Once upon a time organic food was only available in health food shops, but now nearly all supermarkets stock it. So, what's the difference? On one side there is a non organic apple and on the other is an organic apple. They are both the same color, both contain various vitamins and minerals the only visible difference is the price.
What does Organic mean and why should we care?
The term organic refers to how produce is grown or farmed, organic growers aim to save natural resources like water, minimise pollution by using natural fertilizers and plant-based pest / weed control and practicing crop rotation. Non organic growers use oil based herbicides and pesticides to grow quantity as opposed to quality.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have developed a system for classifying food – products have to abide by a strict set of conditions to be classified as organic, covering how they are grown, watered and handled. If an item of food carries the USDA organic label it means it has been produced and processed according to USDA organic rules. The label is voluntary but many producers use it to aid in sales.
Completely organic produce like fruit, vegetables, and eggs are classed as 100% organic and can carry the USDA seal. Foods with more than one ingredient can use the USDA organic label with the proviso that it contains all organic ingredients or up to 95% organic ingredients. The cut off point from using the word organic in the ingredients is 70%. If the product has less than 70% organic content it cannot use the USDA label or state in its ingredients that it contains organic materials.
Is organic and natural the same thing
In a nut shell, no. Organic and natural are not the same thing. Labels may state natural, whole food, hormone free but do not confuse this with organic. For any item to claim to be organic it must have been grown and processed following the USDA system.
Is organic food more nutritious
It's a gray area but according to a recent study that examined fifty years worth of scientific articles about the nutritional content of organic and non organic foods concluded that there is no significant difference between the nutritional content of organic or non organic foods.
Other things to consider concerning the difference between organic and non organic foods are the issues of the environment, chemical pesticides / herbicides and food additives. Some people claim they prefer the taste of organic foods and of course some people have allergies to various chemicals.
Negatives to buying organic foods
Organic produce is usually:
- More expensive
- Doesn't keep as well as it has not been treated with preservatives.
- Often doesn't look as appealing, sometimes misshapen or smaller.
They must however meet the same standards of safety and quality as all other produce.
Whether you purchase organic or non organic or a mixture of the two, ensure that you eat a wide variety of different foods in a variety of colors to ensure a broad range of vitamin and nutrient intake.
Buy fruit and vegetables in season whenever possible and also purchase local produce (to ensure freshness).
Read food labels carefully, just because a product is organic doesn't mean it's not full of fat or sugar or have a high salt content.
Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove germs and to some extent chemicals but remember not all chemicals are removed with washing and if you peel fruits and vegetables you lose some of the fiber content.