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Organic Food Basics

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Organic food is very much “in“ at the present day. What’s more, there is almost no supermarket from whose shelves the organic fruit, vegetables, meat, milk, eggs, or even wine, do not invite the consumers to buy them. Accordingly, the demand for such products is also growing.

Organic food is the one which, during its growth, production, factory processing, and storage are not exposed to the treatments with synthetic pesticides and herbicides, or other artificial chemical agents. Organic food does not contain the genetically modified raw materials, and its goal is the sustainable agricultural system.

In livestock and poultry breeding, the principles of the natural breeding without the use of chemicals, antibiotics, or hormones are also respected, and the animals are allowed to freely roam around in their natural surroundings. The organic food production stresses the environmental and soil protection and preservation.

Organic food does not lack the strong promotion, but numerous buyers who are hesitant to pay more money for the visually inferior fruit and vegetables exist (by definition, organic food is more expensive). In spite of this, the organic food market records a great increase, primarily due to the increase of the consumers’ awareness towards human health and the environmental protection.

A recently conducted survey among the Americans has shown that 80 % of the participants are willing to pay more for a meal in a restaurant that uses the organically grown food because that is how they contribute to the environmental protection. Around 65 % of the participants would pay up to 10 % more, and only 15 % of participants are not willing to pay more money for a meal at an eco-friendly restaurant.

A significant increase in the ecological awareness can also be noted in Europe, which is an observation that is based on the increased demand for organic food and in the ever-increasing number of the specialized stores that sell the ecologically grown food and other products.

In this day and age, in which the scientific community recognizes the importance of food and the preservation of health, it is impossible to ignore the question of whether the organic food has greater health value from the conventionally produced food.

The word of science

Numerous studies have dealt with the comparison of the nutritive values of organic and conventional foods and, even though the experts are far from reaching a consensus, there is more and more scientific evidence that the organic food could truly have a higher nutritive value than the one grown by conventional methods.

The advocates of organic food consider the work published in the magazine called Alternative Therapies in 1998 very important, and it brings a review of 34 studies that have compared the nutritive composition of both organic and conventional foods. The analysis has, namely, indicated that the higher protein quality, a higher concentration of the vitamin C, and the majority of minerals exist in the organic food.

On the similar path are also the newest studies, which are systemically discovering a greater concentration of the beneficial antioxidants and vitamin C in the organically grown peaches, pears, blackberries, strawberries, and potato, for example, while the organic tomato has most recently been declared superior to the conventional one. The scientists provide an explanation for this.

Namely, in any given stage of the plant’s growth, the most important factor is the availability of nitrogen. In the conventional growth, nitrogen is being added in its soluble form – as a fertilizer, while inorganic growth, the plant doesn’t receive any fertilizers, but instead uses its own defensive mechanisms that increase the nitrogen levels. As a result, during the conventional growth, a plant loses its ability to resist various diseases and also contains lower levels of nutrients, minerals, and secondary metabolites.

The review of 41 studies that have compared the nutritive value of the organically and conventionally grown fruit, vegetables, and cereals, has spawned the concrete numbers. Namely, it has been shown that the organic food provides 27 % more of vitamin C, 22.1 % more iron, 29.3 % more magnesium, and 13.6 % more phosphorus than its conventional counterpart.

This review has also discovered that the recommended 5 servings of the organic fruit and vegetables satisfy the daily needs of men and women for vitamin C, which is something that cannot be said for the conventionally grown food. Additionally, organic food contained 15 % less of the harmful nitrates, which are, generally, an integral part of the artificial fertilizers.

A big plus for the organic food has recently been gained by the results of a 4-year project, which was financed by the EU and which has shown that the organically grown fruit and vegetables contain up to 40 % more antioxidants, as well as higher concentrations of minerals such as iron and zinc.

We are still far away from the point where we can undoubtedly claim that the organic food is nutritionally superior, taking into consideration the evidence that the nutritive differences between the organic and the conventional food do not exist. A probably much greater hit for the organic food advocates is the official attitude of the esteemed institutions such as the Food Standards Agency (FSA) or USDA, which do not consider the organically grown food more nutritionally valuable than the conventional one.

Organic vs. Conventional food – a question of health safety

On the other hand, the fact that the conventionally grown food contains more synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other chemicals is undeniable. Even though the general attitude is that these agents are used in the amount that is insufficient to harm our health, there are still some indications about their harmful effects. It is not on rare occasions that the agricultural chemicals are being connected to some types of cancer, reduced fertility in men, or various types of allergic reactions.

The concern is extremely high when it comes to infants, pregnant women, and the women who are breastfeeding. It is even believed that the consummation of the conventional foods and the pesticides they contain is the cause of the increasing number of allergic reactions in children.

If you want to remove the pesticides from your children’s diet, judging by the results of one Chinese study, your solution is the organically produced food. The results have shown that the levels of certain pesticides in the body have gone down to zero after only a few days if eating the organic food, including cereal, for example. After the transition to the conventional food, the levels of the same pesticides have increased again. The former research of Chinese scientists, in which 110 children participated, has revealed a complete absence of pesticides in only one child – that child was eating the organically produced food on regular basis.

Apples, strawberries, cherries, grapes, lettuce, potato, peppers, and pears are foods that are the most sensitive to pesticides, and it is smart to buy the organic ones, while the least sensitive is onion, peas, corn, cabbage, broccoli, and bananas.

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