Step into any grocery store today and you'll likely find a far greater selection of organic options than even just a decade ago. A lot of us are putting more thought into how the foods we consume affect us both physically and mentally, and that extends to what went into growing those foods. But when it comes down to it, is it really worth the extra money and sometimes effort to choose organic foods? It's worth doing your own research, but here are a few of the benefits of choosing organic foods.
Wait, what counts as organic again?
The easiest way to spot organic foods is looking for the USDA Certified Organic seal. These producers have to follow specific guidelines around pesticides, fertilizers, genetic engineering, antibiotics for livestock, and other farming practices. (You can check out the full list of guidelines for details.) Some small-scale farms who follow organic guidelines but lack the resources to undergo the full certification process can still label their products organic without using the USDA seal. If you shop local farmer's markets, it's always worth having a conversation with the producers to understand their farming practices!
There are multiple USDA guidelines on how organic foods are described on product labels, so it's important to understand the differences.
- "100 percent organic" is basically what it sounds like - single-ingredient organic products (like eggs or apples) or products made with only organic ingredients.
- "Organic" foods with multiple ingredients must have at least 95% certified organic ingredients, and the non-organic ingredients must be from a USDA list of approved ingredients.
- "Made with organic" foods have at least 70% certified organic ingredients and they have to be identified on the label. These foods can't use the USDA seal.
- "Organic ingredients" indicates that less than 70% of a multi-ingredient food is certified organic. These products can't be labeled as organic or carry the USDA seal.
Potential Benefits of Choosing Organic
For Your Health:
- Nutrients: Studies have shown a small to moderate increase in some nutrients in organic produce, specifically flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties.
- Pesticide and Herbicide Residue: Organic produce has lower levels of pesticide residue when compared to conventionally grown produce. The difference in health outcomes isn't fully known because of regulations for maximum pesticide residue allowed on produce, but the common herbicide Roundup has been classified as a “probable human carcinogen,” and studies have also suggested that pesticide residues, even at levels commonly found in US children, may contribute to ADHD occurrence in children.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: If you eat meat, dairy, or eggs, the feeding requirements for organic livestock (such as the primary use of grass and alfalfa for cattle) typically results in significantly higher levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids in organic meats and organic dairy.
- Cadmium in Grains: Cadmium is a toxic chemical naturally found in soils and absorbed by plants. If you eat grains, studies have shown significantly lower cadmium levels in organically grown grains (but not fruits and vegetables).
For the Planet
- Builds healthier soil: Without the synthetic pesticides and chemicals, organically farmed soil builds up much more organic matter and helpful bacteria than conventionally farmed soil! This means more sustainable growing conditions long-term and greater biodiversity.
- Combats erosion: Soil with more organic matter is better able to combat erosion and build a large, healthy layer of productive topsoil. Erosion doesn't sound serious, but it has major impacts on our land and food supply.
- Fights the effects of climate change by sequestering carbon: The longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture is the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial. Their research shows that "If only 10,000 medium sized farms in the U.S. converted to organic production, they would store so much carbon in the soil that it would be equivalent to taking 1,174,400 cars off the road, or reducing car miles driven by 14.62 billion miles."
We're proud to say that all Ona Bars are Certified Organic!