So, what’s the deal with organic food?
Conventional vs. Organic farming
The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products – Things like fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution.
Farmers who grow organic produce do not use conventional methods to fertilize and control weeds. Instead, they use natural fertilizers to feed soil and plants and may use crop rotation or mulch to manage weeds.
How do you know if what you are buying is organic?
- 100 percent organic. To use this phrase, products must be either completely organic or made of all organic ingredients.
- Organic. Products must be at least 95 percent organic to use this term.
Products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients may say “made with organic ingredients” on the label, but may not use the USDA organic seal. Foods containing less than 70 percent organic ingredients can’t use the seal or the word “organic” on their product labels. They can include the organic items in their ingredient list.
Do ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ mean the same thing?
Nope! They do not mean the same thing. You may see “natural” and other terms such as “all natural,” “free-range” or “hormone-free” on food labels. These descriptions must be truthful, but don’t confuse them with the term “organic.”
Why bother with organic?
Avoid Pesticides. Conventional growers use synthetic pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases. The pesticides may seep into the crop or residue may remain on the surface. Organic farmers use things like insect traps, careful crop selection (disease-resistant varieties), predator insects or beneficial microorganisms instead to control crop-damaging pests. Organic produce typically carries significantly fewer pesticide residues than does conventional produce. Who wants to eat chemicals that are designed to kill? Not me. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of pesticides, as their bodies and brains are still developing.
Avoid Food additives. Organic regulations ban or severely restrict the use of food additives, processing aids, and fortifying agents commonly used in nonorganic foods This includes things like preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings and flavorings, and monosodium glutamate.
Help the Environment. Do you like living on Earth? Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality.
A study published by The Organic Center reveals that organic food is higher in certain key areas such as total antioxidant capacity, total polyphenols, and two key flavonoids, quercetin and kaempferol, all of which are nutritionally significant (read entire study or a summary in the Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog). Another study published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry looked specifically at the total phenolic content of marionberries, strawberries, and corn, and found that organically grown products contained higher total phenolics. Phenolics are important for plant health (defense against insects and diseases), and human health for their “potent antioxidant activity and wide range of pharmacologic properties including anticancer, antioxidant, and platelet aggregation inhibition activity.” (www.beyondpesticides.org)
It Tastes Better! I don’t have any fun research to share on this topic, but trust me. Organic food tastes better!
Organic food often does cost more, but there are ways to be thrifty about it (that’ll be for another day) For now, here’s a fun infographic to help you prioritize foods to buy organic vs conventional if you cannot buy all organic.
And finally, a helpful reference on organic food and food safety: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php