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Organic Food Health Benefits: A Literature Review Brittany N. Moreno University of Texas at El Paso
Abstract The topic being focused on is the health benefits that organic foods have to offer. It has been found that some organic food products hold a greater health benefits for the body such as antioxidants and higher levels of omega-3. In addition to this main focus are two minor points: how does a food product become organic, the standards the must be followed, etc, and who are the main consumers of organic products. The standards for grown foods and how to raise livestock to produce organic products are laid out. Research complied from a primary research survey as well as other sources project the most prevalent consumers of organic foods and their take on the product.
In today¶s world there is plenty of controversy about how unhealthy everyday food is and how it could possibly be contributing to the rising number of adults and children suffering from obesity and diseases that are being generated from genetically modified foods. This is where relatively new organic foods come into play. Nutritionists claim that consuming organically grown livestock and crops helps with these issues along with other benefits. In writing this paper, the goal wanted was to find the answers to the following questions in order see if organic foods do hold some benefits that conventional foods are depriving us from. What standards must be followed in being able to call a food organic? What are the effects/benefits to the human body of consuming organic vegetables, fruits, meats, and poultry? Who are the primary consumers of organic products, such as vegetables, fruits, meats and poultry? How are organic foods grown? The process of growing organic vegetables and fruits is comprised of many intricate standards that strive towards growing them from cleaner soil, without pesticides, and an overall healthier veggie or fruit. According to (³Organic production,´ 2009), ³Organic production is a system that integrates cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity." In order for a product in this country to be labeled organic, it must meet certain standards and be certified before it can be put out on the market outlined by the United States Department of Agriculture. The farms and companies who grow these
animals, vegetables, and fruits are held accountable for meeting these standards. The businesses that handle and process the foods before they reach your local Albertsons must also be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture. No antibiotics or growth hormones are used when growing these foods, an important fact when differentiating between and organically or conventionally grown product. It also prohibits the use of ³fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.´ (³Organic production,´ 2009) The standards for producing crops and raising livestocks have different regulations that need to be followed. For crops it is required that the land being used to harvest the crops has not had any of the prohibited substances used within the past three years. In order to keep the soil fertile and nutritious, the crops must be managed through ³tillage and cultivation practices, crop rotations, and cover crops, supplemented with animal and crop waste materials and allowed synthetic materials. (³Production and handling´, 2008). Weeds, crop bugs and diseases will be removed through physical, biological, or mechanical means. If these methods are not sufficient a product substance that is approved on the National List may be used. Seeds that are used to plant must come for another organic planting stock unless otherwise authorized. Genetic engineering of any kind is prohibited. For the raising of livestock, eventually to be used for meat, eggs, milk, etc have standards to preserve the organic quality as well. Animals used ³must be raised with organic management from the last third of gestation, or no later than the second day of life for poultry.´ (³Production and handling´, 2008) The animals¶ diet must only consist of 100% organic foods and certain vitamin and mineral supplements that are allowed by regulations. Animals that are being harvested for dairy products have to be organically managed consistently for one year prior to any sale of their product. These animals are also allowed to inhabit the land being used for organic crops on its third year into the certification process. Each animal is not
allowed to have any growth hormones or antibiotics in their system at any time. If an animal becomes sick, treatment, even with the use of prohibited substances, will be given but the animal cannot be later sold for organic products. All animals have to have access to the outdoors unless otherwise confined for safety, medical reasons, to protect water or soil quality, or when they are about to placed in the stage of production. Handlers also have their own set standards to follow. 1) ³All non-agricultural ingredients, whether synthetic or non-synthetic, must be included on the National List of Allowed Synthetic and Prohibited Non-Synthetic Substances.´ (µProduction and handling´, 2008) 2) Handlers have to keep organic food products from mixing together with nonorganic products, as well as protect them from coming into contact with the prohibited substances. 3) When processing a food to be organic, all the ingredients must also be organic unless that ingredient is not available in organic. So what do organic foods offer your body? Higher health and nutritional benefits seem to be the answer on a number of people¶s minds. In a recent study conducted by Denis Lairon, he and his research team came to a series of conclusions based on the nutritional values of organic foods: Organic plant products contain more dry matter and minerals (Fe, Mg); and contain more anti-oxidant micronutrients such as phenols and salicylic acid, 2. Organic animal products contain more polyunsaturated fatty acids, 3. Data on carbohydrate, protein and vitamin levels are insufficiently documented, 4/ 94-100% of organic food does not contain any pesticide residues, 5. Organic vegetables contain far less nitrates, about 50% less; and 6. Organic cereals contain overall similar levels of mycotoxins as conventional ones.
On a student survey that was recently taken the majority of the people who said they purchased organic foods said they did so in order to live on a healthier diet. Also according to (Larion, 2010) organically grown food uses aerobic composting, where fresh manure is not used but composted for long periods of time, which decreases or completely removes the pathogenic organisms that are at first found in the manure, like E-coli for example. Once added to the soil, these organisms die off because of the new conditions that they are placed in making them harmless when seeds are planted. Organic milk and tomatoes seem to also have more nutritional value than the average conventional gallon or tomato. According to (³Health benefits,´ 20062010) ³organic milk has shown that it has more anti-oxidants, omega 3, CLA, and vitamins than non organic milk.´ This is due to the fact that the cows are allowed to pasture grazed as opposed to being herded in a confined field with a numerous amount of other cows to share the space with. Anti-oxidants help reduce heart disease, thus making it a beneficial choice when picking it off the shelf. Also according to (³Health benefits,´ 2006-2010) organic tomatoes are grown in an environment where fertilizers are not used thus, allowing more antioxidants to form, in some cases as much as 79% to 97% higher. This article argues that organic foods are healthier for you for in fact that there are no strong chemicals traces from fertilizers and pesticides to affect the human body. Although taste is objective, many consumers tend to believe that organic fruits and vegetables generally taste better as well. To a fact sheet by (Cleeton, 2004) there are many benefits that come from consuming organic foods such as; reducing the amount of chemical toxins that are taken in by our body, erases the possibility of our bodies ingesting genetically modified organisms, ³reduces the amount of food additives and colouring´, increases the amount of essential vitamins, and (beneficial) fatty acids, antioxidants, and minerals. The U.S. and U.K . governments have found that nutrients in our non organic foods has fallen about 76% between
the years of 1940 and 1991, organic food is said to have the nutrients that has been deprived to us for the past 70 years. Although not 100% proven, organic foods are believed to decrease the frequency and chances of becoming diagnosed with disease such as ³cancer, coronary heart disease, allergies and hyperactivity in children.´ The Soil Association conducted a review on the amounts of nutrients and minerals found in the organic and conventionally grown found and came up with a conclusion that organic foods held higher averages of calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, and chromium (36). The finds that they also higher amounts of fatty acids such as Omega 3 generate the conclusion that these products could help reduce neurological disorders, such as depression. So who exactly is buying organic foods? Over the last seven years the market of organic agriculture has increased at least 20% each year, more and more consumers are switching to purchasing organic foods. According to (Oberholtzer& Demitri, 2009) retail sales for organic products have been booming in the last decade, from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $21.1 billion in 2008. In reference to Dahm, M., Samonte, A., & Shows, A. (2009) they found that whether you purchase organic foods or not depends on your knowledge of them. A survey was taken on how much the tested group of students knew, felt, and behaved towards organic foods and was studied to see if their answers had any correlation towards their tendency in buying the product. In general it was concluded that attitudes, knowledge, and price were adequate factors in making the decision to purchase organic foods. Thus in general it seems that the more educated you are on the topic of organic foods, the more likely it seems that you would consider purchasing organic products. In a survey conducted by Brittany Moreno it was found that about 22% of the people purchased organic foods regularly, 31% said they were indifferent towards buying them, and almost half said that they believe organic foods are too expensive and not worth the money.
The majority gender of the 22% of people who buys organics regularly or most of the time were female. Another prevalent consumer seems to environmental advocates. Of the people who said they bought organic products regularly, various reasons were put as answer choices as to why they did. The most common answer besides health benefits for the body was that by purchasing organic foods they are helping out with the environments. Single men and women are also more prone to buying organic products that married couples, according to Harris (n.d.). This was concluded based on the fact that they simply had higher willingness to pay which makes sense. If two are providing for a family, although they may want their family to eat the higher quality and healthier foods the fact is it just may not be a realistically affordable diet for many families. As found by the Hartman Group (2007) on the racial and ethnicity level, Latino/Hispanics, Asian, and African Americans are much more likely to purchase organic foods over Caucasians. Each organic product in the United States has to be organically certified by following a series of outlined standards and methods provided by the government. These foods are growing in popularity with every passing year. This can be credited to many reasons such that organic products are environment friendly and provide a more significant amount of nutrients and vitamins. In general primary consumers of these products were found to be people that had a little more knowledge on what organic foods actually were and how they could benefit the body, women, environmental advocates, single men and women, and minorities.
References Cleeton, J. (2004, July 11). UK Soil Association Releases Fact Sheet on Key Health Benefits of Organic Foods . In Organic consumers assoication. Retrieved from Association of Primary Care Groups and Trusts website: http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/health-benefits.cfm Dahm, M., Samonte, A., & Shows, A. (2009). Organic Foods: Do Eco-Friendly Attitudes Predict Eco-Friendly Behaviors?. Journal of American College Health, 58(3), 195-202. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. Harris, B., Burress, D., & Eicher, S. (n.d.). Demands for local and organic produce:a breif review of the literature. Retrieved from http://www.ipsr.ku.edu/resrep/pdf/m254A.pdf Hartman Group, The. (2007, January). Organic2006: Consumer Attitudes & Behavior, Five Years Later & Into the Future. In Ecomall. Retrieved from http://www.ecomall.com/greenshopping/ hartmanorganic.htm Health benefits of organic food. (2006-2010). Organic facts. Retrieved from RuralTech Services website: http://www.organicfacts.net/organic-food/organic-food-basics/ health-benefits-of-organic-food.html Holzman, D. (2009). Next Course in Organic Debate. Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(10), A439. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. Lairon, Denis. (2010, Jan.) Agronomy for Sustainable Development. Vol. 30 Issue 1, p33-41, 9p, 2 Charts Retrieved from: Academic Search Complete database Oberholtzer, L., & Dimitri, C. (2009, September). Marketing U.S. organic foods: Recent trends from farmers to consumers. In Economic research service. Retrieved from United States Department of Agriculutre website: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EIB58/ Organic production and handling standards. (2008, April). National organic program. Retrieved from United States department of agriculture: Agriculture marketing service website: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3004445&acct=nopgeninfo Organic production and organic food: Information access tools. (2009, December 9). Alternative farming systems information center. Retrieved from United States Department of Agriculture website: http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/ofp/ofp.shtml#research