In the health craze of organic and all-natural food, it's easy to get confused and not know where to turn. What exactly is organic? How do I know I can trust what’s on the label? Is organic really better for me? These questions and more have been up for debate for years and will continue to be for many to come.
What Is Organic Food?
Organic food is defined by the USDA to be grown “free of synthetic substances; contain no antibiotics and hormones; has not been irradiated or fertilized with sewage sludge; was raised without the use of most conventional pesticides; and contains no genetically modified ingredients.”
Many true organic farmers feel we have a long way to go beyond this definition. For example, animals must be given access to the outdoors, but for how long and under what conditions isn’t defined. Furthermore, most farmers who practice sustainable farming and are organic in spirit operate on such a small scale that they can’t afford the expensive requirements to be certified organic by the USDA.
Organic Does Not Necessarily Mean Local, Healthy, or Inexpensive
A common misconception is that organic means local. This is not true. You could buy organic salmon from Chile, but what kind of carbon footprint are you leaving behind?
Organic also does not mean healthy. In this article in the New York Times, Marion Nestle, a professor at New York University’s department of nutrition, food studies and public health, says, “Organic junk food is still junk food.”
Additionally, organic foods are more expensive. If you can manage spending a few extra dollars, WebMD recommends buying the following organic foods:
- Dairy products
- Green beans
Another option is frozen organic produce.
Organic Does Have Some Health Benefits
In a recent study conducted by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and highlighted in this article, organic tomatoes were found to have nearly twice the levels of quercetin and kaempferol as regular tomatoes. These two compounds are known as flavonoids, which have been linked to a reduced rate of heart disease.
So far, more money has been spent on marketing organic foods than on the nutritional benefits of organic products. So more it will take more time, money, and research before people understand the full effects of organic foods.
Are You Confused Yet?
So if you are now more confused than ever, it's quite understandable. Starting your own garden is a great option, but it's not always feasible. The point here is to buy local, buy seasonal, and if possible buy organic local products. Being an informed consumer is always a good thing.
If you have access to corporate wellness programs or an onsite fitness center, don’t hesitate to ask your worksite wellness staff for more information on organic food and other health topics.