Is Organic Food Really Better for Us?

These days, everyone and his uncle is all about eating organic. It has gotten so bad that one restaurant in Northern California actually closed shop for the day after getting one too many inquiries about whether the food being served is organic. It even prompted the fed up manager to post a sign on the restaurant window saying they don’t serve organic food and that you can go somewhere else if you don’t like it.

But just what is all the fuss about anyway? Is organic food really better for you? Here are the facts you should know before you start shopping.

1. Conventional vs Organic Farming

Organic simply refers to the way the farmers grow their products. The term “organic product” can refer to fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and meat. When the farming practices are organic, the soil and water are conserved and pollution is reduced as much as possible.

That means no chemical fertilizers or weed killers are used in the farming process. Instead, organic farmers use natural fertilizers to feed the soil and plants and crop rotation is utilized to manage the weeds.

2. It helps to check the label.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has already established an organic certification program. All organic foods are therefore required to meet strict government standards that regulate how the foods are grown, handled and processed.

Products that are a hundred percent organic, therefore, sport the 100% organic USDA seal. Those with more than one ingredient must use the following wording:

  • 100 percent organic (if completely made of organic ingredients)
  • organic (products that are at least 95% organic)

If the product contains less than 70% organic ingredients, the seal cannot be used but the wording “made with organic ingredients” may be included on the label.

3. Organic vs Natural

Natural does not mean the same as organic. Natural is not tested and certified as organic food is. Only foods that are grown and processed according to the USDA standards can be labeled organic.

Is Organic More Nutritious?

The short answer is maybe. Then again, maybe not.

The truth of the matter is the answer isn’t really clear. A recent study looked at the value and nutritional content of organic and conventional food over the last 50 years. The conclusion? Organic and conventionally produced foods do not have any significant differences in their nutritional content at all.

When you think about it, organic foods are actually more expensive. They cost more than their conventionally grown counterparts which is partly because of more expensive farming practices. It’s also because organically grown crops aren’t treated with preservatives and thus spoil much faster. But at the end of the day, the same quality and safety standards used on organic foodstuffs are used on conventionally grown products.

So whether you go organic or not doesn’t really matter. The nutritional benefits are roughly the same. Go organic if you can afford it. You can even mix organic and conventional. If you are concerned about cost, however, or are working within a tight budget, then ditch the organic and just go with the conventional.