Holistic Foods: Organic vs. Non-organic

Holistic Foods: Organic vs. Non-organic

What is Organic?

The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution.

Organically grown food is one of the fastest growing categories in the food industry. Organic food is free of pesticides, hormones, and additives.

Holistic Foods: Organic vs. Non-organic – Which one is better for your health?

Ideally, organic food sounds like the way to go when it comes to the way we cultivate our food. However, recent studies of organic vs. non organic food found little difference in health effects between organic vs. non-organic, many experts believe there needs to be more research done on the topic. For instance, children who ate organic had lower levels of pesticides in their urine compared to those who ate non-organic, though both were within the normal “safe” range. However, there is no way to predict the long term effects of higher levels of pesticides, even within the safe range. Studies have linked pesticide exposure to cancers, neurological damage as well as birth defects. In addition, organic foods reduce the amounts of hormone altering chemicals in your body.

Organic farming is also better for the environment, and buying organic food supports this sustainable farming. It reduces the amount of harmful pesticides that are washed into waterways, which benefits aquatic life. Organic farming also creates more natural habitats than non-organic farming and helps fight global warming.

Holistic Foods: Organic vs. Inorganic: Foods to buy organically

Not everyone can afford to buy organic only. However, with some foods it is more important than others because the non-organic versions tend to have higher levels of pesticides, hormones, and additives. Here are the most important foods to buy organic.

1.) Meat – Raising animals with conventional methods means using hormones to speed up growth, antibiotics to resist disease on crowded feed lots, and both pesticides and chemical fertilizers to grow the grain fed to the animals. Also, non-organic meat usually contains color-fixer chemicals, such as Sodium Nitrate, to preserve meats and also to keep the red color of the meat. Organic meat comes from an animal that ate only organic food, roamed outdoors from time to time and was left free of antibiotics. Some people feel overuse of ­antibiotics can lead to the development of drug-resistant strains of bacteria in animals and people. Also, organically raised animals are fed a diet free of meat by –products. This is important because feeding animals meat by-products can spread diseases like Mad Cow.

2.) Milk and Dairy Products –  Nonorganic milk can contain some pesticides. It also contains antibiotics and growth hormones. Organic milk is free of pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones. Recent studies have also found that levels of antioxidants in milk produced by organically-raised cattle were 50 to 80 percent higher than in normal milk.

3.) Fruits and Vegetables with a Peel or Skin – Non-organic fruits and vegetables are allowed to be sprayed with synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, insecticides and herbicides. The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that even after washing, some fruits and vegetables consistently carry much higher levels of pesticide residue than others. Every year, the Environmental Working Group analyzes Department of Agriculture data about pesticide residue and ranks foods based on how much or little pesticide residue they have. They then release a list of the fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticides. The list is known as the “Dirty Dozen.” The Environmental Working Group estimates that individuals can reduce their exposure by 80% if they switch to organic when buying these 12 foods:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet
  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

USDA Organic LabelCheck the label!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards. These standards regulate how such foods are grown, handled and processed.

If a food bears a USDA Organic label, it means it’s produced and processed according to the USDA standards. The seal is voluntary, but many organic producers use it.

Products that are completely organic — such as fruits, vegetables, eggs or other single-ingredient foods — are labeled 100 percent organic and can carry the USDA seal.

Foods that have more than one ingredient, such as breakfast cereal, can use the USDA organic seal plus the following wording, depending on the number of organic ingredients:

  • 100 percent organic. To use this phrase, products must be either completely organic or made of all organic ingredients.
  • Organic. Products must be at least 95 percent organic to use this term.

Products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients may say “made with organic ingredients” on the label, but may not use the seal. Foods containing less than 70 percent organic ingredients can’t use the seal or the word “organic” on their product labels. They can include the organic items in their ingredient list, however.