Step into any grocery store or supermarket, and you’ll likely find a whole section full of organic produce, with a price tag higher than the regular items. In spite of the cost, dieticians, doctors and even health-conscious people can’t get enough of these products. So, what exactly does organic mean? And what’s the fuss all about? We tell you all about it in this must-know guide.
What Is Organic Food?
Products grown without any chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or genetically modified properties are called organic. They are instead grown using an eco-friendly and socially responsible method. Organic food has several benefits for health and the environment. Organic livestock such as meat, eggs and dairy, need to be free of external antibiotics, hormones or any artificial food items.
What Are Its Benefits?
- It is healthy
You are what you eat – and organic food plays a big role in it. The harmful chemicals and artificial fertilisers used to get a higher crop yield can have a direct link to your physical and mental health. Additionally, the pesticides and other medicines used to drive away birds and insects, often have residues on the skin of the crop, which may not be washed off, and consumed while cooking.
- It is fresher than other foods
Organic food has a shorter shelf life than regular foods, as there are no preservatives added to increase its longevity. Hence, you will always find a fresh batch.
- It is better for the environment
The organic way of farming helps preserve the soil from the pollution that renders it barren over time. Besides, it conserves water and uses less energy. It promotes the natural ecosystem by not using pesticides, so works well for nearby animals and birds. It is less cruel to animals as compared to the commercial meat industry.
- It keeps the meat, eggs and dairy healthy
Factory-produced meat is usually derived from animals that are given heavy antibiotics and hormones for faster growth or more milk. They are also fed artificial food items or substandard animal products. This increases the risk of animal diseases and can create antibiotic-resistant germs. Not only is organic meat and dairy free of all this, but the organic food industry also gives the animals access to the outdoors, keeping them mentally and physically healthy.
- It is richer in nutrients
The chemicals that keep the food items pest-free and healthy often takes away from their nutrients as well. Organic plants and meat help preserve this.
Almost every other food store and market offers an organic list of items, but not all of it is authentic or even healthy. For an average consumer, it can get rather confusing to identify the real from the fake. The key is to check for labels.
Internationally, a completely chemical-free item is labelled organic. For imported products look for certification from the International Federation Of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In India, it is best to opt for farms that are certified under agencies approved by the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP), Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), and Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). A recent addition to the list of certification is the Jaivik Bharat tag, which enforces a stricter rule for farmers and vendors. Essentially, the more national and international certifications an item has, the better it is.
Organic food is the freshest when bought during its season time. Additionally, there is more supply so you can buy it without feeling a strain on your pocket. While buying organic food, check out a few other places besides your local store. Often, the large food store or the farmers’ market might have better options. Also remember, packed organic snacks may not necessarily be healthy. While the ingredients used may be fresh, it might be loaded with salt, sugar and even preservatives afterwards.
Fruits and vegetables with a thin skin, such as apples, strawberries, grapes, spinach, cucumbers, and potatoes, are more prone to chemicals, so it’s best to buy them organically. Alternatively, those with a thick skin can be bought in a non-organic option if you’re on a budget. These include avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, cabbage, onions, asparagus, papaya, kiwi, and cauliflower.