Have you ever stood in the produce section wondering what all the hype about organic produce is? Well, you are not alone. Although organic fruit and vegetables have been around for a while now, many people still don’t know the benefits of buying organic foods. Indeed, most people don’t buy organic, although it’s starting to catch on.
In this article, you’ll read about five benefits that researchers have identified from buying organic foods over conventional produce. Keep reading to find out more.
What Does Organic Mean?
Before diving into the benefits, you should probably know what organic means. Most people have a vague idea, and they know that it’s sort of synonymous with healthy, but they may not know the exact details of what makes food organic. If you do, you can skip to the next section. However, if you don’t, keep reading.
The term “organic” refers to how farms grow their crops. In general, it means that they did not raise the vegetable or fruit with any prohibited substances. However, there are a few different organic labels to be aware of.
Foods may be labeled with “organic,” “USDA-certified organic,” or “made with organic ingredients.” Foods labeled with “organic” have been certified by an agency that is accredited with the USDA but may not have as many standards as the USDA. These agencies require the food to have been grown without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
The USDA takes things a step further by also requiring that the food not have artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. When a food item meets all these standards, they get the “USDA-certified organic” label. This designation is the best choice out of all the titles.
The last label you won’t have to worry about for produce because it’s more for food items that have more than one ingredient. However, this label only requires the food to have at least 70% organic ingredients.
Five Benefits of Choosing Organic Produce
Organic foods were extensively researched over the decades. There are a lot of findings, but one thing that is common among them all is that organic is right for you. That fact remains undisputed.
So, what can organic foods do for people? There are a plethora of benefits to be gained by eating organic foods over regular items. Here are five benefits, as explained by researchers.
1. Less Risk of Allergy Diseases
There have been plenty of studies that show a link in increased food allergies and high levels of pesticides. It’s believed that the interaction of the pesticides with the food on a cellular level is the cause. Research on this matter is ongoing, but so far, most research comes to the same conclusion.
Some germ- and weed-killing products contain chemicals called dichlorophenols (DCPs). The breakdown of pesticides creates these chemicals. Interestingly, DCPs are also found in chlorinated drinking water in small amounts. While DCPs make food and drinking water clean, the levels that people are ingesting are beginning to build up.
It seems that making food “too clean” is leading to a reduced ability to tolerate certain foods. Allergy levels have been on the rise for decades, and researchers continuously find links to this allergy increase and DCPs.
DCPs disrupt many hormones in the body. Because of this, researchers are exploring the possibilities that DCPs may cause other problems like cancer and heart disease.
Buying organic produce significantly reduces your exposure to DCPs. While you may still get DCPs from drinking water, without the additional from pesticide-sprayed produce, your exposure levels are manageable. Buy organic to reduce your risk of allergies.
2. Decline in Obesity
It may not seem like the organic or non-organic status of produce would influence your weight, but it does. The effect is indirectly, but research supports the correlation between decreasing waistlines and organic food. Here is an explanation for why that happens.
One thing to consider is size. Organic fruit and veggies tend to be smaller than regularly fertilized ones. While there is no definitive scientific explanation for this yet, it is believed that this happens because of the cost of organic supplies. Since organic fertilizer cost more than regular fertilizer, farmers use less of it, resulting in smaller fruit and veggies.
Although the vegetable or fruit may be smaller, they still have the same amount of nutrients. However, they have fewer calories. This sounds great – and it is. However, that means that regular produce, the larger crop, has more calories but the same amount of nutrients. In other words, smaller portion sizes result from organic produce, naturally.
Besides the increase in calories, another concern is compounds such as resveratrol and other polyphenols. These compounds help you feel full and help to regulate blood glucose levels. In the bigger, less nutrient-dense produce, you get less of these compounds per bite, so you must eat more to feel full. With organic produce, it’s the opposite effect.
3. Improved Cognitive Development in Children
Plenty of research has shown a link between impaired cognitive development in children and non-organic foods. As stated earlier, chemicals like DCPs interact with hormones and cause all kinds of havoc in the body. Some of this havoc can affect developing brains.
According to a report published by Harvard Health, a study done by the European Parliament points to the problems starting in the womb. As pregnant mothers eat non-organic produce, the chemicals interact with the growing fetus as the brain develops. This type of damage can be irreversible after the fetus grows to full term.
For example, children who are exposed to these harmful chemicals in the womb have been shown to have thinner gray matter. Gray matter essential helps to process information in the brain. With more delicate gray matter, the brain is unable to process as much information as it should be able to.
Other brain-related problems from the chemicals used in non-organic produce include diminished neurobehavioral development, lower IQs, and the development of ADHD. A simple way to avoid the possibility of all these complications is to buy organic produce, especially if you’re pregnant.
4. Non-GMO Produce
By now, most people know that GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. This means that the DNA of the food has been changed through the targeting of specific genes in the food for scientific engineering. These genes are usually altered for reasons such as making food larger, making food last longer, growing fruits without seeds, yielding more crops at a time, and more.
Selective breeding is something that has been going on for centuries. Today’s GMO foods are really genetically engineered. However, the food industry uses the term GMO interchangeably. While the science behind GMO food is legal and well-researched, the concept is relatively new. Thus, many people share concerns about the long-term safety of these foods.
A big issue is that scientists and food safety agencies like the FDA or the USDA can’t definitively say that GMO food is safe. Instead, their recommendation is to consider the food on a case-by-case basis.
It’s not hard to read between the lines on this. They don’t know how safe it is yet.
Earlier in the article, we stated that organic foods with a “USDA-Certified organic” label are a guarantee that the food is not GMO. Therefore, if you want to avoid GMO produce, you should buy organic produce.
5. A Healthier Environment
Let’s be honest. The world is plagued by pollution and other human-made problems. It’s getting to a point where these problems can no longer be ignored. Unfortunately, pesticides and herbicides are a part of these problems.
One of the most attractive benefits of buying organic is that it dramatically helps the environment. Organic farming uses less energy and conserves water. It reduces pollution and soil erosion and even increases soil fertility because there aren’t harmful chemicals killing the nutrients in the soil.
Even your local wildlife will benefit from eating organic foods. Birds and small animals won’t ingest insects, seeds, or more that have been doused with harmful chemicals. These chemicals can kill these little animals.
Another consideration is that pesticides discourage pests. Of course, that’s the primary purpose of pesticides. However, the problem is that the pests only relocate to other places. This migration causes an imbalance in the wildlife habitat. Think about this – if the pests aren’t near the farms, they may be near the cities, or in other words, your home!
Overall, organic farming is healthy for all living things.
You can do your part for the environment by supporting organic farms. The more popular organic produce becomes, the more farms will go organic. It’s one of the easiest ways you could ever help save the planet.
One of the biggest challenges in getting the organic trend to catch on is cost. Organic foods tend to cost more than regular foods. With the economy being unstable, people are reluctant to spend more if they don’t have to.
However, if you can make a little extra room in your grocery budget, it’s very beneficial to buy organic produce. You’ll be healthier, and so will the environment. What do you have to lose? Give it a try!