Published: 05/23/2016 - Updated: 03/08/2020
Author: Prof. Dr. Luis Ruiz-Garcia, PhD
For those who have had the opportunity to consume organic foods, we will all have detected different shapes and textures, and many may even go as far to say a different and/or better flavour too.
However, there are some myths about organic food, which, although are not the truths, they demonstrate that they are still a good choice of food and indeed free of chemicals, which is the main concern.
What is organic food?
The term organic refers to an agricultural product which has been cultivated and obtained using traditional growing methods, avoiding the use of chemicals such as pesticides for a product free of them. These growing techniques are respectful of the environment, which often suffers dire consequences as a result of the use of these chemicals in conventional farming.
Also, animals bred without the use of antibiotics and hormones are considered organic food.
These products are also known as ecological or biological foods.
Myths about organic food
Myth: They are low in calories
Often we associate organic food with a healthy diet, however, this is a misconception: Not all of it is healthy and it entirely depends on what and how much you eat!
In a study that was conducted to test participants, two identical samples of organic products were given to the participants: One of them was organic, while the other was labelled as commercial. People mentioned, among other features, that they considered the organic sample to be more healthy and apt for dieting.
We understand the term “diet” as a food that has a lower calorie content, however, it has shown that there are no significant variations between the calories you consume and whether they are organic produce or commercial, so this is a myth.
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Myth: They taste different
Although it has been suggested that the cultivation methods of organic products affects the taste favourably, it is said that while the product can have a different flavour, it does not directly correspond to the fact that it is an organic product, but rather to other factors such as climate where grown or variety, among others.
We performed a study in which products from both organic and commercial origin were evaluated by participants, and they could not find significant differences in taste. We therefore need more evidence to say that the product has a different or “better” flavour because it is organic, since this difference apparently is due to other conditions.
Fact: They are more nutritious
In 2012, a study showed that organic foods are not any more nutritious than conventional products and that their composition is virtually the same, however in 2014, a study conducted in the UK showed that organic products have up to 69% more antioxidants than conventional products, as well as other favourable nutritional characteristics.
According to this latest study, organic food must face certain aggressions from the environment that stimulate them to produce certain antioxidants and nutrients in order to protect themselves. Although these studies contradict each other, the more recent study used a more varied and specialised array of tools to evaluate the food, however, controversy prevails.
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Fact: They are less polluting to the environment
Organic products, due to the fact that they do not use pesticides or other chemicals, are often considered better for the environment. However, organic food products also use substitutes for these chemicals, such as natural pesticides, but it is known that they pollute less.
Regarding the actual products themselves, evaluation of both seems to produce similar results: That is, conventional food and organic food both remain fit for consumption, since the content of chemical contaminants is virtually zero, but note that it is more common to find conventional food with traces of chemicals, since organic products are virtually never in contact with said elements.
Reality: They are more expensive
Organic foods and other products tend to have a much lower production rate and also require greater care, which ultimately raises their production costs.
In addition, due to the fact that organic products are not produced in large quantities, the profit margin is reduced compared to conventional foods and that is why the retail price is usually higher. However, the cost is justified because it is more nutritious and healthy, and you have the guarantee that the product was cultivated without the use of harsh chemicals.
Where to get organic food?
Currently, the rising consciousness about the environment and our health has sparked interest in organic foods, however, it may not be so easy to find them where you live, as they are not available in all establishments.
There are “gourmet” supermarkets with specific areas dedicated to the sale of organic foods, and there are also popular markets where small producers gather to sell their home-grown products.
On the other hand, there is the possibility now to get organic products through online herbalists, which are dedicated to distributing organic food and often make home deliveries. This is certainly an option worth considering.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 03/08/2020
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