The Benefits of Eating Organic Foods


Many of us are aware of organic foods and may have heard that they are meant to be ‘better’ or ‘healthier’ for us. However, there is often confusion about what organic food actually is, and if it is better for us. Organic food means that the food products have been produced using methods that adhere to a strict set of standards. The UK, for example, has to comply with EU regulations. In short, these methods aim to benefit soil quality and biodiversity, ecosystems, animals and people. Organic farming aims to use fewer chemicals and artificial products, improve animal welfare standards, and in general, look after the planet and the resources it provides to us. All of these factors have knock-on effects for humans. The organic food market industry is becoming more and more popular, and for good reasons. In the US, retail sales of organic foods increased from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $21.1 billion in 2008.1 Furthermore, organic food international trade showed a growth rate of approximately 20-22% annually.2

Continue reading to find out more about the potential incredible impact that eating organic foods could have on your health, the well-being of animals and the planet, as well as how to introduce organic foods into your diet. 

Organic food labelling 

For foods to be labeled as organic, 95% or more of the ingredients must be derived from organically produced animals or plants. Organic foods must be approved by an organic certification body that ensures that the foods and methods of farming follow the sets of organic regulations. The Soil Association is an example of a label to look out for. They are the UK’s largest organic certification body. Be aware that it is not possible to find certain ingredients that are organic, and therefore, there are few non-organic ingredients that are allowed. Having said that, all sweeteners and artificial colourings are banned. 

Health benefits 


Chemicals are used in farming to kill insects and pests and remove weeds or fungal diseases. These are collectively known as pesticides. In most farms, they are used on a large scale, and unfortunately, now many farmers are reliant on them. In organic farming, much fewer pesticides are used.  Additionally, under the Soil Association’s standards, farmers are only allowed to use natural pesticides such as citronella, but only under very limited circumstances. 

You may be wondering what is the problem with using these chemicals in farming. The government currently considers small amounts to be safe, however there is a growing number of opinions in the scientific world supporting that no amount of pesticides is safe and healthy for humans, and therefore not even the use of small amounts should be allowed. Pesticides are found in many areas of our lives and are all around us, such as when they are sprayed on lawns or in parks. For this reason, it is hard to prove that exposure to a certain amount of pesticide causes a certain disease or disorder. However, scientists have linked long-term exposure to pesticides to some cancers, asthma, depression, anxiety and more health conditions. 

Pesticides are often not tested for safety when being combined, which is an issue as farmers often use a variety of pesticides at a time, given that they eliminate different pests. This is known as the cocktail of pesticides. Scientists believe that this combined use of pesticides may have a detrimental effect on our health. The Soil Association found that some items of food may contain up to 14 different pesticides.3,4

As mentioned earlier, under the Soil Association standards, weed killers are banned in organic foods. Glyphosate-based weed killers are particularly a cause for concern. Although it has been claimed that these products cause no damage to our health, in 2015, a branch of the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that glyphosate-containing products have the potential to cause cancer.5

Organic farmers use other methods to prevent pests. For instance, they encourage the presence of other insects, including ladybirds, which are considered beneficial, as they tend to eat pests such as caterpillars. Also, carefully choosing the crop breeds and rotating crops over the seasons lowers the chances of plant disease. Weeds are removed manually or mechanically and are prevented with natural,  and therefore organic, weed suppressants. 

In addition to the substances above, additives such as food colourings or artificial sweeteners are not permitted in organic foods. These are usually added to products to make them look more appealing to people or to alter the taste. 


Using antibiotics in non-organic farming is a common and widespread practice, often being used to prevent diseases in animals who are living in unhygienic conditions and being fed a diet that is not optimal for their health. However, in organic farming, the use of antibiotics is banned. Organic farmers use antibiotics only as a last resort. When animals lead a healthy lifestyle by being fed a healthy diet and being raised in good conditions, antibiotics are not needed routinely. The constant use of antibiotics in farming is concerning because of the increased risk of antibiotic resistance being developed in animals. Antibiotics become ineffective against bacteria due to their overuse. These bacteria that have become resistant can easily be transmitted to humans when animal products are consumed or handled. This can include meat, milk and eggs. This can lead to infections in humans that are more difficult to treat.6

The WHO has advised farmers and the food industry to stop the use of antibiotics to promote normal growth and prevent disease in otherwise healthy animals.

Genetically modified organisms

In genetically modified organisms or GMOs, the DNA of an organism, which can be an animal or plant, has been altered using engineering in a lab. Foods are genetically modified to make them last longer, resist disease, or taste better. GMO foods are limited in the UK, however livestock are often fed GMO products, such as soy meal and maize. Organic farming bans the use of all GM products. Animals in organic farms are fed a natural and organic diet. The long-term repercussions of editing genetics are not yet fully understood, however it is a valid concern that the excessive use of GMOs in farming can increase the risk of antibiotic resistance.7

Nutrition and taste

According to National Geographic, in 2012, a study found that organic foods were more nutritious than non-organic foods, containing 18-69% higher concentrations of antioxidants. Antioxidants are beneficial nutrients to our health and include compounds such as vitamin C. The results of this study mean that if you eat equal amounts of the same organic and non-organic food, you will consume more nutrients by eating the organic food. An example is the fact that organic milk contains about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic milk! Antioxidants also affect the taste of the food. Studies have shown that the higher the level of antioxidants, the better the taste and aroma of a food.8 

Environmental benefits 

Climate change is one of the most serious challenges the world is facing today, and there is no doubt that organic farming has massive benefits for the planet. It is estimated that agriculture linked to food production in the EU accounts for 21-37% of the global emissions of greenhouse gases.9 More than 80% of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are caused by methane emissions from livestock and nitrous oxide gas (a chemical compound enhancing the greenhouse effect) released from soil.10 A study found that agricultural emissions could drop by 40-50% by 2050 if all of Europe’s farmland followed organic principles. 

Organic farming restricts the use of pesticides and other chemicals which come from burning fossil fuels. This, in turn, reduces the production of greenhouse gases. Furthermore, the use of synthetic fertilisers in non-organic farming increases the emission of nitrous oxide. In organic systems, the use of synthetic fertilisers is restricted.

Unknown to many is the fact that soil is extremely useful in fighting climate change. Soil stores a massive amount of carbon - more than all of the carbon stored in plants, trees and the atmosphere. In organic farming, healthy soil is promoted using various methods such as crop rotations and natural compost. This allows the soil to store even more carbon.

As mentioned before, methane released from livestock makes up the majority of greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture. In organic farming, there are restrictions on how many animals are permitted per hectare, which reduces the emissions as the holding capacity of the land is not exceeded. Organic animals mainly graze grass rather than being fed imported GM animal feeds or other livestock. The grazing animals fertilise the soil with their manure, which reduces the need for fertilisers and, therefore, the emissions of greenhouse gases. 

Animal welfare

In organic farming, animals live in lots of open space and in natural conditions. Their living conditions are up to a much higher standard than any other farming system, and the animals are considered to be “free range”. These factors improve their quality of life and reduce the risk of diseases, given that the animals are being fed a healthy diet and are not crowded. This, therefore, reduces the need for antibiotics and other painful procedures that the animals could go through.

How to go organic

Organic food is available in all major supermarkets, however it is true that organic food tends to be more expensive. If it is not possible to switch your entire grocery shopping to organic, why not start with switching a few items? A good place to start is gradually changing your essential items, such as milk, eggs or potatoes, to organic. Another idea is to grow your own food. For example, you could start with growing your own herbs, such as coriander or basil, in your house. Check out this page for more tips.


Organic foods offer a range of advantages for the planet, our health and animals. The reduced use of pesticides, chemicals, antibiotics and GMOs minimises health risks, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and provides a better life for animals. Organic foods also tend to be more nutritious and may even taste better. Consider making small changes in your life to implement more organic produce so that you can live a healthier life whilst contributing to a sustainable way of farming. 


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  2. Food safety in the 21st century [Internet]. Elsevier; 2017 [cited 2023 Sep 22]. Available from:
  3. Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF). (2018). Annual Report 2017. uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/726926/expert-committee-pesticide-residues-food-annualreport-2017.pdf 81
  4. Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF). (2019). Annual Report 2018. uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/824814/expert-committee-pesticide-residues-food-annualreport-2018.pdf
  6. Manyi-Loh C, Mamphweli S, Meyer E, Okoh A. Antibiotic use in agriculture and its consequential resistance in environmental sources: potential public health implications. Molecules [Internet]. 2018 Mar 30 [cited 2023 Sep 22];23(4):795. Available from:
  7. Bawa AS, Anilakumar KR. Genetically modified foods: safety, risks and public concerns—a review. J Food Sci Technol [Internet]. 2013 Dec [cited 2023 Sep 22];50(6):1035–46. Available from:
  8. Wilson DW, Nash P, Buttar HS, Griffiths K, Singh R, De Meester F, et al. The role of food antioxidants, benefits of functional foods, and influence of feeding habits on the health of the older person: an overview. Antioxidants (Basel) [Internet]. 2017 Oct 28 [cited 2024 Jan 21];6(4):81. Available from:
  9. Special report on climate change and land — ipcc site [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 22]. Available from:
  10. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in Europe [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 22]. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Shalini Jain

MBBS- Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery

Shalini has a background as a Doctor having graduated from St. George's, University of London. She has a wide range of experience working across many different medical and surgical specialties in a variety of NHS trusts. She has experience of carrying out quality improvement projects in the NHS and writing scientific documents and presentations. Additionally, she has worked as an examiner for medical students. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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