Organic food, fresh or processed food produced by organic farming methods. Organic food is grown without the use of synthetic chemicals, such as human-made pesticides and fertilizers, and does not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic foods include fresh produce, meats, and dairy products as well as processed foods such as crackers, drinks, and frozen meals. The market for organic food has grown significantly since the late 20th century, becoming a multibillion dollar industry with distinct production, processing, distribution, and retail systems.
Organic Foods May Contain More Nutrients
Studies comparing the nutrient content of organic and non-organic foods have provided mixed results. This is most likely due to natural variation in food handling and production. However, evidence does suggest that foods grown organically may be more nutritious.
Organically Grown Crops Have More Antioxidants and Vitamins
Several studies have found that organic foods generally contain higher levels of antioxidants and certain micronutrients, such as vitamin C, zinc and iron. In fact, antioxidant levels can be up to 69% higher in these foods.
One study also found that organically grown berries and corn contained 58% more antioxidants and up to 52% higher amounts of vitamin C. What’s more, one study reported that replacing regular fruit, vegetables and cereals with organic versions could provide extra antioxidants in the diet. This was comparable to eating 1-2 extra portions of fruit and vegetables daily.
Organic plants do not rely on chemical pesticide sprays to protect themselves. Instead, they produce more of their own protective compounds, namely antioxidants. This may partly explain the higher levels of antioxidants in these plants.
Nitrate Levels are Generally Lower
Organically grown crops have also been shown to have lower levels of nitrate. In fact, studies have shown that nitrate levels are 30% lower in these crops. High nitrate levels are linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
They’re also linked to a condition called methemoglobinemia, a disease in infants that affects the body’s ability to carry oxygen.
That being said, many people believe that the harmful effects of nitrates have been overstated. The benefits of eating vegetables far outweigh any negative effects.
Organic Dairy and Meat May Have A More Favorable Fatty Acid Profile
Organic milk and dairy products may contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and slightly higher amounts of iron, vitamin E and some carotenoids.
However, organic milk may contain less selenium and iodine than non-organic milk, two minerals that are essential for health.
A review of 67 studies found that organic meat contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and slightly lower levels of saturated fats than conventional meat.
A higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with many health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease.