What is organic food?
Organic food is the new trend in the fruit and vegetable market. The basic principle to classify a product as organic is that compounds of natural origin are used in its preparation, and synthetics’ final product is prohibited.
Unfortunately, organic food is usually priced up to two or three times that of traditional food. However, the differences in their nutritional properties could justify their cost. Which are?
Nutritional differences between organic food with traditional
Several studies confirm higher and significant amounts of macro and micronutrients regarding nutrition and avoiding ingesting chemicals that are harmful to the body. A fruit or vegetable is organic when fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, or other chemical additives (including preservatives and artificial colors) are not involved in its production system. In addition, the use of genetically modified products (GMOs) is not allowed in organic regulations. (6)
Animals must be raised following ethical principles in organic foods of plant origin, such as dairy and meats, and the use of hormones and antibiotics is not allowed. So why do we keep choosing traditional products? The answer is simple: the price of organic food is higher. This leads us to question the cost of not compromising ecology and biodiversity. Is it essential to save on the quality and production of food to have that new model of car or shoes?
Advantages of organic food: more vitamin C, polyphenols, and calcium
First, more than half of the studies agree that organic foods have a higher level of polyphenols. (1) (2) (5) (7) Polyphenols are a type of molecule with antioxidant power. They can prevent aging and protect the body from diseases such as cancer. They have potentially positive effects on the improvement of the cardiovascular system.
On the other hand, higher micronutrient contents have been recorded, such as vitamin C in organic fruits. As well as a more significant amount of essential amino acids and natural sugars in organic foods compared to those grown traditionally. (2)
Organic vs. Traditional Food A way to protect the environment?
Most studies agree that organic production has a positive effect on the environment. (5) (9) (10) This is explained not only by the prohibition of the use of synthetic products (which take long periods to decompose) but also due to the modification of mineral cycles such as nitrogen.
The vast majority of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are nitrogen-based. This mineral is usually extracted and transferred from one part of the world to another. If we see it from the outside, this means a significant change in mineral nitrogen concentration in the soils. But also a massive expenditure of energy due to the move.
The answer: economic growth above all else. It is always cheaper; it pays more, and you have to develop as a country.
Organic production is proposed as an outlet and environmental balance in food. However, not everyone agrees. Recent studies raise the possibility that a lower yield of organic cultivation could lead to land use waste. (9)
While it may sound reasonable at first glance, this rationale was demystified by higher-level scientific authorities. FAO itself promotes organic agriculture to maximize the yield from renewable resources. As well as to optimize the energy of nutrients and agroecosystems.
Natural cycle assessments show that CO2 emissions from traditional productions are always higher than from organic productions.
FAO 20110 (10)
If not for the environment, health – Effect of pesticides on the body.
Pesticides have a general rule of thumb to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, and toxic products. The effects of pesticides on the body include the destruction of the neurological system and hurting the body’s long-term defenses. If that weren’t enough, they are chemical products with a high chance of causing allergies.
When traditional fruits or vegetables are not well washed and peeled, pesticides are continually being introduced into the body. Some pesticides (ex: DTT) have the effect of permanent hormonal dysregulation. Although it has been completely prohibited in first-world countries, its use is still allowed in the regulations of some underdeveloped countries. (3) (6)
Some pesticides accumulate mainly in the liver and brain. If the body is not given enough time to clean them, toxic concentrations can be reached, causing silent diseases such as cancer. In conclusion, the more you can get them away from your body, the better.
In the case of foods rich in calcium, particularly milk, it tends to have a higher mineral content when produced organically. As well as vitamins and conjugated linoleic acids. (2)
Lastly, organic meat is lower in fat. As well as better quality: they are primarily unsaturated and with a better ratio of Omega 3 / Omega 6 fatty acids—a fundamental factor in improving brain activity and regulating fat metabolism in the body.
Comparison table: organic food vs. traditional food
|Use of natural fertilizers
|Use of chemical or
synthetic fertilizers for growth
|Crop control is with
|They use synthetic herbicides to control crops|
|Control of insects
with the use of
natural pesticides (toxins from other insects,
minerals, or essential oils)
|Use of synthetic insecticides
for crop control
|The animals are fed with
organic rations and grazing
with a rotational system
|Use of antibiotics, hormones and drugs in animals
to promote their growth
|Vegetables and fruits: Higher amount of antioxidants and some vitamins||Lower amount
of antioxidants and vitamins
|Higher amount of unsaturated and healthy fats||Higher amounts of saturated fat and possible trans fat|
Can organic food help you lose weight?
In a study comparing people who consumed organic and traditional products, differences were observed of a 28% lower risk of being overweight and a 50% lower probability of suffering from obesity. (2)
It is essential to know that there were no economic differences between the participants in this study. Both age and education level and habits were balanced. So … Could the consumption of non-organic products be associated as a cause of overweight and obesity?
Things are not that simple. Getting fat will depend on the number of calories consumed vs. the calories expended. However, it is a fact that people who choose organic food tend to have better knowledge of nutrition and food awareness.
How do you know which are organic foods?
As organic regulations are strict rules and have a strong philosophy behind them. Products can be classified into four categories for labeling:
- “100% Organic” – the total content of its ingredients is organic.
- “Organic” – more than 95% of ingredients are organic.
- “Made with organic ingredients” -more than 70% must be organic ingredients.
- <70% Organic ingredients – you can only include the word organic only in your ingredients
- A product is classified as a natural product; the percentage of non-synthetic ingredients is always less than 70%.
Can organic food have pesticides?
Yes, organic food cannot be considered 100% pesticide-free. Although it makes sure not to use synthetic pesticides in its process, there may be small amounts in the soils due to the cultivation of previous years.
In addition, the use of pesticides of natural origin is allowed. For example, some insect toxins and essential oils of plants; have the great advantage of breaking down quickly both in the body and in the environment. (4)
- Organic food does not allow the use of pesticides and synthetic chemicals in its preparation. Genetically modified foods are also not authorized in organic production.
- Organic food production is recommended by international organizations such as FAO to maximize the long-term performance of natural resources.
- People who eat organic food regularly have better body weight indexes.
- The cost of organic food is justified due to its lower environmental impact. As well as its higher content of polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals.
- Organic products must meet strict international standards to include the corresponding labeling on their packaging.
- The difference between natural food and 100% organic food is the percentage of non-synthetic ingredients that make it up.