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25 May 2006

Organic claims often overstated

When you pay more for organic food, are you getting what you pay for? Not necessarily.

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When you pay more for organic food, are you getting what you pay for? Not necessarily.

Organic food is produce that has been grown, or animal flesh that has been farmed, without the use of chemicals, pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It has benefits: it cuts down the chemical load that we take in and reaches us in a natural state with its nutrient content intact.

Organic food is often fresher because it is rushed to market. However, consumers may need to be more careful to wash organic produce because improperly composted animal fertiliser can contaminate it.

Consumers also commonly think of organic food as more nutritious, but there's no evidence of that. "Not a single published study has shown any difference in the nutrient content of organic food versus conventional farm products," says David Klurfeld, a food scientist at Wayne State University in Detroit, USA.

Beware certain foods – organic or not

It is important to remember that not every product with an organic origin is healthy. Coffee, for example, contains caffeine whether it is organic or not. Caffeine increases blood pressure, affects blood glucose levels and adrenal glands, acts as a mild laxative that can affect the absorption of the B group of vitamins in the colon and has a diuretic effect on the body that can lead to mild dehydration. The same with organic cheese, which is high in saturated fats. Organic muesli contains simple carbohydrates and fructose in the dried fruits. Organic chocolate contains sugar and fat. None of these foods is particularly healthy.

Many foods that are organic can also be processed – like chocolate and pizza. Eating organic foods can be a way for people to fool themselves into believing they are eating healthily because the word organic appeases their conscience while indulging in chocolate pudding.

The bottom line: read the labels, and choose foods wisely based their nutrition content – not their organic label.

 
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