Conventional vs. Organic Foods

Which food should you choose when it comes to nutrition?

Conventional Organic

You may have heard that one of the main reasons people are starting to choose organic food over conventional food is nutrition - but is it really better? Before we can answer that, we need to be clear what organic food is.

Organic food is food that meets the USDA requirements to be labeled organic. If it says 'organic' then you can be pretty certain 95% or more of the ingredients are organic. If it says 'contains organic ingredients', it's slightly lower - 75% or more.

Anything that doesn't officially contain the stamp of recognition by the USDA isn't probably organic and probably worth avoiding. Lots of people also presume that the words 'natural' or 'sustainable' means organic - but they don't. Anyone can use these words without restriction, so make sure you know what you're getting!

As for conventional food, we mean any food that isn't organic - food that has been grown conventionally, with the use of common pesticides and so on. Pesticides are one of the key things that will make a difference in the nutrition found in your food, but not necessarily for the reasons you think.

Pesticides themselves don't reduce the nutrition found in food, and they're only found in trace amounts on the skin of fruit and vegetables. For many people, however, this is reason enough to not just wash, but peel their fruit and vegetables.

Peeling reduces the nutrition available in food dramatically! If you're the sort of person concerned by traces of pesticides and you do peel your food, swapping to organic will definitely boost your nutrition intake.

organic food

There is a downside to organic food, however. Since it's restricted on what can be added to it, you lose the benefits you may otherwise get from conventional food.

In particular, cereals are often fortified to add in B-vitamins, folic acid, vitamin A, iron and calcium. If you swap away from fortified foods, you'll need to find an alternative source of these - whether it's through diet changes or adding in supplements.

One thing that's particularly tricky to get right when it comes to organic sources is omega-3. Most people think of fish oil as a main source, but this is tricky to find organically. Especially in the EU, where fish cannot be called organic unless it's farmed, it can be difficult to find a source of this that's not conventionally sourced.

One of the biggest things to consider when deciding whether conventional or organic food is better for you is budgeting. Organic food tends to be more expensive than conventional food, meaning you get less for the same amount of money.

Of course, it you want to swap to organic food anyway, it is possible to add in supplements to ensure that switching won't accidentally decrease your intake!

whole organic food

Finally, if there's one thing that does make a difference between organic and conventional food, it's at the base level - single-ingredient items like fruit and vegetables. With these, the levels of antioxidants are substantially higher in organically grown crops.

It's such a difference that it's equivalent to eating an additional portion a day! If you're looking to improve your nutrition through eating organically, it's these base ingredients that are the best place to start.

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