Go Organic – Dietitian’s Choice

Once found only in health food stores, organic food is now a regular feature at most supermarkets. And that’s created a bit of a dilemma in the produce aisle. Everyone who is health conscious is going organic these days. Here is some light thrown on the benefits Organic Food.
Conventional vs. Organic farming
The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Specific requirements must be met and maintained in order for products to be labelled as “organic.”
Organic crops must be grown in safe soil, have no modifications, and must remain separate from conventional products. Farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, bio-engineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and be given organic feed. They may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal-by-products.
Do ‘Organic’ and ‘Natural’ mean the same thing?
No, “natural” and “organic” are not interchangeable terms. 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.” Only foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labelled organic.

Benefits of Organic Foods:

Organic foods provide a variety of benefits. Some studies show that organic foods have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally grown counterparts. In addition, people with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives often find their symptoms lessen or go away when they eat only organic foods. In addition:

  • Organic food is often fresher than the conventional ones.Fresh food tastes better and is rich in nutrients. Organic food is usually fresher because it doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer. Organic produce is often (but not always, so watch where it is from) produced on smaller farms near where it is sold.
  • Organic farming is better for the environment.Organic farming practices reduce pollution (air, water, soil), conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. Farming without pesticides is also better for nearby birds and small animals as well as people who live close to or work on farms.
  • Organic produce contains fewer pesticides.Pesticides are chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides. These chemicals are widely used in conventional agriculture and residues remain on (and in) the food we eat.
  • Organically raised animals are not given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal by-products. The use of antibiotics in conventional meat production helps create antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. In addition, the animals are given more space to move around and access to the outdoors, both of which help to keep the animals healthy.
  • Organic meat and milk are richer in certain nutrients. Results of a 2016 European study show that levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50 percent higher in organic meat and milk than in conventionally raised versions. This may be because organic milk and beef come from cattle that graze on a natural diet of grass, while conventional meat and milk usually comes from animals fed with conventional grains.
  • Organic food is GMO-free.Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered (GE) foods are plants or animals whose DNA has been altered in ways that cannot occur in nature or in traditional cross-breeding, most commonly in order to be resistant to pesticides or produce an insecticide. In most countries, organic crops contain no GMOs and organic meat comes from animals raised on organic, GMO-free feed.
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Safety Tips while Buying Organic Foods
Whether you go totally organic or opt to mix conventional and organic foods, be sure to keep these tips in mind:
  • Select a variety of foods from a variety of sources. This will give you a better mix of nutrients and reduce your likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables in season when possible. To get the freshest produce, ask your grocer what day new produce arrives. Or buy food from your local farmers market.
  • Read food labels carefully. Just because a product says it’s organic or contains organic ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthier alternative. Some organic products may still be high in sugar, salt, fat or calories. Watch the labels before you buy.
  • Wash and scrub fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water. Washing helps remove dirt, bacteria and traces of pesticides from the surface of fruits and vegetables. Not all pesticide residues can be removed by washing, though. You can also peel fruits and vegetables, but peeling can mean losing some fiber and nutrients.
Organic foods are thought to be more nutrient dense but in reality they are equally nutritious as their conventional counterpart. Still, there are important reasons beyond nutrition to choose organic foods.
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