What’s the difference between organic and non-organic foods? Read on to learn everything you need to know to keep you and your family healthy.
If you’re anything like me when I first started learning about organic foods, you’re probably comparing prices and asking yourself, “Is it really worth it?”
On the one hand, organic sounds and feels so much better to buy. You may not drink green smoothies every morning, have a garden growing out back, or a coop full of chickens in your yard, but we all like the idea of no chemicals on or in our foods, right?
On the other hand, do you really want to pay $3 extra for a small carton of raspberries?! In my house, those raspberries would be gone in about 2 seconds, especially when it comes to my teenage sons.
This probably leaves you questioning — does organic really matter?
I’m here to tell you a thousand times over, yes! Sweet friend, it’s absolutely worth it. Every last penny.
If you’re skeptical of the organic everything, crunchy-mama, green juice drinking, gluten-free craze we’re in — I get it.
You might have read the line above and thought, “ok, ok, I’ve heard about organic before… but why? What is the hard evidence? Give me some proof here.”
It’s hard to trust people right away, especially on the internet. Plus, my opinion will always be slightly skewed because of my preferences, lifestyle and experiences. That’s just the cold hard truth.
Each person needs to look at the facts and decide for themselves. But there’s SO MUCH information out there, and it’s hard not to drop down that rabbit hole. Seriously, who has time for that?
Well… no more guesswork!
We’ve done all the research for you. So take a deep breath, grab your cup of hot coffee or tea, and let us give you the lowdown on organic vs. non-organic foods.
What Does Organic Mean?
When you’re trying to understand the difference between organic and non-organic foods, you need to have a strong understanding of what ‘organic’ means.
In simple terms, organic means the produce/product was made or grown without the use of chemicals or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
When these products are labeled organic, they’re also promising that they’re made without flavorings, colorings, MSG, or preservatives.
When it comes to meat or dairy, it simply means that the animals were fed organic feed, and they were free from any injections of hormones or antibiotics.
What Does Non-organic Mean?
By contrast, when it comes to non-organic foods, you can expect your product to have synthetic pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer residue found on it and inside of it. It may even contain GMOs.
You can also expect antibiotics and hormones to be used on any conventional meat and dairy.
Regulations are way less strict when creating a non-organic product. This industry aims to massively produce as many products as possible for the lowest price, so they may be full of preservatives, natural flavors, artificial colors and a lot of sugar.
When these chemicals and artificial ingredients are used in and on your foods (chemicals that weren’t meant for your body), it breaks down and quickly depletes the product's nutritional value.
Let’s dive into the nutritional differences.
Nutritional Content of Organic vs. Non-organic Foods
There are numerous studies on this specific point. If we’re not focusing on pesticides and chemicals and only evaluating the nutritional content, is there a difference?
1. Nitrate Study
A high level of nitrates has been directly linked to an increased risk of developing cancer. Non-organic foods are very high in nitrates because of the fertilizers used during the growing stage of fruits and veggies.
Organically grown crops have been shown to have nitrate levels almost 30% lower than non-organic. Wow! That’s huge.
2. Antioxidant Study
Numerous studies have proven that organic produce is significantly higher in antioxidants in contrast to non-organic produce — and we know how important antioxidants are around here!
Antioxidants fight inflammation, lower the risk of cancer, boost your immune system and so much more. You want as many of these bad boys as you can get.
A recent study found that antioxidant levels might be as much as 69% higher in organic foods compared to non-organic. How can we ignore this?! This alone can make such a drastic impact on your and your family’s health.
I encourage you to look for USDA Organic Elderberry Syrup when it comes to immune support. If it’s not organic, just remind yourself of this study and don’t buy it. You need all the antioxidants you can get.
3. Omega-3 Study
Organically raised meats and dairy products are shown to have a higher level of fatty acid. Specifically, they contain more Omega-3 fatty acids.
The study above has drastically impacted my decision to go organic when it comes to meat and dairy. I know the real dangers of saturated fats (building up in your arteries and leading to serious heart issues) and how important omega-3 fats are in preventing heart disease effectively.
On both sides, there are a fair amount of studies showing no significant difference when it comes to actual nutritional value. There’s a strong argument on both sides, but when you look at the evidence, the organic side wins in my opinion.
The Difference in Chemical Levels
There’s a crystal clear difference between the levels of chemicals in organic vs. non-organic food.
Because organic foods aren’t allowed to be grown or sprayed with any synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, the chemical levels are 4x lower than non-organic foods. Wow. This statistic blew me away when I read it.
The same study found extremely high levels of cadmium (a heavy metal used in pesticides) in non-organic food. A whopping 48% higher rate than organic.
Read the Ingredient Label
I’m not saying that all organic foods are perfectly healthy for you. Not all organic foods are created equal.
For foods in their natural state, such as meat, fruit, and veggies, the organic label is enough. But you still need to read the labels on other organic foods such as chocolates, pasta sauce, ice cream, etc.
Here are a few ingredients you’ll find in some organic products that you should avoid:
- GMO CARRAGEENAN, GUAR GUM, & XANTHAN GUM — if any of these three ingredients aren't labeled as "non-GMO", more than likely, they're genetically modified thickeners. They're typically used in dairy and can impact your GI tract in some unpleasant ways.
- HIDDEN MSG —the easily identifiable MSG is banned from organic foods, but there are hidden MSGs in there. You’ll typically find these labeled as yeast extract, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein and Autolyzed Yeast Extract. The chemicals found in these MSGs greatly influence how much you eat.
- UNHEALTHY OILS —in organic foods, you might find organic seed oils and organic canola oils, but these oils, organic or not, are linked to a shortened life span in animal studies. These oils can also cause hundreds of other health issues including Vitamin E deficiency and high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. You’ll see these labeled as sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil or vegetable oil.
- NATURAL FLAVORS — don’t let the food industry fool you here, they aren’t as ‘natural’ as they sound. These flavors are created in a lab by adding chemicals. There are over 100 chemicals that can be used without being required to list them, instead only labeled with the ‘natural flavors’ title.
Again — not all organic products are created equal.
Practice reading labels and identifying real ingredients and those sneaky fake ones as well. Knowledge is power!
Benefits of Choosing Organic
The organic industry is booming because consumers like you and I are learning the truth behind conventional foods. We’re living in a generation where people are rising up and taking control of their health with food.
Food is medicine.
To truly understand that statement, you have to approach your health with the understanding that food and nutrition are the foundation.
The way you eat is at the root of most health issues today.
Here are a few benefits of choosing organic:
- Certified organic foods are also NON-GMO, which is something that should be avoided at all costs.
- Lower pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer residue overall.
- Organic crops are prohibited from being fertilized with sewage slop (yup, conventional crops use it, yuck)!
- Fresher and tastier produce.
- No hormone disruptors for you or your kids.
- Research shows organic foods have higher levels of antioxidants.
- Lower levels of heavy metals.
But the Cost!
Although organic foods tend to be more expensive, they can save you more money down the road when it comes to medical bills and health issues.
I try to think of it like this — I can pay more now and live a healthier and happier life, or I can pay more later while I’m trying to cope with sickness and disease as I get older. It helps to keep things in perspective.
There are ways to cut the expenses of going organic.
You can utilize the Clean 15 & Dirty Dozen lists (learn more about what these lists mean in this blog here), making small changes instead of tossing everything in your fridge at once and making the switch so drastically. That can hurt your wallet! Or wait until you’ve run out of a specific item (such as spices, cooking oils, flour, etc.) and replace it with an organic version.
You can also save some big money by buying organic meat and produce in bulk at wholesale stores such as Costco or BJs. They even have an awesome selection of organic frozen fruits, veggies, baking products and more.
Another option is to look for a discount grocery store, they can carry organic products that are close to their expiration date for fantastic prices!
The Big Organic Vs. Non-organic Takeaway
Organic food tends to be better for your health, more nutritious and has fewer chemicals.
Make sure you read those labels and try to learn as much as you can about any ingredient you come across that you’re not familiar with. A quick Google search can be a lifesaver while standing in a grocery aisle.
If you’re looking for unmatched immune support that’s not only USDA Organic but made with seven simple ingredients that you can actually pronounce… try my Elderberry Syrup. Chock full of powerful antioxidants, flavonoids and vitamins, a daily dose can do wonders for your family’s health.
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