Going ‘back to basics’ as it relates to our health, means focusing on simplicity, uncontaminated, and uncomplicated approaches to more than just clean water, but clean food and clean air as well. Let’s dig into clean eating—what to look for, what to avoid, and what it all means. Making a commitment to healthy eating is a great start towards a healthier life. Beyond eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and good fats however, there is the question of food safety, nutrition, and sustainability. How foods are grown or raised can impact both your health and the environment. This brings up the questions: What is the difference between organic foods and conventionally grown foods? Is “organic” always best? What about locally grown foods? Let’s find out!
For a food to be labeled “organic,” specific requirements must be met and maintained. The requirements for how organic foods can be grown are:
- crops must be grown in safe soil
- have no modifications
- must remain separate from conventional products
Farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, bio-engineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers
On the other hand, conventionally grown foods are grown with synthetic or chemical fertilizers. Weeds and pests are handled with chemical herbicides and insecticides, all of which the produce will have traces of. Organic farming requires natural fertilizers like manure and compost. Weeds are controlled naturally by crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching, and tilling. As for insect control, growing organic requires natural methods such as birds, good insect population, and traps.
In most countries, organic products do not contain GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, from plants or animals whose DNA has been altered. Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and be given organic feed. They may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal by-products. The evidence is unclear on whether organic food is more nutritious than non-organic or conventional food. However, organically grown fruits and vegetables may contain slightly higher levels of vitamin C, trace minerals, and antioxidant phytonutrients than conventionally grown produce.
The benefits of organic food versus conventional food are what keep us coming back to them! Studies have shown that organic foods offer more beneficial nutrients versus conventional as stated above. In addition, people with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives often find their symptoms lessen or go away when they eat only organic foods. Organic produce contains fewer pesticides as well. Pesticides are chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides. These chemicals are widely used in conventional agriculture and residues remain on (and in) the food we eat.
Maybe you’re wondering if pesticides matter all that much, but they do! Rinsing can reduce but does not eliminate pesticides. Peeling sometimes helps, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the skin. The best approach: eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and buy organic when possible. Visit the Environmental Working Group to take a peek at the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists for the most up-to-date info on which produce is best bought organic versus conventional.
“Each of us deserves to have access to life-changing information and education around our most valuable asset, our health.” –Kelly Engelmann, FNP-BC, Founder, Enhanced Wellness Living