What Is Organic Food and Is It Really Better?
Organic food products are everywhere these days. As people turn towards more sustainable and healthy eating options, organic foods have increased in popularity. But what are organic foods? And, is it really better than conventional food?
We've had a look at some of the facts surrounding organic foods, organic farming practices, and organic food production and found as much as we can about whether or not organic foods are better. Check out our research below!
What is organic food?
Organic food is food that has been grown, cultivated, or raised in a way that does not harm humans, animals or the environment. Organic food adheres to a few strict guidelines which include:
- Absolutely nothing harmful or toxic is put onto crops, including pesticides, fertilisers, or any other synthetics. Organic farming practices allow only organic growth agents and natural pesticides to be used.
- No GMOs are used in organic farming.
- Organic foods are not exposed to irradiation.
- Organic livestock is not treated with antibiotics at all.
- Animal welfare is a priority on organic farms, meaning, for instance, animals are allowed to move around and are not kept in cages.
- Organic foods are free from additives.
- Sustainability is practised in organic farming methods.
Natural vs. organic produce
Though sometimes assumed, natural and organic are not interchangeable words. Natural food products tend to be free from artificial additives, but there are no regulations on their growing and cultivation methods.
As well as natural, other labels that aren't interchangeable include free-range and hormone-free. Though they may be truthful, there are no regulations on these terms.
How to know if a food is actually organic
Until 2009, there was no real standardisation on organic foods, but there are now two within Australia. These are:
- The National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce, for exported food
- The Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Foods, for domestic and imported foods
There are also a number of certifications within Australia for organic produce. These include:
- AUS-QUAL Limited (AUSQUAL)
- Australian Certified Organic (ACO)
- Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI)
- National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia Certified Organic (NASAA Certified Organic)
- Organic Food Chain (OFC)
- Safe Food Production Queensland (SFPQ)
Look out for labels including this organic certification to ensure the food you're choosing is actually organic.
Benefits of organic foods
Organic foods come with a whole host of benefits that makes choosing to eat them easier. Check them out below!
Organic farming uses fewer pesticides
This is the one you will hear most when it comes to organic foods. Organic farming methods choose to use fewer pesticides, and absolutely no synthetic ones. This means any pesticides that are used are organic, natural, and not harmful to humans.
Conventionally produced food uses lots of pesticides that can leave harmful chemical residue on crops. This residue has been linked to various chronic illnesses and is best avoided!
Organic foods may be fresher
Though not always, most organic produce comes from small, local farmers and contains fewer preservatives. This means organic food is fresher than conventionally grown food.
Organic products have environmental benefits
Organic foods are grown and raised in a way that is much better for the environment. Organic farming has lots of environmental benefits, including:
- Reduces pollution
- Conserves water
- Reduces soil erosion
- Increases soil fertility
- Uses less energy
- Uses fewer chemicals
Organic meats don't contain antibiotics
Organically farmed meats are given space to move and are not treated with antibiotics which reduces the chances of infection within the livestock and helps to protect against antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and viruses.
Organic foods may be more nutritious
Meat and milk from organic farms are thought to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential nutrients in our diets. In addition, organically farmed fruits and vegetables are thought to have higher levels of antioxidants and micronutrients. This is because organic foods are not treated with chemical pesticides and must protect themselves, leading to them producing more of these beneficial nutrients.
Organic products contain no GMO crops
GMO crops are created to help farmers out on conventional farms. Usually created to be pesticide-resistant to help increase a farmers yield, there are concerns about the effect on humans that these crops may have. Some GMO crops are thought to induce allergic reactions and have been linked to the progression of certain types of cancer.
In addition, GMO crops, particularly those that are pesticide-resistant, can lead to the development of pesticide-resistant weeds and thus the increased use of pesticides. This leads to more soil damage and can be detrimental to biodiversity and marine life.
Organic produce is lower in nitrates than conventional foods
Organic foods are thought to contain fewer nitrates than conventional foods. High levels of nitrates found in conventionally grown food have been linked to increased risks of cancers.
Potential drawbacks of organic food
Though organic foods have lots of benefits, they're not necessarily always better. Choosing organic foods can shield you from chemical residue and GMO crops, but organically produced junk food still has all the same nutritional facts.
Organic snacks are better for the environment and don't come with a side order of pesticide residue, but they should still be consumed in moderation as they are still considered processed foods.
Organic food may also be less accessible to some. Though it comes with lots of benefits, organic food is usually more expensive than non-organic foods.
Which foods should I buy organic?
If you've decided to make the switch to organic food, you may be wondering which food products are best to choose organic. If you're on a budget, this is a great way of eating organic without it breaking the bank.
There are certain food products that are known to be highly contaminated with pesticide and fertiliser residue, meaning you should try and choose the organic option for these products. These products include:
- Strawberries. These are thought to be the most pesticide-residue-contaminated products on the market today.
- Spinach. This leafy green is known to have high levels of permethrin, a known neurotoxin, and has high levels of other contaminants too.
- Apples. Another fruit that is high in pesticide residue and should be bought organically. (Have no fear, you can still give your little ones this healthy snack with Bellamy's Organic Apple Snacks.)
- Grapes. Thought to contain at least five different pesticides in almost every grape, these are definitely best bought organic. (For a juice full of antioxidants and no toxins at all, check out the Lakewood Organic Grape Juice we stock!)
- Cherries. Another fruit with five or more pesticides per fruit! (For your hit of cherries each day, check out our Lakewood Organic Black Cherry Juice, which is definitely not full of pesticides!)
- Peanut butter. Usually highly-processed, organic peanut butter, like this Ambrosia Organic Peanut Butter, is lower in added sugars and much more nutritious.
- Baby food. Conventional baby food products are thought to have higher levels of cadmium, which can be detrimental to growing kidneys, and lower in good-for-you nutrients. Organic baby food is free from harmful toxins. We love this Holle Berry Puppy Fruit Snack and this Organic Bubs Pumpkin and Chia Pouch.
Organic foods are full of nutrition and are free from harmful chemicals. As long time advocates of eating organic food, it's no wonder that we think it's great, and we hope we've convinced you too.
Organic foods are better for your health and the health of the environment. Organic produce can help you to lead a healthier and more nutritious life and should be chosen, where accessible, over non-organic food.
Frequently asked questions
What exactly is organic food?
Organic food is food that has been grown, cultivated, and raised in a way that does not use synthetic chemicals, harmful pesticides, or GMO crops. Organic farming methods protect human health and the health of the environment. These products do not contain chemical residue that is found on conventionally grown products, is more nutritious than non-organic food, and is usually fresher.
What is organic food in simple words?
Organic food, in simple words, is food that is grown without the use of chemicals. It is not treated with the pesticides and fertilisers that are commonly used on conventional produce. This means you and your family are protected against the chemical residue found often on conventional products. This residue has been linked to a string of chronic illnesses.
What is the difference between organic and regular food?
Regular, or non-organic food, is grown using lots of chemical fertiliser and pesticides, as well as GMO crops. Both of these have detrimental effects on human health and can be linked to a range of illnesses. Organic foods do not use any of these in farming or processing, meaning you're protected from harmful fertiliser and pesticide residue, as well as the effect of GMO crops.
Is organic food really better?
Organic food is free from chemicals, GMO crops, antibiotics, and other products used to increase the yield on conventional farms. These chemicals can cause issues inside the human body leading to a range of illnesses. In addition, organic foods are better for the environment and can help to combat climate change. Organic foods have lots of benefits.