You may want to eat healthily and have wondered exactly what is organic food? One of the principles behind many diet programs is to eat organic foods wherever possible. It is therefore a good idea to look at exactly what is organic food (does it differ from natural food?) and where you can get it.
Wikipedia defines organic foods as those which “are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives”.
To many people it is more than that – it means that the food has been produced in an environmentally friendly way. This includes use of renewable resources, soil conservation, water conservation, promoting bio-diversity and avoiding the pollution often caused by chemical farming methods.
In the case of livestock organic means that the animals live in good conditions with fresh air and access to outdoors. They grow naturally without any growth hormones or any other drugs and in addition they eat organically grown feed.
There are tight restrictions as to what constitutes organic and how it is labelled (Click here for an explanation of the labeling). On the other hand terms like “Natural” have no real definition so it can mean whatever a manufacturer wants it to mean.
So why should you buy organic food? These are the usual points put forward for and against:
- Kinder to the environment – Organic farming is sustainable, helps wildlife and avoids any pollution.
- Better for you – When foods are produced using pesticides and chemicals it is inevitable that some end up in the body. This results in things like increased risk of cancer and damage to the nervous system. All this is avoided with organic foods.
- More nutritious – Because organic food is produced naturally it contains more nutrients and digestion of these is not inhibited by chemical residues. In intensive rearing systems animals are kept indoors, fed food which is not natural for them and filled with drugs to keep them healthy. Can it be healthy for us to eat this meat?
- Tastes Better – Many people are convinced this is true, particularly in the case of meat.
- Costs More – Organic food costs at least 10% more than the equivalent conventional food.
- Does Not Keep As Well – Because it does not contain preservatives some organic food will “go off” sooner than the equivalent conventional food.
- Not As Attractive – Organic produce may be odd shapes, varying colors or smaller sizes.
- Not Practical – Yields not as high or predictable and will not feed a growing population.
Whilst the environmental benefits of organic food are clear the other benefits, whilst appearing logical, are still the subject of debate. However, many people are convinced of the benefits and some diet programs have organic food as a key part of a healthy diet and also as a key part of losing weight.