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What Does Organic Mean?

If prepackaged and processed foods are generally viewed in a negative light, then organic foods have the opposite reputation. But what does organic actually mean when referring to food? It turns out that laws and regulations are involved.

In general terms, organic foods are produced and processed with minimal input of chemicals, including fertilizers, pesticides, ripening agents, antibiotics, and growth hormones. And, producers must follow strict guidelines to claim the organic label.

The objective of organic food production is not only to minimize the input of manufactured chemicals into food, but also to promote recycling of resources, facilitate ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. It’s not possible to say anything bad about organic food production, and organic foods are the fastest-growing segment of the food industry. Organic foods also cost more than conventionally produced foods.

So, how can eating organic foods improve blood glucose control, reduce your risk for heart disease, and improve your nutrition? Most evidence suggests that they can’t. By most measures, producing food organically does not alter the nutrient content in any appreciable way.

Studies have shown small differences in certain nutrients, but the differences can’t be tied conclusively to their organic production or processing methods. Once again, what’s most important is that you choose the best foods for your health.

Studies have found that the consumption of organic foods is subject to the healthy halo effect, where people make unfounded health assumptions. One study found that university students inferred that organic cookies were lower in calories than conventional cookies, even when the nutrition labels showed the calorie content to be identical.

The questions about synthetic chemicals in your diet are unsettled. Conventionally produced foods probably expose you to more pesticide residues than organic foods, but the levels are very small and are considered safe by the regulatory agencies. Ultimately, if choosing organic foods is the right choice for you, there is no down side — that is, as long as you choose foods that promote good health.

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