Are Organic Foods Healthier for You?

May 26, 2010 by Terri  
Filed under Holistic Nutrition

What makes a food product “organic?” Organic foods must meet certain standards established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, such as being produced without the use of hormones, herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics or fertilizers created with sewer waste or ingredients that aren’t natural.  This alone makes organic foods healthier for you; they have not been contaminated with potentially harmful chemicals during the processing of that item. However, while the USDA certifies organic foods, they don’t claim that these products are safer or more nutritious.

Animal products that are labeled as organic must come from animals that are only feed organic feed, without antibiotics or growth hormones. These animals must also be able to freely roam around outdoors,  rather than be constantly stuck in cages or pens.

One thing you may have noticed about organic foods is that they tend to cost more than conventionally grown foods.  The main reason for the higher prices is that regular food products that are not considered to be organic, are subsidized by the government, making them less expensive to produce and bring to market.  If the government subsidized organically grown foods, very likely the price would be about the same as conventionally grown food. In addition to not being subsidized, without all the commercial pesticides, farmers run a greater risk of losing part, or even all, of their crop.  Then there’s the matter of  not being able to use every acre to grow “cash crops” that bring the highest prices. Organic farmers use crop rotation to keep their soil healthy. So instead of planting crops on every acre every year, they rotate fields and plant “cover crops” that are plowed to improve the soil’s nutrients for the long term.

Organic Food Labeling

Some food products are labeled “100% Organic,” and some are just labeled as being “organic” (meaning they’re at least 95% organic).  Food products that are “made with organic ingredients” contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. The organic seal can’t be used on packages that read “made with organic ingredients.”

You may see other terms on food labels, such as “all-natural,” “free-range” (you’ll see this on egg cartons) or “hormone-free.”  Don’t confuse terms like “all natural” with the term “organic.” Only those foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled organic.