This question has been asked more than once, especially by those who choose ordinary fruits and vegetables as opposed to organic ones, when doing their grocery shopping. However, some studies have shown that there are clear differences between the two options.
The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. The regulations vary from country to country. In the U.S., organic crops must be grown without using synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
Moreover, organic livestock raised for meat, eggs, and dairy products must be allowed access to the outdoors and be fed organic food. Antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal by-products are also forbidden in order to be able to label the end product as organic.
Although some argue that both conventional food and organic farming one taste the same, the fact remains that when it comes to conventional farming certain synthetic pesticides are used.
What studies tell us
A study conducted by Prof. Carlo Leifert at Newcastle University concludes that there are statistically significant and meaningful differences between the two types of food. According to this, a range of antioxidants is substantially higher in organic food, with variations ranging from 19% to 69%.
The researchers state that the increased levels of antioxidants are equivalent to one or two portions of the five fruits and vegetables serving recommended to be consumed daily. This could mean that organic food is significantly more nutritious for human consumption.
Leifert’s study concludes that many antioxidants “have previously been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and certain cancers”. However, it also notes that long-term studies are necessary in order to show the health benefits of an organic diet, and these have not been conducted yet.
The researchers also found much higher levels of cadmium, a toxic metal, in conventional crops. Moreover, pesticide residues were found four times more often on conventional crops than on organic food.
What are the potential risks of pesticides?
We most probably have an accumulated build-up of pesticides in our bodies due to continuous exposure. This chemical “body burden”, as it is medically known, could lead to health issues such as headaches and add strain on a weakened immune system.
Children are, of course, most vulnerable to pesticide exposure because their bodies, brains, and immune systems are still under development. Similarly, pregnant women are prone to be more sensitive, as the substances add more stress to their bodies which is already going through many changes.
Let’s take a look at what makes consumers choose organic food when shopping for their groceries. 53% of them choose organic food in order to avoid chemical residues, 55% want to eat healthier, while 35% just like the taste better.
Whatever your reason might be, adopting a healthy lifestyle and diet is always a good idea.