Organic food has been getting a lot of attention on the grocery aisles these days. What with news about adulteration, the scare about genetically modified foods affecting our health, and the plight of the Indian farmer as a result of the land becoming dependent on chemical pesticides and fertilizers, people have cited many reasons for contemplating a switch in their choices. But, what are the benefits of organic foods?
The humble beginnings of organic food
Initially, organic food production involved small local farmers and home gardeners who prepared fresh produce only for their consumption. While today the organic market is an intricate combination of small and large food producers and distributors. The wide variety of products started with fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and also extended to processed foods.
Because of a consistently evolving way of life and the increasing incidence of lifestyle-related ailments, consumers are showing an enthusiasm for a preventive lifestyle as opposed to a curative approach. Originally, organic was only seen as chemical-free, ecologically beneficial food. It was never seen as ‘trendy’, which has been a recent development, wherein one considers switching to organic as more fashionable. Perhaps we could blame the hipsters for that?
However, organic food is more than a dietary fad. There are myriad benefits associated with going organic.
Leave nature alone: how organic food choices help preserve nature
Organic farming is based on nature’s patterns and ability to nourish the land, and is free from human meddling through extensive farming methods and altering the balance of the inherent roles of the crops.
For the longest time, proponents of scientific methods had convinced farmers that chemical fertilizers are indispensable, to control pests and insects from destroying the crops. However, research has proven that many such efforts to create a conducive ecological environment are actually destructive; a crop/tree grows best in its natural habitat.
Soil enriches itself year in and year out without man having to lift his finger. On the other hand, pesticides ruin the soil and create a pollution problem. Science is no match for nature in terms of the quality of the food it helps to create, and it has managed only to fabricate synthetic food products.
The application of toxic pesticides to crops kills off pollinating insects such as bees, forcing a man to artificially pollinate the blossoms. FAO promotes organic agriculture, considering their potential for mitigating and adapting to climate change while optimizing nutrient and energy flow in the agro-ecosystem.
Opting for organic foods is a first step towards the restoration of Nature.
Why is there a need for organic food
The need for organic products rose as there was a menacing usage of fertilizers and insecticides in farming in order to improve agricultural outcomes. Adulteration was another reason where the consumers became more conscious about choosing food products blindly.
It is also essential to consider that organic production respects the environment and is sustainable over the long term.
Organic vs. conventional produce
Organic foods appear to be safe when compared to conventional produce. In organic farming, to retain the nutritional value of the soil, they follow natural methods of crop rotation which restores the depleted nutrients. Here the crops grow in a self-sufficient environment and man is able to grasp the natural essence because of its true form with good nutritional value.
Organic food is higher in certain key areas such as antioxidants, phenolics and flavonoids.
Studies show marginal nutritional significance of organic products over conventional products. Phenolics are important for plant health to protect itself from insects and diseases and also in human health for its antioxidant property.
Organic food is grown, handled and processed very differently from conventionally-grown food. This is a careful, methodical process, as organic foods are required to meet stringent certification standards, and hence, are more reliable.
A question of taste
Each one of us has a different preference when it comes to taste and flavour. If you are not growing your own food, you would have no idea what fresh vegetables and fruits actually taste like. In conventional or commercial farming taste is one among many other desirable characters as size, firmness, colour and resistance to a pest.
The positive aspect of commercial food supply is abundant and inexpensive supply, independent of the season or geography but the cost of these benefits is loss in natural taste, flavour and worse, nutritional value and biodiversity.
Organic and health
Consumption of organically grown foods are a great way to avoid pesticides and metal contaminants from reaching your plate.
Going organic makes sense for the vulnerable groups of consumers like infants, pregnant or lactating women, and elderly individuals. Since the immune system is only developing at the infancy stage, babies exposed to certain contaminants may not be able to rid their body of the contaminants, thereby possibly leading to neurological and reproductive damages.
Organic is not just another diet fad – we cannot relate the consumption of organic products with weight loss. Going organic involves people reducing their intake of food tainted with synthetic chemicals and toxins, especially with respect to their choice of meat, which are shot full of hormones and antibiotics.
The organic solution
Specific organic foods, like all other foods, will have more of one kind of nutrient, and others will have more of another. That is the reason to include diversity in one’s diet that will provide more beneficial and protective functions.
Various organic brands in the market provide a range of products to consumers and in the end, it’s your personal lifestyle choice to go organic. It is necessary that one chooses organic food on grounds more reliable than just as a trend.
Do not fall prey into the fallacious trap of ‘Organic’. Read labels! There are plenty of processed foods in the market where just because they claim organic does not mean it is a healthy alternative to conventional food. Check for sugar, fat and salt content.
If you want fewer pesticides in your body, in soil and water, organic produce is a good alternative. As a bonus, organic foods have an intangible value for those who care about the ecology and biodiversity.