A few years back, organic food was uniquely available in health food stores, and only a few people could afford it.
Today, organic food has become widely available in every supermarket out there, with substantially lower prices.
These foods provide your body with a myriad of health benefits that involve every organ system.
In this article, we will start by defining organic foods, then switch gears to discuss the benefits of some fruits and vegetables.
What is organic food?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic is a label given to any food or other agricultural product that follows the strict standards of USDA.
These standards involve the prohibition of using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, as well as performing genetic engineering on crops to improve their resistance to diseases and pests.
Of course, the process is much more complicated and includes other criteria.
Growing organic food requires very special care, and can turn out to be quite expensive.
As a result, these products reach the consumer at high prices, which poses several questions:
- Are these products really worth it?
- Are there any health benefits to consuming organic food relative to conventionally grown food?
- Should you invest the money to buy organic food?
To answer these questions, let us take a deeper look at the properties of organic food:
Rich in nutrients
Numerous studies analyzed the content of organic food and compared it to conventionally-grown food.
The results showed that organic food is richer in vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. Additionally, organic food had higher levels of phytochemical antioxidants.
For most people, this is the main reason they buy organic food.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids
As you may know, omega-3 fatty acids have potent anti-inflammatory properties and play a role in keeping your blood vessels healthy.
These effects decrease the risk of heart disease, arthritis, and chronic metabolic diseases (e.g., diabetes mellitus).
When the scientific community approved the evidence that supports the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, people started looking for rich-sources of these compounds. Fortunately, that’s where organic food comes in.
In one study, researchers found that milk produced by organically-raised cattle contained higher levels of omega-3.
Low in cadmium
Cadmium is a toxic chemical found in soil that is naturally absorbed into plants. This is particularly true for crops grown with chemical fertilizers.
Cadmium has detrimental effects on your body and the environment.
Unfortunately, most chemically-processed food is rich in this cadmium, which may be contributing to the growing incidence of chronic diseases (e.g., cancer).
In organic food, however, studies showed significantly lower levels of cadmium, which adds more credibility to the general belief that organic food is safer.
Low levels of nitrates
According to studies, organically-grown crops have 30% lower levels of nitrates compared to conventional food.
High levels of nitrate have been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
With that said, many experts and people believe that the adverse effects of nitrates are overestimated.
Organic dairy and meat have healthier fatty acids
Organic milk and dairy products generally contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin E, and certain carotenoids.
In one review that included 67 studies, researchers found that organic meat contains lower levels of saturated fats relative to conventional meat.
As discussed above, a high level of omega-3 fatty acids lowers the risk of heart disease.
Low in pesticide residues
When you choose organic food, pesticide residues become less of a problem for you.
Research found that high levels of pesticide residues increase the risk of several diseases, including asthma and cancer.
Since organic food only has traces of pesticide residues, many people made the switch to avoid the harmful effects of these chemicals.
The benefits of organic food
Organic food improves your health in a variety of ways; however, the underlying mechanisms behind the benefits are due to:
- Anti-inflammatory effect
- Detoxifying properties
- Antioxidative effect
Generally speaking, the term inflammation is associated with the classic signs and symptoms of:
- Rubor (redness)
- Dolor (pain)
- Calor (warmth)
- Tumor (swelling)
This response is crucial to fight off foreign pathogens and keep our internal organs sterile; however, due to a multifactorial process, inflammation could persist for years without an apparent trigger, which is appropriately labeled as low-grade inflammation.
The high concentration of cytokines, interleukins, and other pro-inflammatory compounds gradually wreak havoc on the body, augmenting the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Fortunately, organic food is excellent at dampening inflammation.
Based on clinical research, organic food (e.g., leafy greens) detoxify the body in two ways:
- The neutralization of free radicals
- The modification of urine pH to facilitate the filtration of harmful substances
Regardless of the underlying mechanism, consuming these foods will boost your body’s own detoxifying abilities to prevent the accumulation of harmful chemicals.
Organic food also contains large amounts of antioxidants, such as lutein and beta-carotene, which significantly lower the risk of diseases triggered by oxidative stress.
Here is how it works:
Organic food neutralizes the hazardous effects of reactive oxygen species and regulates the actions of the immune system. As a result, it will reduce the concentration of proinflammatory cytokines.
This effect positively impacts conditions, such as cancer and chronic blood hypertension.
The best organic veggies to optimize your health
Kale one of the most nutrient-dense veggies on the planet! It has high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
For reference, one cup (67 grams) of kale has:
- 684% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin K
- 206% of the DV for vitamin A
- 134% of the DV for vitamin C
2. Beet Greens
Ever since the Middle Ages, beets were famous for boosting health and preventing deficiencies.
Unsurprisingly, beets have an impressive nutrient profile that allowed them to get a spot on our list.
To appreciate the nutritional value of beet greens, let us quickly decipher their content in vitamins and minerals:
- 17% of the DV for fiber
- 220% of the DV for vitamin A
- 37% of the DV for potassium
- Vitamin K
Similar to kale, beet greens contain potent antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and lutein. These compounds reduce the risk of eye disorders.
More specifically, beet greens lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
You can include beet greens in your diet by adding them to your salad, soups, or as part of the side dish.
3. Collard Greens
Collard greens are related to kale and spring greens, with slightly thicker leaves that taste bitter.
They are also a great source of vitamins and minerals, as they contain vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin C, and calcium.
The most notable aspect of collard greens is their content in vitamin K, which could reach up to 1,045% of the DV in a 190-gram cup.
The importance of vitamin K boils down to its role in regulating blood hemostasis (i.e., clotting) and promoting higher bone mineral density. As a result, you are less likely to get bleeding abnormalities or fragile bones (i.e., osteoporosis).
In one large study that included 72,327 women, researchers found that participants with vitamin K intake below 109 micrograms per day had a higher risk of bone fractures (especially the hip).
Spinach is a very popular leafy green vegetable that gained popularity from the Cartoon: Popeye the Sailor. It is typically part of a variety of dishes, sauces, soups, and salads.
The nutritional profile of spinach is as follows (one cup – 30 grams):
- 181% of the DV for vitamin K
- 56% of the DV for vitamin A
- 13% of the DV for manganese
Additionally, spinach contains large amounts of folic acid – a vitamin that plays a crucial role in the production of red blood cells and the prevention of neural tube defects.
According to one study, scientists noted that the incidence of spina bifida (a common neural tube defect) could be significantly lowered by taking folic acid in adequate amounts.
Fortunately, all physicians prescribe a prenatal multivitamin that has folic acid; however, you could help your body by including spinach in your diet.
Cabbage consists of clusters of thick leaves that come in green, purple, and white colors. It belongs to the same botanic family as brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale.
In several animal studies, researchers found that foods rich in cabbage could lower the risk of certain types of cancer (e.g., lung cancer, esophageal cancer).
Note: make sure to consult with your primary care physician before making any drastic dietary changes.
Organic food is an excellent source of healthy nutrients that provide your body with several benefits. Including the foods we listed above will undoubtedly improve your health and prevent ailments.
We hope that this article managed to shed some light on the benefits of organic food and why you should include it in your diet.
If you still have any questions or concerns about organic food, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section below.