Should everyone aspire to eat an organic diet?
The debate over whether or not organic foods are better than non-organic foods has been going strong for several decades now. Those who buy organic foods believe that it’s better to eat organic. Nutrient content, cost, taste, and the presence of potentially harmful chemicals have all been major points of discussion in the media, academia, and beyond. Many buyers of organic foods shop this way to avoid toxins, but others claim organic food simply tastes better.
The cost comparison between organic and non-organic is often centered on as the main point of contention. Although there is no doubt that organic foods are more expensive on average to buy, should this argument really take center stage in the debate on whether it’s better to eat organic?
Concerns on this issue are continuously reported online, so I wondered if there was any truth to the argument that non-organic foods are inferior. Upon doing some research, I found five reasons why everyone should aspire to eat an organic diet. Below are five major benefits of eating organic.
Why It’s Better To Eat Organic
1. Organic Foods Taste Better
It’s a frequent claim that organically grown produce and meats taste better than non-organic, but is there any truth to this?
It turns out that some recent studies suggest that this may indeed be the case. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN) found that organic foods contain up to 70 percent higher concentrations of antioxidants. This is significantly higher than non-organic produce.
Other studies cited in the same paper explain how the increased antioxidant levels may impact the food’s organoleptic qualities. This relates to the taste, aroma, and mouth feel of the food, which are all experienced when we taste a new flavor.
2. Antibiotic Resistance From Non-Organic Meat
Antibiotics are routinely used in the agricultural industry as they can help promote growth and prevent infection in livestock. However, rules on raising organic livestock mean that their use is prohibited, unless the animal requires them to restore health. In such circumstances the animals produce can no longer be sold or labelled as organic.
The main issue with the frequent use of antibiotics in the non-organic agricultural industry is that it has, and continues to contribute to antibiotic resistance. This means that a stronger dose or new antibiotics must be used to achieve the desired outcome. It can also result in the development of drug-resistant infections.
Unfortunately, it is possible for the resistant bacteria to pass to humans via the food chain, and once ingested they are then able to reside in the intestine and spread between individuals.
One study in the US found that of 200 supermarket meats tested, 20 percent contained Salmonella. From this sample 80 percent were resistant to at least one type of antibiotic. Although concerning, it is certainly worth noting that organic meats also contain antibiotic resistance bacteria, albeit they tend to be less resistant. For example, this study found that the Enterococcus bacterium in organic chicken was 13 percent less resistant than the regular chickens.
3. Organic Produce Is More Nutritious
While there are typically no huge differences in the nutrient content of organic and non-organic food produce, studies have indicated that organic foods do have minor elevations of certain nutrients, which is key evidence that it is better to eat organic.
The Harvard Health Blog explains that Stanford university researchers found that some foods had a little more nutritional value than regular food produce. In particular, a minor elevation of phosphorous content in many organic foods and a higher omega-3 fatty acid content in organic milk and chicken.
4. Non-Organic Foods Have Higher Pesticide Residue
In order for foods to be recognized as organic they have to meet a number of requirements outlined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This is a tightly regulated industry and means farmers have to refrain from using pesticides, fungicides and other synthetic fertilizers to attain organic status.
Therefore, it’s not so surprising to learn that organic produce does contain significantly lower levels of pesticide residues in comparison (30 percent lower pesticide residues than conventional foods). While these levels are still considered to pose a relatively low risk to health by experts such as toxicologists, some studies have shown a potential relationship between pesticide exposure and potential harm to one’s health.
For example, one recent study highlighted a potential link between poor pregnancy outcomes for individuals treated for fertility problems and pesticide exposure. Studies like this are the reason many advise against non-organic food consumption, particularly for those that may be most vulnerable e.g. couples trying to conceive.
Another study also discovered an increased risk of ADHD in children with the highest urine levels of pesticides. The increased risk is not modest, either. A whopping 90 percent increased risk is what the study concluded. Although, as Mom Bible highlights – it’s worth noting that the same study did not conclude what the exact source of the increased pesticides were and as a result it is not possible to know it was food related or due to proximity to pesticide use. Regardless, it’s only natural for parents to be concerned and so many do try their best to mitigate risks, even though the science does not yet have all the answers.
5. Organic Food Is Free From Growth Hormones
Choosing to buy non-organic groceries means that you’re often eating foods with growth hormones. Synthetic growth hormones are commonly given to livestock such as cattle, as they can help them to grow faster and produce more milk. One such example is a hormone called rBST, which was originally developed by the company Monsanto.
The reality of synthetic growth hormones is that it is possible for them to be found in non-organic dairy and meat products. The safety of such hormones on humans is disputed, but some studies have shown a potential link between exposure and the development of certain types of cancers.
In some countries, the use of rBST on raising livestock is prohibited including those within the European Union and Canada. Thankfully, meat certified by the USDA as organic is free from the use of synthetic growth hormones.
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