The ongoing debate about the health benefits of organic foods versus processed foods is one that may never cease, but research shows that while there are benefits to organic foods, there are also rarely recognized benefits to processed foods.
By government standards, organic food is produce that has not been exposed to pesticides or growth promoters.
Some organic food consumers would argue that all of the chemical treatments that take place in industrial agriculture cause health risks that may result in the consumption of these chemicals.
“With organic farming the crops are rotated and the soil is better taken care of,” said Helena Yardley, a representative of New Leaf Market, a health food store in Tallahassee. “Produce gets its nutrients from the soil (and) that’s why organic food tends to be more nutritious.”
Most processed foods, especially meats, are usually produced through a process called factory farming.
Factory farming allows croppers to inject their animals with growth hormones to give consumers more meat for their money. They also use antibiotics in their livestock to reduce the number of diseases that may be present in the animal. Synthetic pesticides are used to keep produce fresh longer.
Yardley said factory farming strips foods of nutrients and organic foods are more nutritious because of the treatment they receive.
There are many issues that may arise from eating processed foods. According to the Web site WebMD, synthetic growth hormones, which are banned in any organically raised animals, could cause cancer or speed up puberty for girls.
Leatrice Dixon, a 22-year-old senior health science student from Florence, S.C., said she believes that food injected with growth hormones is the reason why young girls are looking more mature.
“I think all of this genetically engineered food is exactly why 12-year-old girls look like they’re 17,” Dixon said. “It seems like it started with our generation because we were more developed than our parents at 12 years old, but now it’s getting out of hand.”
Yardley agrees with Dixon’s theory.
“The growth hormones that are being put in foods now are causing girls to become taller and start their periods at younger and younger ages,” Yardley said.
Yardley said organic food has fresh taste because organic farmers rotate their crops and do not use synthetic pesticides.
While there appears to be several good reasons to consume organic food, the most common downside is that organic foods tend to be more expensive than processed food.
“Organic foods may be a little more expensive because organic farming isn’t on a large scale like factory farming,” Yardley said. “And since the synthetic pesticides aren’t used on the produce, they tend to perish a little quicker than produce that is sprayed with pesticides.”
Because the shelf life is shorter for organic foods, there is a need to expedite the shipment of food.
In spite of the fact that food processing is accused of causing certain diseases and pre-mature puberty and being less nutritious, there are some nutrition benefits to non-organic food.
Normal W. Desrosier, author of “Food Preservation,” said food processing allows toxins to be removed. It also helps in extending the shelf life, improving the flavor and transporting goods across long distances.
Derek Rothenberger, a 19-year-old freshman marine biology student at Florida State University from Tampa, said he thinks the hype of organic food is a trend.
“Processed food is not any less safe or nutritious than organic food,” Rothenberger said. “It’s a trend to get people to spend money, it reminds me of the emergence of the carb-free diet.”
Desrosier said food processing allows for additional nutrients that may have otherwise been taken away.
Both organic foods and processed foods have their positives and negatives, but it’s up to the consumer to decide what is best for them based on budget, nutrition and health needs.