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Should You Eat Organic Food?

March 13th, 2012 · 2 Comments ·
 
 

 

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Ever since the economic downturn in year 2008, sales of organic food may have fallen, but the craze about it is still there. In fact, organic food business is a great success story.  In the UK alone, it is a £2 billion business.  In the USA, the sales topped $24 billion in year 2008.  You hardly see it for sale ten years ago, but now almost all supermarkets have a dedicated section selling organic vegetables, fruits and meat.  In fact, creative businessmen have come out with series of organic foods such as organic drinks, bread, yogurt and even organic burger.

Organic crops must be planted without using chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, and bioengineering.  They must be grown on land that is absent of any chemicals for a minimum of 3 years.  They are processed and packaged without the use of artificial preservatives or colorings.  Organic raised animals must be fed with organic food without using any growth hormones and antibiotics.  These animals must also have access to outdoors.

Sound good, but is organic food really better?

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Today, I will share with you my thoughts on this topic.

Some people go for organic produce because of worrying about ingesting chemical pesticides. However, the other school of thought argue that without man-made pesticides, the plants will produce natural toxins which may be harmful to human too.  It is like having its own chemical warfare to fend off the attack.  With or without that, organic certification does not mean the food is any safer from salmonella contamination when it is packaged. If you look at conventional vegetables, no doubt, right after the crop is harvested, they have pesticide residue.  However, as long as banned pesticides are not used (hopefully, by ethical farmers), the traces of pesticides left on these conventionally grown products are unlikely to cause an increased health risk.

Some people prefer organic food because they want to support farming practices that have the least negative impact to our earth. Some support it because it is better for animal welfare.  But, if everyone consumes only organic food, critics believe that organic farmers will not be able to produce enough to feed everybody, leaving many to hunger and malnutrition.  Yes, it is true that the yield for organic farming is lower than conventional farming.  In fact, organic farming is not economically viable in many poorer countries.  Organic food may have to travel 3000 miles to reach your kitchen, which much fossil fuel has to be burnt.  It is a no-no to environment, don’t you think so?

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Some people buy organic food because of the nutrition. Surprisingly, many scientific studies have found that no significant difference between organic and conventional food when comes to health benefits.  On the other hand, few other studies mentioned that organic produce is higher in vitamin C for certain fruits.  Also, organic tomatoes have more antioxidants compared to conventional one.  But, the opponent has another point – the differences of these few vitamins or minerals are so small that they have no impact on overall nutrition.

Now, you are confused, who is right and who is wrong?

First, we have to be opened to new evidence as scientific studies are so dynamic nowadays. Science is always subject to challenge based upon new observations or discoveries. The debate is far from resolved.  Nothing is definitive. Just like in the past, egg is an ideal protein source until somebody found that the yolk contributed much to the cholesterol.  At this point, based on the way the food is planted and handled, I have to agree organic foods seems to be beneficial.

However, I definitely discourage you to buy organic potato chips, organic frozen pizzas or organic ice cream.  Junk food is still a junk food, you are wasting your money, whether it is organic or not.

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Another point I want to stress, whether organic or not, make sure you eat them while they are still fresh.  It is pointless you only eat the expensive organic vegetables after storing it for a week.  Also, fresh food tastes better.  I guess that is reason people feel that organic food have more flavor.  Bear in mind that most organic farms tend to be smaller in operations and they often sell their products closer to the point of harvest.  So, it is normal that organic fruits or vegetables taste fresher than the comparable conventional produce.

In my opinion, eat variety. It does not matter whether they are conventional or organic.  I know of a friend who rather skip on conventional health foods to save the money to buy few organic items than buying more fruits and vegetables.  Do not avoid eating fruits or vegetables just because you cannot afford them.

Talking about price, organic foods cost almost twice as much.  I told my wife that we could not afford organic food.  But, once in a while, we will pick few packs during our grocery shopping.  We buy it not because it taste better or have more nutrition, but because the conventional ones are already out of stock.

If we opt for the conventional vegetables or fruits, we wash with running water to get the pesticides off.  Even with melons or oranges, we will still wash the inedible skins because cutting the rind with a knife may bring contaminants to the inside.   Yes, we worry about pesticides.

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Now, if I ever talk about organic food topic to my grandma, she will say nothing better than home grown food.  When she was young, she had her own farm at backyard.  She grew her own vegetables.

For those who decide to go for organic food, here are few tips:

  • Organic produce looks “ugly”.  Yes, it has imperfect look.
  • Organic food does not last as long as conventional food.  So, buy just enough for the next few days and do not buy it for the next 10-day supply.
  • You really need to watch your budget.  Organic food is never cheap.

Organic or conventionally grown? It is a personal choice.  You decide.  Let me know what you think.  Cheers.

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Category: Nutrition


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2 responses so far ↓
  • Yin Teing // Mar 17, 2012 at 10:20 PM

    Good article since you have mentioned in detail about the pro and cons of organic food- some which I’ve not even realised myself :)

    Organic food is more expensive- I remember years ago, with the price of two organic (very skinny) carrots, I could buy a pack of non organic ones for that price.

  • Tom Parker // Mar 20, 2012 at 9:48 PM

    Hey Mun,

    I too often stray away from organic foods because of the price. I’ve never actually heard the other side to the pesticides argument. I never even thought that plants might produce harmful toxins. Great article.

    Tom

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