration, and mood to clearer skin and fewer allergies, organic foods deserve a spot in each and every pantry.
If you’re interested in taking the organic plunge, the easiest way to get started is by buying some organic produce.
If you don’t know which foods are organic or what that means, you should start looking at products that are labeled as organic or Certified Organic. Even if you’re not sure, you can always ask a store clerk or your grocer.
And don’t forget, you can always talk to your family doctor about their opinions.