When you see or hear the term “organic” at the grocery store, that might automatically sound like a healthier option, but what really are the benefits of consuming organic foods or having a mostly organic diet?
Firstly, what kind of people are eating organic food?
“Regular consumers of organic food are most likely to be female, health-conscious, physically active, and [...] they are also more likely to have a higher ratio of plant to animal foods, with a strong relationship between vegetarian/vegan consumers and organic consumption”. Studies have shown that those who are consuming organic foods are also healthy in other aspects of their lifestyles and diets. So, is it really the organic food that has benefits, or is it just that those consuming the organic food are already healthy to begin with?
There is some evidence to show that organic food could be healthier than conventional food. The benefits of consuming organic food include: “higher antioxidant concentrations [...] in organic crops; increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids in organic dairy products; and improved fatty acid profiles in organic meat products”. Consuming more antioxidants may reduce the risk of heart disease and other illnesses/diseases, and consuming omega-3s can lower your blood pressure and improve heart health. So, these health benefits may come with consuming more organic foods and making them a bigger part of your diet.
There are some things that conventional food has that is not found in organic food. Organic foods have been shown to have lower levels of toxic metabolites, including heavy metals such as cadmium, and synthetic fertilizer and pesticide residues [and they] [...] may also reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria”. While there isn’t much research showing the benefits of lower levels of pesticide residue that are provided by organic foods, it is safe to say that having these lower levels are bound to do less harm, especially since regulations emphasize that they need to be kept under a certain level for conventional foods. Having too much pesticide exposure can cause issues with the nervous system because of pesticide poisoning, but this is more likely to happen to those who actually work with pesticides and less likely to happen to someone consuming pesticides in their food.
It seems like there definitely needs to be more research done about the benefits of organic food compared to conventional food, but there are some advantages like the ones described above. If you don’t want to go on a fully organic diet or can’t go on a fully organic diet because it may be more expensive, picking up some organic produce, dairy products, or meat from the store every once in a while definitely wouldn’t harm you, and it wouldn’t break the bank, either.
Author: Lauryn Agron
Editor: Sophia Galvez
Health scientist: Hira Mughal
1. Vigar, V., Myers, S., Oliver, C., Arellano, J., Robinson, S., & Leifert, C. (2019, December 18). A systematic review of organic versus conventional food consumption: Is there a measurable benefit on human health? Nutrients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019963/.