Nutrition: Are organic foods worth the candle?

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How to recognize “real” organic products? Are organic foods better for your health? We take stock of the issue.

The organic food

Organic foods are more expensive than others, so you have to be selective. This type of purchase will be favoured in cases where it has been proven that the conventional product may contain a particularly high quantity of pesticides . If you want to go organic, it is surely by these products that we must start.

  • Opt organic for the following fruits: apples, grapes, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, pears, cherries.
  • Choose without hesitation the following organic vegetables: spinach , salads, carrots, green beans, peppers, celery, potatoes.
  • If you consume whole grains and wholemeal bread, take them preferably organic: in fact, it is in the outer part of cereals, the sound, that concentrates the residues of treatment products.
  • Think about organic for eggs (phytosanitary products can be concentrated in yellow), for butter and for milk, both of very good taste quality in general.
  • Bio can also be useful for meat and poultry (especially if you consume livers), as fats and giblets can contain significant traces of residues.

Organic foods: what are they really worth?

When you are worried about pesticide residues in foods, it’s a good idea to go for organic products. But you should know that these are not necessarily nutritionally superior.

We can now buy these products not only in health food or diet shops, but also in large and medium-sized areas, which offer a wide range – fruits and vegetables , but also eggs, milk and dairy products, bread, biscuits and cereals, as well as meat and poultry. Prepared dishes are not left out, just like cold cuts and wine. In short, all you need to eat well!

Obviously, some people are willing to spend more on organic products, which, it must be admitted, have grown in variety over the years. But do they really get their money’s worth?

What is organic food?

They should not be confused with so-called natural or local products, or dietary products, the latter answering precise definitions. Organic products, or more precisely from organic farming are plant or animal products obtained through a production method free of synthetic chemicals, environmentally friendly and ultimately very demanding.

To obtain organic products:

  • No chemical fertilizers such as nitrogenous substances, phosphates or potash can be used. Soil fertility is maintained and improved thanks to “green manures” (alternating cultivation of leguminous plants, deep rooted plants …) or with organic amendments or compost.
  • No synthetic phytosanitary product is allowed to control pests or diseases. Integrated biological control or the use of herbal extracts and expressly authorized natural substances should be used.
  • The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is strictly prohibited.
  • Animals (cows, pigs, poultry, lambs) for the production of organic meat and organic eggs are raised outdoors. They are raised in a vast living space and fed at least 90% with fodder and products from organic farming
  • Grown largely on site, they do not receive antibiotics.

Organic products, which meet very specific criteria included in both French and Community regulations, must undergo rigorous controls to obtain certification issued by an independent accredited body, entitled to obtain the logo AB and the mention “organic farming” on the packaging.

Are organic foods better to taste?

Many consumers are convinced that organic products are tastier than others. In fact, in the blind tests, conventional products are often as well rated as they are.

Proponents of organic food regularly highlight the best nutritional quality of products. Yet again, the results are not always consistent. In a recent study conducted in France with the support of INRA, we note however that organic productions often have a higher dry matter content (they are less “forced” and swollen with water) and that their nutritional density is higher. superior: they can thus contain a larger amount of useful micronutrients, such as antioxidant polyphenols , with proven protective effects.

Are they safer for health?

Some critics point out that the name “organic farming” certainly guarantees the mode of production, but not the quality of the final product. They are also less loaded with nitrates. This is particularly noticeable for carrots , spinach and lettuce. Nitrates can be transformed into nitrites, which are involved in the formation of carcinogenic compounds, nitrosamines.

On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that the term “organic farming” is not a guarantee against microorganisms that could contaminate food and cause disease: one must take the same hygiene precautions to use them. and consume them.

Dr. Kimberly Seltzer

Postdoctoral Scholar, UC Berkeley Research Assistant, MIT

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