In recent years, the media has repeatedly referred to the various benefits of organic food compared to the unhealthy and, at times, dangerous qualities of non-organic food.
Suddenly, our weekly grocery shops became a challenge to only buy the best organic ingredients. But how can organic food really benefit our health?
And is it worth spending extra money on organic rather than saving on cheap supermarket favourites?
Studies investigating the health benefits of organic food are conflicting. So what’s the best way to ensure we benefit from the food we eat?
Carrots are one of the world’s most popular vegetables as a staple of millions of meals across the globe.
They are famed for their vitamin-rich, health-boosting qualities, particularly for eyesight.
With around 800 million people suffering from blindness or a severe visual impairment, it’s no wonder these vision-boosting vegetables have become so popular.
The high content of carotene is processed by the body into vitamin A which is a powerful vitamin for promoting eye health.
Research suggests that organic carrots provide more of the antioxidant compounds and natural nutrients than carrots grown with the aid of chemical pesticides.
Without chemicals protecting the plants from harm, the plants themselves produce nutrients and metabolites as a self-defense mechanism.
It just so happens that these protective compounds are particularly beneficial for our health.
It is also believed that organic fruit and vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and oranges contain higher levels of vitamin C, D and E.
These vitamins are essential for general health and reducing the risk of infection.
Vitamin E, in particular can reduce the risk of developing cataracts when consumed regularly.
In terms of vitamin consumption,
western diets are believed to be severely deficient and it is thought that chemical pesticides harm the natural vitamin-rich integrity of fruit and vegetables.
Whilst eating more fruit and vegetables would be the best way to ensure we get enough of the good stuff,
organic produce could provide an important boost to our diets.
In addition, organic animal produce is believed to be safer and contain more essential antioxidants.
Antioxidants are famed for their ability to reduce harmful free radicals in the body to support a healthy immune system.
Milk from organic cattle has been found to contain 50-80% higher levels of antioxidants than normal milk.
Despite this, a review of 237 research studies into organic food found no consistent differences in the vitamin content.
However, there was a difference in the pesticide residue in the organic products;
one explanation for why many people choose organic over conventionally farmed foods.
Pesticides are commonly used to reduce the risk of insects and other pests damaging the crops,
and to maintain the longer shelf life of fruit and vegetables.
Without these, organic products are undoubtedly more natural but they may spoil more quickly.
Although the overall evidence about the benefits of organic food is conflicting,
it is clear that the essential nutrients and vitamins in fruit and vegetables are essential to the body’s healthy development and repair.
Whilst the elimination of chemical pesticides would undoubtedly provide a more natural end result, the difference in vitamin levels is difficult to accurately measure.
Nevertheless, by eating more fruit and vegetables and ensuring we choose a balanced, healthy diet, our bodies are sure to benefit from the whole range of nutrients naturally found in these products.
It’s also important to remember that organic versions of food products are, on average, 20% more expensive so you would need to weigh up the potential health benefits against the additional cost of going organic.
License: Royalty Free or iStock
License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/images/results.aspx?qu=milk&ex=1#ai:MP900411701|
License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/images/results.aspx?qu=eyes&ex=1#ai:MP900422196|mt:2|
Victoria writes about health and nutrition for cheap glasses online retailer, Direct Sight.