The popularity of organic food has increased dramatically over the last two decades. According to the 2017 Organic Market Report, sales of organic produce in the UK rose by more than 7%, topping £2 billion in sales. This is in contrast to the non-organic market that continues to decline.
There are many factors contributing to the growing market of organic foods. People which to organic because they think it is safer, healthier and tastes better. As well as, being better for the environment and the well-being of animals.
What is organic food?
Organic food has been produced without the use of artificial chemicals, hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified organisms. Organic foods must be free from artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colouring, flavouring and MSG (monosodium glutamate).
Animals raised via organic farming are prohibited from being given antibiotics and hormones. Crops grown under organic standards often use natural fertilizers, as a result soil quality tends to improve and in general reduces pollution and may be better for the environment.
There are many other aspects of farming that have to be addressed for a product to be labelled organic e.g. compulsory use of crop rotation and the use of GM products prohibited. It will normally take an organic producer at least 2 years to be certified as organic.
For a more in-depth description of the organic regulations in the UK please click here. These logos are displayed on organic products that have been certified within the UK and EU.
Is organic food healthy?
There is a perception that all organic food is healthy. Regardless of whether it’s organic or not, processed foods can still be high in added fat, sugar and calories and low in nutrients. E.g. A packet of organic biscuits will still have the same amount of fat and sugar as a regular packet of biscuits.
Nutritional difference between organic and non-organic foods
Research into the nutrient content of organic vs. non-organic foods has produced mixed results. There are studies to suggest that organically grown crops may contain higher levels of antioxidants and micronutrients including vitamin C, zinc and iron. However, a review of 55 studies didn’t find a significant difference between the nutrient content of organic crops and regular crops.
Investigation into the nutrition of organic milk and meat has suggested they may have a more favourable fatty acid profile. A higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with many health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease.
Studies suggest organic dairy products could contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as slightly higher amounts of iron and vitamin E. An analysis of 67 studies found that organic meat also contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and a slightly reduced level of saturated fat than conventional meat.
Nevertheless, evidence implies organic milk may contain less selenium and iodine than non-organic milk, which is both important minerals for good health.
There are various benefits associated with consuming organic foods from environmental aspects to tasting better. There may be nutritional benefits linked to organic foods but further research is required to verify this. Nevertheless, the fundaments of good nutrition still rely on getting the correct balance of foods and macro nutrients: fats, carbohydrates, protein, minerals and vitamins.