What is Organic Food?
This article provides general information on organic food. For more detail on the subject, please visit the websites in the references section. Organic food is readily available in many grocery stores. People choose to eat organic food for several reasons. They either want to eat more healthy, decrease their chances of preventable diseases, or support sustainable farming techniques. For many reasons, eating and buying organic food can be very beneficial. HelpGuide.org defines the word organic as “the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Specific requirements must be met and maintained in order for products to be labeled as “organic” (2014).
The Figure 1 is the label the United States Department of Agriculture uses to inform customers/consumers of foods that meet government organic food standards.
Organic farming uses natural fertilizers for the plants and soil. Organic foods taste fresher because they don’t contain preservatives. Conventional farming foods use preservatives. In regards to meat products, growth hormones and antibiotics are not used on the farm animals. Pesticides are not used on the crop, and neither is genetically modified organisms (GMOs). With genetically modified organisms, the DNA in plants and animals have been altered. The way in which they have been changed doesn’t occur naturally in nature. GMOs were created to prevent weedkillers from destroying crops. There is some controversy over the subject. There are no long term studies on the safety of eating foods with GMOs. Research on the connection between GMOs and negative health effects are inconclusive.
Below is information provided by HelpGuide.org to assist in the understanding of the difference between organic and non-organic produce.
Organic vs. Non-organic Produce
- No Pesticides in production
- Grown with natural fertilizers (manure, compost).
- Weeds are controlled naturally (crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching, and tilling).
- Insects are controlled using natural methods (birds, good insects, traps).
Conventionally grown produce:
- Pesticides used
- Grown with synthetic or chemical fertilizers.
- Weeds are controlled with chemical herbicides.
- Insecticides are used to manage pests and disease.
HelpGuide.org has also provided a chart to show the difference between organically raised and conventionally raised farm animals. Chart 1 has been modified to simplify the information.
|Organic Meat and Dairy||Conventional Meat and Dairy|
Chart 1– Organic vs. Conventional Meat and Dairy
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recognized the importance of organic foods. They have established standards for the production and process of organic foods. There is a label stated “USDA Organic” on foods that meet these regulatory standards (see Figure 1 above).
Mayo Clinic states that “Products certified 95 percent or more organic may display this USDA seal…Products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients may say “made with organic ingredients” on the label, but may not use the seal” (2014). Conventionally grown foods are also required to meet the same quality and safety standards. Some people may shy away from choosing organic products because they feel those products cost more than conventionally grown foods. The reason for the high prices of organic foods is due to expensive farming practices. Organic farming is more laborious than conventional farming. Organic.org states that “Organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies like conventional farmers do. Therefore, the price of organic food reflects the true cost of growing” (2014). Lack of government funding affects the wages of organic farmers. Higher prices are necessary to sustain the farming practices.
Helpful Tips to Benefit from Organic Lifestyle
- Always buy in season. Fruits and vegetables are the freshest and most delicious when they are in season.
- Wash fruits and vegetables. Bacteria and other chemicals may still reside in or on the produce you purchase.
- Visit your local farmers market. Purchasing from vendors closer to home helps sustain the vitality and economy of the city you live in.
- Check food labels. Organic food labels may be very confusing to someone who is unfamiliar with the ingredients.
“Healthier” Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
To familiarize myself with organic food. I wanted to make a dish made up of organic ingredients and items. Granted, the recipe isn’t 100% organic due to additives and other food coloring agents. I visited a local Whole Foods Market to purchase a few things to make a “healthier” alternative to an American Classic, macaroni and cheese. Below is the list of ingredients I used to make the dish along with the images. I have provided the nutrition facts on the ingredients, and broken down the steps necessary to make the dish.
4 cups of water
3 cups of organic nonGMO macaroni noodles
4 cups of cheese (not organic but produced without added hormones)
4 Tbs of nonGMO buttery spread
1 Cup 2 % milk (from cows not treated with rBST)
Boil water in a medium size pot. Turn heat on high. Then cover pot with the lid.
When water is boiling, add macaroni noodles. Stir occasionally for 10-12 mins until noodles are tender.
When noodles are tender, drain them in a colander. Let stand for 2 mins.
Place noodles back in the pot. Using a large spoon, add milk, butter, and cheese.
Stir until ingredients are mixed thoroughly, then enjoy!
The word “healthier” is used very loosely, Since I am not a nutritionist, I’m not sure if this recipe is less in calories and fat than a traditional macaroni and cheese recipe. I do know that the grocery items I bought do not contain pesticides, antibiotics, GMO’s, or hormones, so I choose to call it a “healthier recipe.” This recipe can serve 4 people. This recipe is one that I created myself, however I’m sure it can be changed to suit the palate of any person.
HelpGuide.org. (2014). What is organic food?. Are Organic Foods Right for You?. Retrieved December 19, 2014, from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-eating/organic-foods.htm
Mayo Clinic. (2014). Organic food: Are they safer? More nutritious?. Nutrition and healthy eating. Retrieved December 18, 2014, from
Organic.org. (2014). Organic Myths. Organic Education. Retrieved December 20, 2014, from
This article is written by Hang Pham. Hang Pham is a Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance Health and Wellness Educator. Hang Pham was born in Hoc Mon, Vietnam. She came to America in 1994, becoming a U.S. citizen in 2011. Hang graduated from Seaside High School with diploma and received her AA in General Studies from Monterey Peninsula College in 2011. She received her BA in Collaborative Health and Human Services from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in 2012. In addition to working as a volunteer staff with the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, she currently works as a Clerical Aid in the Human Resources Department of Salinas City Hall. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.
Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.