What You Need to Know About Organic Foods

Organic FoodsChoosing organic foods, which are free of potentially harmful chemicals and pesticides, can both enhance your health and help preserve the environment. The term “organic” is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and foods must meet certain standards established by the USDA in order to qualify for organic labeling. It’s important to note that similar words are often used on food labels, such as “natural,” “sustainable,” and “grass-fed,” but these terms are not synonymous with “organic.” These and other related terms are not officially defined by the USDA, so there is no guarantee that foods with these labels (in place of the USDA organic seal) meet the USDA’s standards for organic foods.

When growing organic produce, farmers must use only natural fertilizers and environmentally friendly insect- and weed-control mechanisms. After harvesting, organic produce cannot be treated with preservatives. Additionally, foods that are genetically modified (altered by scientists), such as seedless watermelons, cannot be labeled “organic.” With regard to meat products, the livestock must receive organic feed and be raised in a natural environment with clean shelters and outdoor access. The animals cannot be treated with antibiotics or growth hormones.

Some points to consider when choosing between organic and non-organic foods include:

  • Potential health risks – Even though fertilizers, pesticides, preservatives, and growth hormones are widely used in the non-organic food industry, many experts disagree about the possible long-term effects of these chemicals and synthetic ingredients on human health and development. Therefore, choosing organic foods – especially while research on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides is still under way – can provide consumers with additional peace of mind with regard to their health.
  • Flavor – Because organic foods do not contain preservatives, they are usually fresher and have a more natural taste than their non-organic counterparts.
  • Environmental impact – USDA-certified farmers must takes quantifiable steps to conserve water and other resources and minimize soil erosion. Also, because no preservatives are used, organic foods have shorter shelf lives; therefore, they are more likely to be shipped to local stores, reducing the amount of transportation required and the associated pollution. As an added bonus, fruits and vegetables have the highest quantity of nutrients shortly after harvesting, so reduced transit time can make them even more nutritious.
  • Cost – Organic farming can be expensive, and some of the necessary supplies like natural fertilizers and pesticides can be hard to come by. These higher production costs are often reflected in the prices of organic foods.

Whether you choose organic or non-organic foods, always follow safe food handling procedures, including thoroughly rinsing produce and separating raw meat from other foods prior to cooking. Also, be sure to review the nutrition information on the product packaging, which can help you make healthier and more informed decisions.

If you have questions about nutrition or other health-related topics, please feel free to contact or visit South Tampa Immediate Care. No appointments are ever necessary to see a doctor at our walk-in clinic.