Top 10 Reasons Why Organic Veggies Should Be Your Best Friend
I know, I know — you’ve heard this time and time again. “Eat your veggies!” While this might have been slammed into your brain from an early age, it’s for good reason. Vegetables are packed with nutrients, are naturally low-calorie, and yes, can taste delicious.
If you’re already eating your veggies, then good for you. To step it up even one more notch, you should consider eating organic.
But first: What exactly does it mean to “eat organic?” Organic food is defined as food grown from a farming system that avoids man-made fertilizers and pesticides. The exact standards for what counts as “organic” varies country by country, but most generally follow these guidelines:
- They must avoid synthetic chemicals, like fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, and food additives
- They must not use genetically modified seeds, which is when the DNA of the seed is modified
- The farmland where the vegetables are grown has to be free from chemical inputs for (typically) three or more years
- There must be detailed written production and sales records for auditing purposes
- The organic growing must be physically distant from non-organic products
- Farmers must undergo regular on-site inspections
The purchasing of organic vegetables (and fruits and meats) has grown in the U.S., even though it generally costs more to eat organically. According to the Organic Trade Association, sales of organic food hit a record $43 billion last year, which was an 8.4% increase from the previous year.
Now, let’s dive into the health and practical reasons why you should add more organic vegetables to your diet. We hope some of these facts surprise you!
Why You Should Eat Organic Veggies
- They’re more nutritious. In general, vegetables pack a lot of nutrition into a minimum of calories, from a variety of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, proteins, fiber, iron, and folic acid — the list goes on and on! These different nutrients are helpful in a myriad of ways, from helping you feel more full to contributing to the reduction of certain chronic diseases. Now, there’s been some debate over the actual nutritional benefit of organic crops, but recent science is on our side. There’s new and strong evidence that show organic veggies with as more vitamin and mineral rich versus non-organic vegetables. Furthermore, the lack of heavy metals, pesticides, and unnecessary toxins in organic veggies boost their overall health. Vegetables that grow in healthy soil will also increase the number of flavonoids in the crop, which are cancer-fighting compounds. Overall, crops treated with any amount or form of chemicals can have a negative impact on your body.
- You get to eat in season (and support local farmers). What’s neat about organic veggies is they are available year round, from juicy tomatoes in the summer to hearty cauliflower in the winter. (It’s fun to know the food you’re cooking has been grown close to you, and it’s prime-eating time!) Go to your local farmer’s market or consider signing up for a CSA to eat organically and seasonally. This is also a great way to support local farmers, boost the economy in your backyard, and contribute to the organic farming industry.
- They taste good (and maybe even better than the non-organic stuff). Speaking of, organic veggies typically taste better than non-organic versions, and they are definitely more fresh and juicy in-season. Science also shows the flavors of stressed crops (aka non-organic) will quickly deteriorate — the plant becomes “stressed” as it desperately tries to find nutrients to grow. On the flip side, organic veggies that grow without chemicals and in nutrient-dense soil keep their flavors and generally taste a lot better.
- There’s fewer pesticides and heavy metals. Chemicals are technically “safe” in the small quantities used in conventional farming, but this doesn’t mean they are good for you. Moreover, repeated exposure over time to these chemicals can definitely be detrimental to your health. On the flip side, organic vegetables are grown without most pesticides or artificial fertilizers. (Interesting note: The National Organic Standard Board allow some synthetic substances to be used, like pheromones, which is a non-toxic way to reduce insect infestations on crops.) A meta-analysis found that organic crops have higher amounts of antioxidants and lower concentrations of the potentially harmful toxic metal cadmium, which can accumulate in your kidney and liver.
- In some cases, organic veggies have more antioxidants. As we just noted, scientists have discovered that organic vegetables typically have a higher antioxidant count, which can prevent or delay cell damage and reduce our risk for cancer. In fact, one study found that organic onions had 20 percent more antioxidants than conventional onions. Vegetables that are known for high antioxidant levels include artichokes, beets, spinach, broccoli, and cilantro (hi, guacamole!).
- You’ll avoid GMOs. GMOs (aka “Genetically Modified Organisms”) are plants that have been created by altering its DNA to make them more weather and pest-resistant. GMOs are used because it helps grow commercial-sized vegetables that are less vulnerable to damage and destruction. However, GMOs could be dangerous for your health and the environment; they contain chemicals and viruses that can be bad for your body. For example, corn is genetically engineered with a bacteria called Bt-toxin. This will kill off insects, but can also poke holes in human cells and lead to a leaky gut. (Yuck.) Avoiding all that nonsense with organic veggies is a safe and smart move for your health.
- They’re naturally low in calories. Vegetables are a great option if you’re looking to lose a little weight, or are generally trying to eat “good” calories and avoid empty ones — we’re talking soda, refined sugars, and excess sodium. All vegetables are both fat-free and cholesterol-free, and any naturally occurring sugars found in veggies are good for you. And with organic veggies tasting better than the processed ones, it’ll be easier (and more fun) to consume them, helping you maintain a healthy weight and overall feel better about yourself.
- You will never get bored. If you look for organic veggies, you might be (gently) forced to try new things and expand your palette outside its normal comfort zone. This doesn’t need to be scary, though! Veggies can be found in surprising meals, from cauliflower crust in your pizza, to organic peppers in your breakfast burrito. If you think outside the box, you’ll find there are endless options to fit veggies into all of your meals. (And hey, potatoes are vegetables too, so we’ll let hashbrowns count. Just make sure you find organic ones!)
- Organic farming keeps our soil healthy. Organic food does good for more than just our bodies. Vegetables that are commercially farmed are sprayed with toxic chemicals that will often harm and kill the soil around it — including the organisms that live in the soil that the plants need to make the crops nutrient-dense. Going organic reduces this issue.
- Eating organic has long-term health benefits. Eating well (and organic!) has many health benefits that you’ll experience in both the short-term and the long-term. In addition to feeling more energized from a diet full of veggies, scientists have studied how eating organic foods will reduce our exposure to pesticides, lessens disease risk, and improve things like early childhood development. Additional behavioral studies show that people who eat organic foods (including vegetables) tend to have healthier diets overall, and generally, have a healthy self-identity and embody personal values rich in ethics.
At the end of the day, choosing to include vegetables as a main staple in your diet is a good idea. To add even more nutrients, taste, and variety to your day, consider going organic. As you can see, the benefits are seemingly endless, making organic vegetables your newest (and healthiest) BFF.