Why organic food is good for your health

Organic produce

If there was a time to learn more about organic food, it would be now. September is annually observed as Organic Harvest Month, aiming to celebrate the benefits of incorporating organic food into your diet. However, there are still many misconceptions floating around about what exactly makes organic food “organic” and how it can truly have a positive impact on your health. 

How does organic produce differ from non-organic food?

At first glance, iIt may be difficult to tell apart non-organic and organic produce as more often than not there is little difference in the physical appearance and even the taste of the two kinds of produce. What does distinguish them, however, is the means of production. The Department for Agriculture and Rural Affairs defines food as organic if it is produced in a farm that does not use chemicals such as pesticides, growth regulators and feed additives on the land (1). Not only does this practice promote environmental sustainability, but research also hints at the several health benefits of consuming organic produce, which will be highlighted below. 

Say no to harmful pesticides

One advantage of eating organic food is that it has a smaller quantity of pesticides and nitrates in comparison to non-organic counterparts. A 2005 study confirmed that diets predominantly containing organic food drastically decrease exposure to some of the most commonly used pesticides in agricultural production (2). But how exactly is this beneficial? 

Most studies on the health risks associated with pesticides tend to focus on their impacts on people who are exposed to them for occupational reasons, such as farmers and chemists. Chronic, low-dose exposures to pesticides among these groups is crucially linked to higher rates of respiratory problems, memory disorders, skin conditions, miscarriage, birth defects and cancer (3). Reset Your Health has advocated for switching to organic in order to limit your intake of glyphosate, which reduces your body’s availability of essential compounds such as magnesium and vitamin D. 

Also, it is strongly suggested that pesticide residues in commercial food products can have harmful effects on children. For example, a study from 2010 showed a strong correlation between the urinary concentration of the pesticide dimethyl alkyl phosphate and ADHD diagnosis in children between the ages of 8 and 15- although more studies still need to be done to determine whether one directly influences the other! (4). 

What are the nutritional benefits of organic produce?

As well as  reducing your intake of pesticides, eating organic can bring many additional advantages to your health. Multiple studies have been undertaken which support this claim, such as a 2010 paper published in the Alternative Medicine Review (5). 

For several foods, the organic varieties have significantly higher levels of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus than the non-organic varieties. The same study showed that most organic varieties of fruits and vegetables have higher levels of antioxidants[1] . So, organic produce is likely better at suppressing the ability of toxic compounds in the body to cause mutation, preventing certain cancer cell lines from growing rapidly. However, scientists are still trying to confirm this through direct experimentation on humans as all available evidence comes from test tube based studies- but they do show promise. 

These benefits don’t just apply to fruits and vegetables, the same report also revealed that consuming organically farmed dairy products (such as milk and yogurt) is beneficial to health when looking at skin irritation issues such as dermatitis. A different study also showed that organic dairy has 50% more omega-3 than normal milk (6). Much like with Vitamin C and antioxidants, we can’t definitively say how this benefits your body in the long term, but the extra nutrients are certainly advantageous.!

Not all foods are equal

One problem of going completely organic is  the generally higher prices of organic produce compared to non-organic varieties. Although the benefits outweigh the price tag, shopping around to find cheaper prices and buying directly from farmers are easy ways to cut costs.  

However, you don’t necessarily need to buy everything organic. Take a look at this post on our blog which lists the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen”: the fruits and vegetables least and most treated with pesticides. Organic purchases are more effective for the products in the “Dirty Dozen” list, as these normally contain the most pesticide residues, so if you can’t afford to go completely organic just buy those.  

While more research still needs to be done, eating more organic produce is a realistic yet extremely beneficial way to improve your dietary health this Organic Month. You can take this one step further and sign up for the Reset Your Health Plan, where you can take a greater focus on having healthier eating habits through an all-natural, additive-free diet. 

References

1. DEFRA. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs [Internet]. GOV.UK. 2019. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-environment-food-rural-affairs

2. Lu C, Toepel K, Irish R, Fenske RA, Barr DB, Bravo R. Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children’s Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2006 Feb;114(2):260–3.

3. Forman J, Silverstein J. Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages. PEDIATRICS [Internet]. 2012 Oct 22 [cited 2019 Oct 26];130(5):e1406–15. Available from: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/5/e1406.long

4. Bouchard MF, Bellinger DC, Wright RO, Weisskopf MG. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides. PEDIATRICS. 2010 May 17;125(6):e1270–7.

5. Crinnion WJ. Organic foods contain higher levels of certain nutrients, lower levels of pesticides, and may provide health benefits for the consumer. Alternative Medicine Review: A Journal of Clinical Therapeutic [Internet]. 2010 Apr 1 [cited 2020 Nov 7];15(1):4–12. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20359265/

6. Mie A, Andersen HR, Gunnarsson S, Kahl J, Kesse-Guyot E, Rembiałkowska E, et al. Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: a comprehensive review. Environmental Health [Internet]. 2017 Oct 27;16(1). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5658984/