Organic Food: Characteristics and Benefits

Pesticides can cause kidney and liver damage in the medium term. For this reason, organic foods are a good alternative, as they guarantee that they don't contain these elements.
Organic Food: Characteristics and Benefits
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 31 March, 2021

Organic food has been in increased demand in recent years. The advantage of this type of food is that they don’t use pesticides or products that could alter their nutritional value, and the resulting benefits are excellent.

However, it should be noted that this type of food is more expensive than the equivalent non-organic type. Because of that, not everyone can afford access to them. In addition, production is also lower due to the certain difficulties in this regard, such as pests or inclement weather.

Characteristics of organic food

As we mentioned, organic products are agricultural products that are grown without the use of pesticides or artificial fertilizers. They have to undergo a series of rigorous tests in terms of composition, production methods, and cultivation in order to achieve this certification, which gives it a clear distinction from its competitors.

Apart from this, this type of food mustn’t come from varieties of seeds or transgenic plants. In this way, you ensure a natural product compared to other industrial products that are obtained under extensive production methods where the amount of food generated is the most important factor, and not the processes used for it.

For the fermentation of plants that generate transgenic foods, a natural compound formed through fermented animal products and the remains of other plants is used.

In addition, organic food is usually found in containers or packages that are also ecological in nature, which reduces the human impact on the planet, as well as the CO2 emissions involved in their manufacture.

Benefits of organic food

Organic food is varied.
The variety of organic food is great!

The consumption of organic food provides a series of benefits when compared to its non-organic counterparts.

Lower pesticide intake

Despite conflicting studies, many experts say that regular intake of pesticides could be harmful to health. Some of these have been shown to increase the risk of developing cancer. This is stated in an essay published in the journal Cancer Causes & Control.

The liver is an organ that’s very sensitive to the intake of these compounds. This is because it’s responsible for their detoxification. For this reason, its work demand increases when they consume foods that contain them, and this can lead to the appearance of functional inefficiencies.

It’s also possible to find scientific articles, such as the one published in the journal Environmental Health, which affirm that regular exposure to pesticides could cause kidney problems. In fact, there are several authors who relate these substances to the development of insufficiency, all in the medium term.

Although not all pesticides are equally aggressive, it’s clear that they’re harmful to health, at least in general terms. Many of them have a water-soluble character, so washing food before consumption usually eliminates a good part of it.

However, removing soluble fats isn’t so easy. In these cases, there’s always a higher intake.

A lower environmental footprint

One of the problems of massive and extensive crops is how little they respect the environment. Aerosols, pesticides, and methods used to increase can increase the damage to the ozone layer, which contributes progressively to the development of climate change.

In this sense, opting for traditional and organic farming methods is a great boon for the planet’s health. Of course, there’s an important limitation here – through these respectful practices it would be impossible to feed the entire population.

This is because traditional agricultural methods generate lower production, and are more sensitive to inclement weather and more exposed to pests.

The result of all this is that many crops have to be discarded, wasting a great deal of time and effort.

In addition to this, the results obtained aren’t as “perfect” (as far as their outward appearance goes) as food that doesn’t come from organic crops. These usually have genetic modifications in their seeds in order to adapt the final product to consumer preferences in terms of appearance.

However, the taste of organic food is much more intense and natural than its counterparts. Despite the fact that the color can leave a lot to be desired, that they can have markings on the outside, and that they may not look so appetizing, they are superior in terms of smell and taste – unrivaled in fact.

The nutritional value of organic food is similar to that of its counterparts

Despite the advantages mentioned, it should be noted that the nutritional value of organic food is identical to that of those genetically modified vegetables or those grown with pesticides.

However, its intake is completely recommended due to the presence of phytonutrients. It should be remembered that these elements have been shown to help to prevent the development of chronic diseases.

These foods also have essential vitamins and minerals in their composition to ensure good health. Some of them, like vitamin C, are capable of promoting endogenous collagen synthesis. In addition, it has an activating power on the immune system, as evidenced by a study published in Nutrients.

However, it’s true that certain transgenic varieties of plant foods may contain a higher concentration of some elements, such as fiber and macronutrients.

In vegetables, however, this difference is not as significant as in the case of products of animal origin. Transgenic salmon, for example, has 25% more protein than organic and traditional varieties.

The growing market for organic food

Organic food is easy to buy.
One positive thing about organic food is that it is easily accessible.

The truth is that, in recent years, there has been an exponential growth in the market for organic products. This is due to the growing concern people have about health in general.

Many of them are beginning to become aware of the effects of pesticides and other pollutants on the human body, and so they try to reduce their intake of these products.

Likewise, organic foods are also free of additives. These elements, even though most of them are harmless, could lead to health problems in the medium term.

Some of them, such as artificial sweeteners, are capable of negatively impacting the biodiversity of the intestinal microbiota. This is stated by a study published in the journal Nutrients.

On the other hand, it’s possible to find some preservatives that have the power to increase the risk of cancer.

According to research published in the journal Nutrients in 2019, nitrites added to meat products can increase the risk of suffering from colon cancer, which is why they’re considered dangerous, despite the fact that they are freely available.

Organic food doesn’t contain any of these harmful elements and so the risk of experiencing chronic problems derived from their intake is reduced.

Green doesn’t always mean healthy

Although organic foods have plenty of advantages and benefits, they can’t always be considered to be healthy products. For example, a product made from elements of plant origin that have followed traditional cultivation methods, but which are then mixed with a large amount of table sugar, could, technically, carry the organic food label.

However, this combination is not at all beneficial for the body. Because of this, it‘s best not to completely trust the nutritional claims that appear on product labels.

It’s always advisable to go to the part of the labeling which lists the ingredients, along with their nutritional value.

With this information, it’s then possible to categorize specific food products as good or bad. You can then decide whether it’s advisable to only include it in your diet from time to time, or whether it can (and should) be consumed regularly because of the nutrients it contains.

The irrational fear of GMOs

Before concluding, we need to make a special mention of transgenic products. Although, as a general rule, the consumption of organic foods is usually preferable, that doesn’t mean we should automatically reject genetically modified food. These aren’t harmful to our health.

The modifications they have been subjected to make them either make them easier to cultivate, or include some positive change in their nutritional value or taste. The fact that they have undergone a genetic modification doesn’t mean that they are harmful to health.

In fact, food technology is a science that has come a long way in recent years. Most of the products we eat today have undergone some process of genetic modification, and, despite that, don’t have any negative impact on health as a result.

We also expect that, in the coming years, science will continue to advance and offer us increasingly healthier and easier to grow food.

Organic food vs pesticide-free food

One of the main advantages of organic food is that it doesn’t contain pesticides, as we have already mentioned. This is good news for our health. In addition to this, they usually greatly respect the environment. Taking into account the uncertain future that awaits the planet with the current exploitation rate, this is a fact that we should certainly take into account.

Whatever the case, you shouldn’t have an irrational fear of transgenic products or those that haven’t been grown using organic methods. The fact that they contain pesticides isn’t usually a very positive situation, but food that has been genetically modified in order to offer us certain benefits shouldn’t cause us any concern at all.

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