Organic: What Does it Actually Mean?

Buying organic foods is a habit that seems to be automatically tied with eating healthier. The label "organic" makes most of us think that that product is innately better for us and better quality than the non-organic alternative. However, most of us don't truly know what organic actually means - free of pesticides? free of hormones? grass-fed? free-range? higher in nutrients? The reality is, organic foods aren't a feasible option for many people as they are significantly more expensive, but are they even worth it? Let's take a look at what it actually means and whether there are any proven health benefits.

What is organic?

In the UK, the Soil Association governs the standards of organic produce and certifies products as organic. These are the standards here in the UK:
  • Fewer pesticides
  • No artificial colours and preservatives
  • Free range
  • No antibiotics 
  • No genetically modified ingredients 

However, organic does not mean completely chemical-free. There are a list of pesticides and chemicals that are approved for use on organic products so they are not entirely free of chemicals but the amounts used are much lower and weaker than in normal products.

Is organic healthier?

There are many ways that you can compare organic vs. non-organic in terms of how healthy they are, but the obvious one is the amount of nutrients they contain. The answer is that research shows that organic products do have higher levels of many nutrients:
  • Organic meat and dairy is 50% higher in omega-3s
  • Organic fruits and vegetables have significantly higher amounts of antioxidants 
  • Organic fruits and vegetables have higher amounts of some vitamins and minerals 

Although organic foods are slightly higher in many nutrients, it does not mean the non-organic products aren't high in nutrients. Normal blueberries are still a nutritional powerhouse! It also does not change things like the fibre content or the fat content, a normal avocado is still a great source of healthy fats.

What's the verdict?

If you can afford organic foods, they are higher in some nutrients, they are better for the environment and they have much less chemicals in them so are more natural and as nature intended. However, healthy foods are still healthy foods, buying fresh fruits and vegetables will always be healthy for you no matter whether they are organic or not. So if you are interested in lowering your intake of chemicals and being more environmentally-friendly, then opting for organic foods when you can is a great decision, but it isn't something worth stressing over!
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