Nutrition Articles

Why Go Organic?

Healthy Body, Healthy Planet

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A healthy diet requires more than simply cutting out junk food—it involves getting the most nutritional value out of every bite you take. It takes good food to build a fit body. But did you know that your food choices also have an impact on the environment? If you’d like both a healthy body and a healthy planet, consider going organic.

Definition of Organic
An organic product is raised, grown, and processed without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, antibiotics or hormones. Only farmers who produce food according to USDA organic standards and become certified by an independent third-party accredited agent can label their product as "certified organic" (with the exception of very small farms with sales under $5000 annually). The term "conventional" describes non-organic farming practices.

The Benefits of Organic Food
According to a 2001 study, today’s conventionally grown fruits and vegetables have about half the vitamin content of their 1963 counterparts. Organically grown food, however, is more nutritious than food produced using synthetic chemicals, as shown by a study published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition in 1993. On average, organically grown food is 63 percent higher in calcium, 73 percent higher in iron and 118 percent higher in magnesium, while being 29 percent lower in mercury.

Besides potentially providing more nutrition per bite, organic food may also help you fight off disease. You may have heard of flavonoids, which plants produce in response to environmental stresses, such as competing plants or insects. Flavonoids have high levels of antioxidants, which serve as the plant’s natural defense and help us fight disease as well. Research suggests that pesticides and herbicides interfere with the production of these protective compounds.

According to the 2005 State of Science Review (SSR) by the Organic Center, antioxidant levels are about 30 percent higher in organic food than chemically-grown foods produced under the same conditions. Most antioxidants are found in the peels of fruits and vegetables, but many people cut away the peel of conventionally grown produce to reduce their exposure to pesticides. Since it is safer to eat the skin of an organic fruit or vegetable, you get the maximum amount of antioxidants from your produce when you buy organic.

Scientists now have a better understanding of how disease and environmental toxins are linked and have proven that exposure to chemical fertilizers and pesticides does impact our health. Some pesticides have been shown to disrupt the human endocrine system (which regulates our hormones), while others have been linked to breast cancer, uterine cancer and asthma.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • Make it affordable and I will buy it. ROFL........ - 8/26/2014 6:27:39 PM
  • Certain pesticides, like Sevin Dust, are more hazardous to the environment than the CO2 or Nitrogen, which is already abundant in our environment. Also, some fertilizer companies are already reducing the amount of Nitrogen in their composition because it evaporates very quickly. Are you aware that the earth's atmosphere is 78% Nitrogen making it the most abundant gas on our planet? Are you aware that CO2 is used by plants for photosynthesis!? Regardless, the best source to get the Nitrogen into the soil is by plant decomposition and tilling decaying plant material back into the earth. Additives and pesticides are very expensive and hurts the farmer's bottom line, so they actually use less than you think.

    Also, the actual volume usage of pesticides on organic farms is not recorded by the government? Yes, they do use pesticides! Rotenone is a common pesticide used in organic farms which attacks the mitochondria of cells and it has been linked to Parkinson Disease!

    Sevin Dust, as many other pesticides, is far more dangerous to our environment because it kills pollinating insects such as bees, and yet it is widely used by home owners. The bee population is quickly diminishing and in many cases, it is the home owners' fault!

    Rather than writing my own article in this comment section... let me just say that I prefer purchasing local produce. As for my garden, I prefer natural methods of gardening, making my own compost (adding things like egg shells are great for adding calcium to tomato plants), and using beneficial insects such as lady bugs.

    Always do your own research. I learned a lot from Virginia Tech Master Gardeners. Here is another place that you may want to start...

    http://blogs.sc
    ientificameri
    can.com/scien
    ce-sushi/2011
    /07/18/mythbu
    sting-101-org
    anic-farming-
    conventional-agriculture/
    - 5/27/2014 7:34:03 AM
  • We here in north Queensland have the wonderful access to the Farmers Market where there is a lot of locally grown foods, we, here at home grow a lot of our own veggies, our family combined share what we grow so a lot of what I consume is fresh. - 8/31/2013 1:37:54 AM
  • Great article. I am just goibg for health food to help me. - 8/11/2013 4:26:05 PM
  • ETHELMERZ
    If everyone ate only organic, there would not be enough land in the world to supply the food for them, think about the reality of that, people. Quit living a fantasy dream life. You are lucky many are eating fresh vegetables and fruits just the way they are. To supply all the people on earth with Organic food is ridiculous, stop the nagging about it. - 6/21/2013 9:53:57 PM
  • Great article!!! I have three grandchildren and I have been told they have the opportunity to live well into their nineties and my littlest could hit 110 years old. I only hope that somehow miraculously there will be clean water, wholesome food and an environment to exercise in without face masks or oxygen hits. Eating organic is one great way to support reversal of our food systems and encourage moving in these directions. Keep healthy, eat well and always be grate-full!!!! - 2/18/2013 4:26:20 AM
  • AMANDA_YVONNE
    I think the biggest reason to buy organic is to avoid genetically modified food, but that's just my 2 cents... - 1/17/2013 11:50:31 AM
  • I can't go to do grocery; but sometime my children brings organic foods and they don't know if organic foods. The best things is growing our own food. - 10/26/2012 4:55:23 PM
  • FLOWERSFORIRIS
    P.S. Check out the history of DDT if you want to get a good idea of our track record on "safety" in our food supply. There are old commercials for DDT that show children being sprayed to demonstrate how harmless it is, and now we know that it is extremely harmful to the environment. Just use common sense! If it stinks and gives you a migraine, don't spray it on something you are going to eat (and for God sakes, don't spray the kids!). - 8/1/2012 5:10:14 AM
  • FLOWERSFORIRIS
    This is a response to NWORKENTINE (see below). Your comment left me uneasy for many reasons, one of them being that this website is viewed by so many people looking for good information on what they should be eating. I have a degree in environmental science and I have been growing my own produce in my garden since I was about ten or so. Knowing my background, of course you will say, "Well, she's just a treehugger supporting expensive farming methods that benefit no one!" The truth is that if you take a supermarket tomato that has been flown from who knows which country and compare it to a sun-ripened tomato that has just been picked from your organic vegetable garden, you will undoubtedly find that the organic one tastes 100% better than the supermarket tomato. Scientists have studied lycopene and other phytochemicals and most reputable ones have come to the conclusion that we don't know as much about whole foods as we thought we knew. There are so many other important phytochemicals that we have not even touched, and you are basically saying that the soil our food grows in does not matter??? I say it does. Organic farming is good for everyone; I really don't see how you can possibly support your argument. I am not trying to start a fight; I am just curious to see where you get your information. - 8/1/2012 5:04:52 AM
  • It's all about petro chemicals versus a healthy, organic, natural soil. It's your choice. Choose cancer or live cancer-free. Looks to me like cancer rates have shot sky-high since farmers started using chemical fertilizers. We were far better off in the 1950s when small farmers grew their own crops for their neighbors, when their chickens ran free in the yard, and without all those chemicals leeching all the nutrients out of the soil. The taste of organic beef is highly superior to that of antibiotic-laced meat. - 7/31/2012 9:31:26 AM
  • We need to fight for our right to buy healthy foods!!! Keep buying organic, think of the benefits and how America's processed foods have taken over our children's diets. These companies reap ALL the benefits, while hurting us. The more we buy and demand, these Monetary Monsters will have to label our products correctly and give in to a healthier way!!! - 7/10/2012 8:52:54 AM
  • NWORKENTINE
    This article really discredits this website. I tell people that eating organic is a personal choice. There is insufficient evidence to say either way that organic foods are better for you, better tasting or better for the environment. There is plenty of research to say it does none of those and there is some research that says it does do those. It's unfortunate the the author uses a study that is nearly 20 years old - that is significantly outdated.
    Current research shows that all non-organic fruits and vegetables fall within the FDA's safe levels of pesticide and other chemical residue. In fact, with the current washing techniques, the chemical residue is well below the upper safe limit. Organic produce only improves this slightly, but it still contains chemical residue. Taste is purely suggestive, and most people even prefer the taste of non-organic food.
    Coming from the corn-belt and knowing very well the processes that are required to be able to sustain the soil after decades of use, you cannot rely on mother earth alone to be able to maintain the soil's fertility levels. Even then, current farming techniques have been shown to have minimal, if any, effect on the environment.

    Like I said, it is unfortunate that this article taints the credibility of SparkPeople. I constantly check articles that are written against current published research, and so far this website has been great. I felt comfortable recommending people to this website until now. - 6/26/2012 9:26:15 AM
  • The organic movement should be about sustainability. They way big ag is going now, we will be out of functional/health
    y farm land. Watch or read Food Inc. - 5/2/2012 7:22:58 PM
  • I personally am not entirely into the organic movement but I do believe that the pesticides have harmful side-effects of which we are not completely aware. I do however spend a little extra each month to buy some organic produce and grass-fed meats. My children can taste the difference in the produce and my oldest does not get intestinal distress when she she eats grass-fed beef as opposed to grain-fed beef. I have even noticed that one of my recipes seems less acidic when I use organic items when making it.

    As for depleting soil nutrients, crop rotation is the key to making sure that soil isn't entirely depleted of its nutrients. Some farmers even plant specific crops that are then tilled back into the soil to increase the nutrients in the soil. Most GOOD farmers practice crop rotation whether they are conventional or organic. - 12/5/2011 1:04:07 PM

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