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With glossy magazines portraying celebrities with washboard abs and slim waistlines, people has become very fitness-conscious. While exercise plays a pivotal role in staying healthy and fit, food is an even more significant component and contributes to good health. Lately, we've all heard celebrities and nutritionists lay great emphasis on organic food. This has led to several people jumping onto that bandwagon, but do we really know how safe and nutritious it is? Let's find out more in this article.
What Is Organic Food?
The word 'organic' refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat, primarily without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Organic livestock raised for meat, eggs and dairy products must have access to the outdoors and must not be given antibiotics, hormones or any animal by-products.
Besides, there has been scientific evidence that proves how organic foods are healthier than their counterparts. According to research, organic milk has more antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, CLA and vitamins in comparison to non-organic milk. It is believed that organic cows are pasture-grazed, which results in the superior quality of milk  .
The Benefits Of Organic Food
The way your food is grown or raised can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health as well as the environment. Organic foods have more nutrients and people with allergies to foods, chemicals or preservatives often find their symptoms reduce or go away when they eat only organic foods.
Here are a few top benefits of organic food:
1. Has antioxidant capacity: According to research, organic fruits, vegetables and cereals contain a significantly higher concentration of antioxidants than conventionally grown groups. In fact, many of these antioxidant compounds have been previously linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases as well as certain cancers  .
2. No artificial flavours or colours: Sometimes, you see a sumptuous red apple that looks plump enough to bite into. But when you bite into it, it isn't so flavourful. This is because it is a fruit that has been pumped up with artificial colours and an injection of hydrogenated fats to make it look tempting. There is no such deception in eating healthy foods that are grown using organic methods  .
3. No pesticides: This is a reason why people choose to consume organic foods. Pesticides cause several medical disorders and are deemed unfit for health. In order to protect crops from pests, normal food is generally heavily treated with pesticides  .
4. Promotes heart health: It is believed that when cattle graze on grass for an increased amount of time, the level of CLA (Conjugate Linoleic Acid) also increases. This is considered healthy for the heart and helps to contribute towards good cardiovascular health  .
5. Strengthens the immune system: When we consume food laden with pesticides, we are putting our bodies at risk and more so, our immune system. Regular consumption of such food leads to a weakened immune system that leads to an increase in birth mortality, sexual dysfunctions, several kinds of cancers and increased sensitivity to allergens. This is why it is better to opt for organic routes and choose a safer route  .
6. Antibiotic resistance: Foods that are not organic are said to have large quantities of antibiotics in them. This again weakens the immune system and puts you at a higher risk of contracting diseases. This is why it is smarter to go organic  !
7. Good health: Since organic food does not have chemical fertilizers, it does not affect the body in a negative way. Natural fertilizers like manure work well and organic farmers are happy to use this smellier yet safer form of fertilizers  .
8. Improved taste: The taste of organic food is far more superior, since it does not have preservatives. Generally, organic food is produced in smaller farms and sold fresh, and is not frozen or shipped to far off places, which is the case when mass production happens  .
9. Better for the environment: Organic farming reduces pollution, conserves water, reduces soil erosion, increases soil fertility and uses less energy. This makes it healthy for the environment and is a great practice in the long run  .
10. Protects from cancer: Medical research suggests that organic foods are incredible as far as their role in fighting cancer is concerned. Moreover, organic foods do not contain carcinogens that are responsible for tumour formation in the body  .
11. Healthy babies: One of the most crucial advantages of organic foods is that the baby is born healthy. Pregnant women when they consume organic food nourish the foetus naturally  .
12. No genetic modification: Organic foods are not genetically modified. Non-organic foods are becoming increasingly genetically modified and the health consequences can be severe indeed  .
Organic Food: Is It Safer And More Nutritious?
As mentioned above, organic food does have a range of benefits when compared with conventionally grown foods. Studies have shown that organic produce does have more nutrients, especially some flavonoids that have antioxidant properties  . Next, cadmium is a toxic chemical found in soils and absorbed by plants  . In organic food, these levels are much lower, especially since synthetic fertilizers are not used. Furthermore, organic food has lower or no presence of pesticide residue  .
But in terms of natural toxins that plants produce themselves, conventional food could be a safer bet, feel experts. It is because of less or no use of pesticides, organic produces have a greater chance of accumulation of toxins. The natural pesticides can be as harmful as the artificial ones over a period of time.
For example, solanine produced by potatoes when they turn green, can make one ill if consumed in a large quantity  . Also, another point that goes against organic foods is the use of manure as fertilizers. It raises the risk of contamination of the produce by harmful bacteria like E. coli  .
Some say that organic foods are more nutritious than conventional food items, but a few studies have shown that the advantage is so minuscule that it hardly makes any big difference in the end. It is being advised that organic foods should be eaten fresh and not consumed after being frozen  .
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-  Torjusen, H., Brantsæter, A. L., Haugen, M., Alexander, J., Bakketeig, L. S., Lieblein, G., ... & Roos, G. (2014). Reduced risk of pre-eclampsia with organic vegetable consumption: results from the prospective Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.BMJ open,4(9), e006143.
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-  Arvola, A., Vassallo, M., Dean, M., Lampila, P., Saba, A., Lähteenmäki, L., & Shepherd, R. (2008). Predicting intentions to purchase organic food: The role of affective and moral attitudes in the Theory of Planned Behaviour.Appetite,50(2-3), 443-454.
-  Dangour, A. D., Lock, K., Hayter, A., Aikenhead, A., Allen, E., & Uauy, R. (2010). Nutrition-related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review.The American journal of clinical nutrition,92(1), 203-210.