Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Posted by Meeta K. Wolff
Now that we had a closer look at what Organic food is, I think the next question to tackle is:
Is Organic "healthier?"
You might have heard people say that organic products are not necessarily healthier because organic farms are allowed to use certain pesticides on their farms. Given, this does blur the debate of the comparisons between organic food vs. conventional food.
In my own research I found many interesting articles and topics that show me that in many ways organic food is healthier and better for you. This is something I'd like to share with you.
Organic food is grown with a minimal use of pesticides and only natural fertilizers. Furthermore, in studies carried out by the The Soil Association (regulates the organic food industry for the UK), it has been shown that over the years there is a difference between food produced organically and those produced conventionally.
Organic food is healthier because it does not contain artificial additives and retains more natural vitamins, minerals and antioxidant phytonutrients.
Food composition tables and data compiled by the US Department of Agriculture reveal that since the 1940s the mineral and vitamin levels in fruits, vegetables, meat and diary products have declined substantially in conventional food. When we pair this with pre-picking, longer storage and more processing of crops it should not come as a surprise that today we are getting fewer nutrients in our conventional food that we were 60 years ago.
Artificial fertilization in conventional crops produces lush growth, which means the produce is being swelled with water. When compared to organic food on a pound-for-pound basis there is more "dry matter" in organic products, in other words more "food." This is one of the many reasons that organic produce have higher levels of nutrients.
As a matter of fact, research by American nutritionist Virginia Worthington has confirmed that, based on current dietary patterns, the differences can be enough to help you achieve the recommended daily allowances for certain nutrients that you otherwise may not get.
It would also be logical that phytonutrients, many of which are antioxidants that a plant needs for its own defense system, will be higher in organic produce because crops rely more on their own defenses in the absence of regular applications of chemical pesticides. There is also evidence that supports this theory. A recent review of the topic estimated that organic produce will tend to contain 10-50% higher phytonutrients than conventional produce.
Organic food has considerably lower amounts of pesticide levels than the conventional food available. Organic food might not be the only way to increase the intake of nutrients in our diets, it is however, the safest. The conventional food industry often claim it uses "safe" levels of pesticide in their products and it is "safe" to eat these because there are "safe" amounts of residues. However, when researched, it was shown that one in three non-organic food products tested contain a higher level of pesticide residue. The levels in an on organic products contained much lower levels.
It's really quite easy to understand why. Most pesticide residue safety levels are marked for individual pesticides. Many samples of fresh produce, however contain multiple pesticide residues. So, the rules often do not take into account this "cocktail effect." Tests are being confirmed that such increases in toxicity of up to 10-fold result in reproductive, effect the immune and nervous system, which is not expected from the individual compounds acting alone.
Organic food is most important for our growing children. They are the most susceptible to the toxins than we adults are. Their developing organs, brains and immune system need it. Here organic food is not a question of luxury but of a necessity.
It has been found that American toddlers, who were brought up on mostly organic food, had one sixth the pesticide residues in their urine when compared to children eating conventional foods. This lowers their exposure from above to below recognized safety levels.
Furthermore, preservatives and artificial colorings in conventional food are also considered to contribute to hyperactivity in pre-school children. A recent study in the UK found that the proportion of hyperactive children was halved when additives were taken off their diets. Many of the additives like artificial sweeteners, colorings and flavorings are prohibited in organic food production.
Observation studies have also revealed that boarding school students eating predominantly organic food for a period of three years experienced a marked decline in colds and influenza, rapid recovery, excellent general health, fewer sports injuries, a greater resilience to fractures and sprains, clear and healthy skin, and improved dental health.
So, what can we take out of all this. Is organic healthier?
For me, yes, it is. I think if there is any way we can decrease our toxin burden and increase our intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants then we should choose this. If it has a significant impact on my child's health, then there is no question about it.
In my opinion organic food is how food is meant to be - just pure food.
What are your thoughts? Have you made positive/negative experiences with organic food? We'd love to hear about them.
Everything I Need to Know About Organic Foods
Updated link: Health Benefits of Organic Food
The Organic Food Guide: How to Shop Smarter and Eat Healthier
Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis
Your Organic Kitchen: The Essential Guide to Selecting and Cooking Organic Foods
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This Post was written by Meeta from What's For Lunch, Honey?