August 9, 2013
Understanding the Benefits Of Organic Food
Rayshell Clapper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
In today’s world, we hear about organic versus conventional food all of the time and often wonder just what the benefits of organic foods are? About a year ago, redOrbit published an article explaining that organic foods have no more nutritional value than conventional foods. That is to say, the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals found in organic foods equaled those found in non-organic foods. So an orange grown organically has about the same amount of vitamin C as an orange grown conventionally has. However, there are other benefits of organic foods than just what nutrients we get from them.
First of all, what is the difference between organic and conventional foods? According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the key differences between organic and conventional foods are:
- Chemical fertilizers have been used on most conventional foods to promote plant growth, while organics use only natural fertilizers like manure or compost.
- Conventional foods are sprayed with synthetic insecticides, but organic foods use natural methods including beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps.
- Conventional produce uses herbicides to manage weeds while organics use environmentally-generated plant killing compounds, crop rotation, tilling, hand weeding or mulch to control weeds.
- Conventional livestock receive antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth, but organics receive organic feed and access to the outdoors while using preventable measures to help minimize disease.
Both methods end up with a product to sell and eat, but organics do so using what is in nature as opposed to chemicals and medicines like conventional. As redOrbit showed, the nutritional value—as in what nutrients we gain—of each is about equal, but there are other benefits of organic food.
Helpguide.org, in collaboration with Harvard Health Publications, explains several of these benefits.
- 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.
- Organic food is often fresher. Fresh food tastes better. Organic food is usually fresher when eaten because it doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer. Organic produce is often (but not always) produced on smaller farms near where it is sold.
- Organic farming is better for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution (air, water and soil), conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. In addition, organic farming is better for birds and small animals as chemical pesticides can make it harder for creatures to reproduce and can even kill them. Farming without pesticides is also safer for the workers who harvest our food.
- Organically raised animals are NOT given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts. The use of antibiotics in conventional meat production helps create antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. This means that when someone gets sick from these strains they will be less responsive to antibiotic treatment. Not feeding animal byproducts to other animals reduces the risk of mad cow disease (BSE). 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. The more crowded the conditions, the more likely an animal is to get sick.
In closing, when it comes to organic food, it's often more about what they don't have than what they do have. Although the benefits of organic food may or may not include higher amounts of vitamins and minerals, they do provide a food product with less toxins and promote fresher foods.
Each of the benefits discussed above help make a case for eating organic. However, conventional foods have their own set of benefits, the foremost of which is simply that they are more affordable. Whether one chooses conventional foods or organic foods, it is important to know the difference and understand what it is we are eating. If we are going to be healthy eaters, we must also be informed eaters. We should know the benefits of organic foods.