Written by: Michelle Mitchum, MPH, and HHP –
The organic food trend has exploded in popularity within the last 10 years, and the industry has grown exponentially. Organic food sales have increased from $1 billion in 1996 to $26 billion in 2016. The belief is that organic food, (foods free of additives, chemical pesticides, and grown in environmentally friendly conditions), are better at maintaining health than conventionally grown foods. The interest in this topic became popular when health advocates brought awareness to the development process of conventionally grown foods, and forced the public to question the effects of consuming foods that are grown in unnatural environmental conditions.
The truth is that there is not enough scientific evidence to substantiate claims that organic foods are superior in maintaining a healthy body. Some studies have shown that certain foods have higher levels of antioxidants and other vitamins, than their conventionally grown counterparts, and many believe that is enough to declare that all organic food is healthier. But these factors alone cannot confirm that a person’s health is improved significantly when consuming organic goods.
Consumers associate ‘natural food’ with organic food. Natural foods generally refer to foods that are not altered chemically and are derived from plants and animals only. There is also a difference in how the food is labeled for consumers. Because neither the FDA nor USDA have standards for labeling food as natural, there are strict standards for identifying organic foods, and the FDA has determined that they should be labeled as follows:
• Foods that are completely organic, or made with all organic ingredients are labeled 100 percent organic
• Food labeled “organic”, is made with 95 percent organic materials.
• Products that contain at least 70 percent of organic materials are labeled “made with organic materials”.
Some verifiable benefits to eating organic foods are:
1. Organic produce contains lower/no pesticides. Fungicides, herbicides and insecticides are widely used in conventional agriculture, and its residues remain on the foods that we consume
2. A study in the “Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture” discovered higher antioxidants and vitamin C, in organic broccoli, compared to conventional broccoli.
3. Organically raised animals are not given artificial hormones, animal bi-products or antibiotics.
4. Organic food is free of GMOs. Genetically Modified Organisms contain DNA that has been altered most commonly in order to be resistant to pesticides or produce insecticide.
5. The taste of organic food is richer, because of the conditions that it is harvested. Clean, mineral rich soil, no chemical treatment competing with the foods natural flavor- etc.
There are a few disadvantages to consuming organic foods.
1. Because organic foods are not treated with preservatives, they spoil faster than conventional foods.
2. These foods are often times more expensive.
3. Not easily accessible in all areas
Michelle Mitchum MPH, HHP, is a graduate of Morgan State University, (Baltimore, MD) and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, (New York). She has been featured on Fox Business News, Essence Magazine and is a contributing writer to Heart and Soul Magazine as well as other notable publications. In 2013 she founded the OrangeMoon Holistic Health and Wellness to empower people to make intelligent and informed decisions about their health and to introduce and educate clients on holistic lifestyle alternatives.