4 Scientifically-Proven Health Benefits of Eating Organic
The word “organic” has turned out to be a buzzword that’s usually associated with “being better”. A recent survey conducted in 2016 suggests that some consumers buy organic food believing it's better for the environment while the larger part does so for health-related reasons. Thanks to this, the organic food industry is currently booming and it is expected to grow even larger in the near future.
But the question remains, why exactly is going organic a smarter choice for the environment and our health? The answer depends on who you ask and which studies you refer to. Nevertheless, if you are contemplating to buy organic foods, here are some scientifically proven benefits that you are likely to reap in return.
What is Organic Food?
Organic food refers to everything that’s produced in a natural farm from fruits to vegetables, meat, and dairy products. Unlike conventional farms where heavy doses of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides are used, organic farming standards strictly restrict the use of harmful chemicals. This result in healthier and more nutritious food that’s better for your health as well as the environment.
In the past decade, organic food products have grown to be extremely popular among the global population leading to conventional produce losing their lion’s share of the worldwide market.
#1 – Reduced Exposure to Chemicals & Heavy Metals
As stated earlier, organic fruits, vegetables, and grain are grown without the use of artificial fertilizers or synthetic pesticides. (The National Organic Standard Board does allow the use of certain specific synthetic substances.) Though the chemicals used in conventional farming are deemed safe in quantities used, health experts state that it can lead to potential harms in the long run due to repeated exposure.
For instance, Roundup, a commonly used herbicide is classified as a ‘potential human carcinogen; and Chlorpyrifos, the insecticide leads to developmental delays in infants.
A meta-analysis published by British Journal of Nutrition in 2014 states that organically grown crops not only contain low levels of pesticides but also lower cadmium concentration – a toxic heavy metal that accumulates in the kidney and liver.
#2 – High Levels of Healthy Fats
Unlike conventionally produce, organically produced meat, milk, and other products are found to contain around 50% more omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated healthy fat that have a lot of health benefits from lowering blood pressure to reducing the likelihood of heart attacks and stroke. Researches also revealed that organic milk has less saturated fat than non-organic.
Experts suggest that these benefits are due to the way in which organic livestock is raised – grass-fed diet and more time spent outdoors. It is also believed that consuming organic products instead of conventional will help raise consumers’ omega-3 intake without increasing the overall calories or saturated fat intake.
#3 – No Antibiotics or Synthetic Hormones
Often, conventional raised animals and birds are fed antibiotics to prevent illnesses, making it easier for farmers to raise the animals in crowded and unhygienic environments. Though FDA restricts the use of certain antibiotics for livestock, loopholes in the legislation still exist. Furthermore, except poultry, conventional livestock is injected with synthetic growth hormones for them to gain weight faster or produce more milk.
The chances are, small amounts of these substances will make their way to consumers leading to widespread antibiotic resistance.
By consuming organic foods that aren’t produced using antibiotics, consumers are intrinsically safe from antibiotic resistance. Additionally, organic meat and dairy don’t contain synthetic hormones which have been associated with the increased risk of cancer.
#4 – In Certain Cases, More Antioxidants
According to researchers who conducted a six-year study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, organic onions were found to contain nearly 20% more antioxidants than conventionally grown onions. These researches also hypothesized that previous studies that showed no difference in antioxidants levels between conventional and organic products were because of short study periods and changing variables like weather.
The Best Organic Foods
Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) comes up with a Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen List with the goal to help consumers understand which food items they should include in their organic list. As organically grown fruits and vegetables tend to be expensive than conventional produce, these lists help you decide the food items on which you should spend your money.
Here are the 5 foods with the least amount of pesticides from EWG’s 2020 Clean Fifteen List:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas
- Honeydew Melon
On the other hand, the Dirty Dozen List comprises of food items that generally contain the most pesticides. Here are the foods listed on EWG’s 2020 Dirty Dozen List:
- Hot Peppers
Whether or not you switch to organic, the best thing you can do is to consumer produce – organic or conventional – that’s in season. For instance, enjoy carrots, green beans, apples, corn, and tomatoes in the summer. You will find that it’s not only tasty but also more cost-efficient. This is because, when you purchase produce that is in season, the supply meets the demand and it leads to lower prices.