You are holding two tomatoes. One is labelled organic, and the other is a conventionally grown tomato. Both tomatoes are red, shiny, and firm. Both provide vitamins and fibre, and both are free of cholesterol and low in sodium. However, the cost of the organic tomato is double that of the conventional tomato. Does the price difference indicate that the organic one is better, more nutritious or safer? Here are some aspects of organic food for you to chew on.
There is a lot of hype about organic food and it’s benefits on health when compared to conventional food. This article addresses some of the questions you may have about organic food.
What are “organic” food?
Food labelled as organic refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products such as fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat without using artificial fertilisers and pesticides.
For example, instead of spraying insecticides to reduce pests and diseases, organic farmers will use insects and birds or traps to reduce pests.
Are they worth the cost?
Organic food cost more due to the expensive farming practices and tighter government regulations. Since farmers use manual labour to remove the weeds around their crops instead of using herbicides, this increases the price.
Therefore, when you buy organic food, you are actually paying for the reassurance and luxury of knowing that the food has been handled with care.
To buy or not to buy?
Now that you know the basics about organic food, the question now is whether to buy or to bypass? Consider these factors:
There is no conclusive evidence to show that organic food is better for health or that non-organic food is harmful to health. Your body is capable of dealing with both natural and synthetic compounds in the tiny amounts present in food.
There is also not much evidence that organic food contains more nutrients than non-organic food.
So, what determines the nutrient levels in food? The nutrients in your food depend on the types of food, how fresh they are and how you cook or store them. For example, meat is healthier if it is lean compared to a fatty cut even if both cuts are from the same animal. Another example is cooking food using low-fat methods such as steaming, stir-frying and roasting rather than deep-frying. This holds true whether the food is organic or not. You may also realise that some nutrients, especially the heat-sensitive and water-soluble vitamins, deteriorate with prolonged cooking.
Some people say they can taste the difference between organic and non-organic food, while others find no difference. You will have to decide this, bearing in mind that taste is very subjective and finding the freshest food available may have the biggest effect on the taste of your food.
Quality and Appearance
Organic food and conventional food go through the same quality and safety standards and processes. You will find that in most cases, organic food looks identical to their non-organic counterpart, except for the occasional odd shapes and smaller sizes for organic food.
You may also find that organic fruit and vegetables spoil faster because they are not treated with the edible waxes and preservatives.
Organic food may be more expensive because of the farming methods use. If budget is an issue, just buy regular produce, wash it well and cook it right for maximum nutrient retention.
What is more important?
The most important consideration is not whether you are eating an organic produce, but whether you are enjoying a healthy, balanced diet. It is more important to concentrate on getting your two servings each of fruit and vegetable daily, while keeping fat, sugar and salt to the minimum.
There is no point in restricting your healthy food intake or withholding essential and healthy food such as fruit and vegetables from your diet just because they are non-organic. If you withhold essential food, it means that you are withholding important food nutrients that cannot be produced by your body, yet needed for your health and well-being.