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A lot has been said about organic produce and sustainable eating but is it really better? Most people eat foods that are available at the supermarket so we went on a mission to discover if you should be paying extra, for the good of your health.

The interest in organic food, making sure that your cows are grass-fed and that your fruits and veggies are free of pesticides has surged. Nowadays, you’ll even notice that large supermarket chains have their own brand of organic produce and weekend farmer’s markets, albeit a bit pretentious, are attracted people from all walks of life who want to ensure that the food that they’re buying is organic, but is there any difference between organically grown food and the regular crops and cuts of meat that you find at stores?

Before we get into it, let’s get our heads around what organic actually means and what standards they need to meet in order to be recognized as organic… 

Organic crops must be: 

  • ·      Produced without pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, bioengineering or ionizing radiation

 Organically raised animals must be:

  • ·      Fed with organic feed that doesn't contain hormones or antibiotics
  • ·      Must have outdoor access

A number of studies have been conducted in recent times to determine if organic produce is healthier than the norm and a few studies have indeed shown positive results. One study focused on milk showed that organic bovine milk has a more desirable fatty acid composition than conventional milk. Omega-3 is the fatty acid that is responsible for brain health and fatty acids are also essential to lowering the amount of triglycerides in the blood. You can get it from other sources such as avocado and fatty fish but if you want to make your milk even healthier then perhaps organic is the way to go.

Antioxidants are our main means of combatting and eliminating the build-up of free radicals that are produced from oxidative stress on the body. Therefore, it is important to get the right amount of antioxidants to maintain your health, and although there are supplements it is a better idea to get your nutrients from natural sources. A recent study focused on organic crops and found that, on average, have higher concentrations of antioxidants and a lower incidence of pesticide residues than the non-organic comparators across regions and production seasons.

You may be thinking that it should be a given that organic crops had a lower incidence of pesticides but The USDA data has previously shown that 73 percent of conventionally grown foods had at least one pesticide residue, while only 23 percent of organically grown samples of the same crops had any residues. Which means that although organically grown crops rely heavily on other methods of farming, there is still the possibility that some many contain pesticide residue.

If you are most interested in reducing pesticides in your food, buy organic versions of foods whose conventional forms may carry high levels of pesticide residues. These include:

  • ·      Spinach
  • ·      Green peas 
  • ·      Green beans
  • ·      Apples
  • ·      Peaches
  • ·      Pears
  • ·      Strawberries, blackberries and raspberries

Although, up until now, the evidence appears to largely be in favour of organic crops, a systematic review of studies of satisfactory quality identified that there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs. The small differences in nutrient content detected are biologically plausible and mostly relate to differences in production methods.

Recently, a Stanford study backed this up by analyzing the data and finding little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods. No consistent differences were seen in the vitamin content of organic products, and only one nutrient — phosphorus — was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce. There was also no difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk, though evidence from a limited number of studies suggested that organic milk may contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which we discovered previously.

Oxford university also analyzed 71 peer-reviewed studies and observed that organic products are sometimes worse for the environment. Organic milk, cereals, and pork generated higher greenhouse gas emissions per product than conventional ones but organic beef and olives had lower emissions in most studies.

What we can conclude from all of this is that there is still research to be done and standards to be upheld. Over time, as organic farming grows even greater, we will be able to see much better if the foods that are being produced are healthier or more of the same. The best way to get the most out of your food is to buy local at farmer’s markets because they’re also producing the food on a smaller scale that is less harmful to the environment, which is another thing to consider when buying organic.

Many of the companies now who are farming organically are the same big corporations who have been behind the production of our food since the beginning, they’ve only changed to the tastes and preferences of society at large. They will still have their own supply and demand and profit margins to adhere to and because of this we cannot be fully certain if what you’re getting is actually organic in the truest sense of the word. Perhaps the cows just get some time to wander around a field during the day, or the methods of growing your fresh produce are only slightly adjusted, but essentially the same. Supporting local growers who run smaller operations and who also have a desire to eat totally organic is the best way of making sure that you are getting 100% organic food. People don’t only choose to go organic because it’s a fad or because you get more nutrients from it. More often than not, their choices are dictated by a number of factors including taste preferences, concerns about the effects of conventional farming practices on the environment and animal welfare.

If you’ve been thinking about going organic, then don’t be afraid to make the step because it’s not only a decision based on your own healthy lifestyle, but about your feelings as well.  



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