So what is the buzz about buying organic foods? What does that “USDA Organic” label mean? Why does organic food cost more?
In my practice, I’m constantly educating patients about how to nourish their bodies with food that is “clean and nutrient dense.” Eating organic is big step towards eating to improve health not only for your body, but also for our planet and the bodies of future generations.
Definition of Organic
Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Organic food production is a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Organic foods do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation to maintain integrity of the food. When it comes to animals, certified organic meat and poultry are free from antibiotics, and growth hormones. However, organic standards have yet to be uniformly agreed upon in the U.S. for fish and seafood.
A food item is “certified organic” if it has been grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by a third party like the Organic Trade Association (OTA) or the USDA National Organic Program. This ‘farm to table’ certification includes inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting standards.
Buy Organic for Your Body
In study after study, research consistently shows organically grown food is higher in nutrients than conventionally grown. Research shows that organic produce is higher in vitamin C (12-20%), antioxidants (up to 40%), and the minerals calcium, iron, chromium, and magnesium.
Organic milk is also more nutrient dense. According to a study at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, organic milk contains more heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids than milk from conventionally raised cows simply because they eat more grass than corn, like Mother Nature intended. This helps restore a healthier balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in our diet which helps reduce inflammation.
Along with boosting nutrition, eating organic reduces exposure to antibiotics, synthetic hormones, and drugs that find their way into the animals and ultimately into you. These can cause a whole host of issues like hormone imbalances, skin rashes, and inability to lose weight.
Eating organic may also reduce your cancer risk. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60% of herbicides, 90% of fungicides, and 30 % of insecticides potentially cancer-causing. It is therefore reasonable to think that the rapidly increasing rates of cancer are at least partly linked to the use of these carcinogenic pesticides.
Buy Organic for the Earth
Evidence supports eating organic lowers environmental impact. Organic farming methods support greater biodiversity. Diversity is fundamental to life on this planet. Wildlife is allowed to thrive in their natural habitats with fewer obstacles that put them at risk for poor health and extinction. And let’s not forget that genetically modified and non-organic food is focused on high yield monoculture that destroys biodiversity. Organic food is tried and tested. Genetic modification of food is still experimental. Purchasing organic foods helps you avoid being part of this wide scale and uncontrolled experiment.
The bottom line is better soil quality, and cleaner air and water for wildlife to thrive and plants to grow healthy and nutritiously will nourish generations to come.
Does Eating Organic Really Cost More?
The answer to this question is an article in itself. Basically organic growers don’t use the large amounts of harmful pesticides and herbicides on their crops and have to look for other, often manual methods of controlling pests and diseases. These methods keep pesticides out of people and the environment, but they cost more. There is also ongoing education for organic growers, the certification process, paperwork, inspections, planning and more factored into growing, processing and handling foods organically.
That said, many health experts believe that when you pay extra for organics at the grocery store and famers market is much less than what you will pay in healthcare costs from eating conventionally grown foods laden with toxins and reduced nutritional value.
So the next time you are shopping at the grocery store or farmer’s market, choose organic foods for better health for you and your family, a cleaner earth, and a planet nourished well to feed generations to come.
Sustainable Danville Area and the Danville Library present “ORGANICS” on Tuesday, March 25th at 7:00pm at the Danville Library, Mt. Diablo Room, 400 Front Street. Angela Stanford, Registered Dietitian and Holistic Nutritionist alongside Cynthia Ruzzi, President and Co-Founder, Sustainable Danville Area will walk you through the basics on how to buy, eat and grow more organics.