The word “organic” has taken the community of modern Indian parents by a storm, and there’s a reason for it. For years, we have known that the crops, vegetables and fruits bought at the marketplace are mostly grown with the help of fertilisers and pesticides. Today, we can do something different. We can opt for food that is grown without the harmful chemicals and pesticides. That’s where the organic food story begins.

Hence, organic foods, which once belonged only on the shelves of premium health stores, have now moved into general supermarkets. Now, conventionally grown foods might give your kid the same amount of macro and micronutrients as organically grown ones. However, they do have a big difference. So, are organic foods healthier? Read on to find out.

What are organic foods?

Organic farming translates to safe, natural and sustainable farming methods to grow vegetables, fruits, grains, meats, and dairy products, without the use of harmful chemicals. So, these organic practices enhance soil and water quality, reduce pollution, provide safe, healthy and natural livestock habitats and behaviours, and promote self-sustaining cycles of farm resources. Organic foods that are grown and produced using holistic agricultural practices have lesser additives and contaminants and are also environment-friendly. Organic farming methods control pests, weeds, and diseases too, by using crop rotations, natural predators and organic manures, thereby removing the reliance on chemical interventions.

Benefits of organic foods

Organic food benefits for your kids are many.

  • Nitrates in foods, which are not organic, can cause gastrointestinal cancer and methemoglobinemia (a blood disorder where red blood cells contain more than 1% of methemoglobin). Organic foods contain lesser levels of nitrates, compared to inorganic ones.
  • Studies also show lower eczema rates among newborns whose mothers consumed organic products. You already know that vitamin C keeps your baby’s cells healthy, helps in healing wounds and maintains healthy hair, skin, bones, cartilage and blood vessels. And organic fruits and leafy vegetables like spinach and lettuce have higher levels of vitamin C.
  • Carotenoids are antioxidants which are also converted into vitamin A to boost your child’s immune system and prevent many diseases. These are found in abundance in organic sweet peppers, plums, tomatoes and carrots.
  • Phenolic compounds having antioxidant, anti-mutagenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties are found in significantly higher quantities in organic foods.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids are found more in organic meat, dairy and eggs, because of the feed quality of the livestock.
  • Research has shown lower levels of toxic cadmium (natural toxic chemical found in soil and absorbed by plants) in organic grains too.
  • Presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is more prevalent in conventionally produced meats than the organic ones.
  • Pesticide residues are contaminants which are present in higher levels in conventionally produced foods. They can cause genotoxic, carcinogenic, neuro destructive, endocrine and allergenic effects. Studies show that organic foods are less exposed to organophosphates, the most important component of pesticides.

Even though organic foods are found to have better quality of nutrients than conventionally produced foods, the bioavailability of nutrients in them depends on crop varieties, animal breeds, method and amount of crop fertilization, plant age during harvest and weather conditions.

Identifying organic foods

Organic foods are certified by NPOP or PGS. Single ingredient foods are labelled as ‘organic' or ‘PGS-Organic' if they meet all specified standards. And multi-ingredient foods, in which at least 95% of the ingredients are organic, are labelled as ‘certified organic' or PGS-Organic. Authentic organic foods should also have the logo of Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) and FSSAI logo license number. The label might also have India Organic logo (NPOP certified) or PGS-India Organic logo.

Tips to remember when you buy organic food

Importance of organic foods is well-known among the present generation of parents. So, when you buy organic foods, make sure you buy a variety of the same, so that even if there is a chance of pesticide exposure, you will be reducing the risk of exposing your kids to a single pesticide. Always buy the freshest produce possible. Some organic foods might also have high levels of fats, sugar, salt or calories, so make sure you read the nutrition labels. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly in running water before prepping or cooking them. This will help remove external contaminants, like bacteria and certain chemical traces. You can even discard the outer skin by peeling some fruits and vegetables, though it might lead to loss of some nutrients.

Now that you know about the many benefits of organic foods, you might be a little concerned about their high prices. However, this is due to the more expensive farming practices when compared to the conventional foods. Plus, the price is worth the safety and nutritional value your child will get by going organic.