Are organic foods healthier than conventional foods? Here with a dietitian has to say

Organic food signage on the fresh vegetable aisle of modern supermarket

Getty Images / ThamKC

Determining whether organic food should dominate your kitchen or whether you can safely stick with conventionally grown produce can be easier said than done. On the one hand, choosing organic foods intuitively seems better for your health. But on the other hand, these options may be more expensive compared to conventional foods. And in some parts of the world, having access to organic choices can be difficult. Is it really worth it?

Let’s get it straight and find out if organic is really healthier than conventional.

What is organic food?

While many of us have seen the words biological and conventional when we shop for groceries, we don’t all really know what the difference is. Of course, the word bio sounds healthy, but what does organic really mean?

The reality is that the words biological and conventional do not actually refer to the health of a food, but rather are an indication of how farmers grow and process food.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) allows a food to be considered organic if it is grown and processed in accordance with federal guidelines for:

  • soil quality

  • animal husbandry practices

  • pest and weed control

  • use of additives

Organic growers rely on natural substances for use as pesticides that are on a USDA approved list. In addition, these farmers use physical, mechanical or biological farming methods.which refers to the way they plant, harvest and care for their cropsand do not use most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Thus, contrary to popular belief, products from organic farming are not without pesticides. On the contrary, the pesticides found on organic foods are not synthetic.

With regard to organic meat, regulations require that animals are raised in living conditions adapted to their natural behaviors (such as grazing or spending the day in a barn), and that they are fed 100% food. and organic fodder. In addition, organic foods cannot contain any genetically modified organism (GMO).

Ultimately, the difference between organic and non-organic foods or conventional foods is that conventional foods allow the use of synthetic materials and genetically modified crops.

Is Organic Better For You?

The idea that organic foods can be healthier than conventional foods is a trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. But if you expect your organic fruits or vegetables to contain a lot more nutrients than your conventional option, you might be disappointed to learn the truth.

The point is that there is little variation between organic and conventional food products in terms of macro-nutritional value (read: protein, fat, carbohydrates and dietary fiber). And while other nutritional differences were observed when comparing the two types of food, namely higher concentrations of antioxidants in some organic products, increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids in organic dairy products, and improved fatty acid profiles in organic meat products-current differences in levels can be marginal when looking at the overall impact this has on a person’s health.

If you are more focused on reducing your exposure to heavy metals (especially cadmium) and synthetic fertilizers and pesticide residues, then organic may be your best bet, as organic seems to have slightly lower levels of these components. But since clinical trials are rare, the the impact of this on human health is unclear.

It is true that observational trials suggest that there is a link between better health outcomes and choosing organic over conventional options. But, it is also known that consumers of organic foods tend to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and are more physically active, all of them. factors associated with positive health outcomes. In other words, researchers wonder if the better results they see when people eat more organic foods are due to the way the foods were produced or if they are due to lifestyle choices. overalls of the person.

Should we focus only on organic foods?

When people decide whether to choose organic or conventionally grown foods, it’s ultimately a matter of personal preference. While there doesn’t seem to be any downside to choosing organic foods when it comes to supporting health, cost and affordability factors can certainly be a barrier for some.

Alone 1 in 10 Americans eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. And not eating enough products is linked to some unsavory results, such as increased risk of developing certain cancers.

Therefore, the potential negative health effects of choosing conventional foods should not be used as an argument to reduce the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Instead, people should eat a wide variety of foods and wash their products well before tasting them, regardless of how they were produced. And limiting foods based on fear can lead to unwanted results that no one wants on their plate.

Final result

The main difference between conventional and organic food is the way the food is produced. Although some studies have found higher nutritional values ​​in some organic foods compared to their conventional counterparts, more research is needed to determine their long-term health impacts. Additionally, organic foods are often priced higher than conventional foods, so they may not be realistic for some budgets. In summary, there may be slight advantages to choosing organic foods under certain circumstances, but you don’t need to avoid foods if they are conventional, as both types of foods are safe and nutritious.

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