You’re a conscientious shopper, who reads labels and steers clear of the dirty dozen. You know all the reasons to buy organic food and you do exactly that whenever possible. However, food isn’t all you consume. Think about your daily multivitamin or the spirulina powder you throw into smoothies. You lean on vitamins and supplements for their targeted health properties – and rightfully so. But imagine if they were organic formulas. Like the produce you pick, organic supplements offer several unique benefits.
Organic Supplements: What Does That Mean, Anyway?
First, you should know that organic supplements are made with organic ingredients. The term “organic” isn’t just an enticing marketing term. It refers to how an ingredient is grown or processed, and it’s heavily regulated.
In the U.S., the National Organic Program (NOP) is the regulatory framework that governs organic crops and livestock. This program is enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA enforces organic standards, accredits third-party certifiers and supports current organic producers. For a farmer or processor to become a certified organic producer, it must meet the strict standards outlined by the NOP.
That said, not all organic supplements are created equally. For a product to be “certified organic,” it must contain at least 95% organic ingredients. These supplements carry the USDA organic seal. Other supplement labels might read “made with organic ingredients,” which means they contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients. The “made with” supplements do not qualify for the organic seal.
The Top 5 Benefits of Organic Supplements
Believe it or not, the benefits of organic supplements go beyond physical health and wellbeing. Of course, health is a major component. But you’ll also find that these formulas offer perks for the planet and even provide some peace of mind.
If transparency is important to you, organic supplements should be on your radar. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements for safety and efficacy, organic certification promises very specific standards that may put your mind at ease. These standards can be broken down by the type of ingredient used to formulate your supplement.
Organic supplements made with whole foods:
Organic fruits and vegetables must be grown in soil that has not be exposed to the NOP’s prohibited substances for at least three years prior to harvest. Blacklisted substances include pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and other toxic chemicals. Produce must also be grown without the use of sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering. That means no genetically modified organisms (GMOs)!
Organic supplements with animal-derived ingredients:
The USDA requires that organic meat be made from animals raised in an environment that accommodates the animals’ natural behavior. For examples, organic cows must be allowed to graze on a pasture. Farmers must provide these animals with 100% organic feed and are never allowed to administer antibiotics or hormones.
Organic supplements made with processed/multi-ingredient foods:
This refers to foods and ingredients that have been packaged, combined or processed. This might include the organic sunflower lecithin or palm oil used to hold the supplement formula together. Regulations prohibit these foods from containing artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.
2. Reduced exposure to toxins
Researchers suggest that pesticide exposure can increase the risk of developing various neurodegenerative diseases by triggering oxidative stress and inflammation. Some studies have specifically linked organochlorine pesticides to breast cancer in post-menopausal women.
There are, still, conflicting opinions regarding the exact relationship between pesticide exposure and disease development. In any case, reducing your exposure – and consumption – of pesticides is never a bad idea. And if it can potentially benefit your health and the health of your loved ones, there’s no harm in making the switch to organic supplements. The NOP prohibits the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, so you know your supplements are free of potentially harmful toxins.
3. Additional antioxidants
Organic supplements not only offer cleaner nutrients, but they supply more of them. Organic fruits and vegetables have a higher antioxidant content than their conventional counterparts. This is in part, because plants that have to fight off insects and disease (without help from chemical pesticides) will naturally develop antioxidants for protection.
Charles Benbrook, a researcher from Washington State University explains another possible reason for the added nutrients. Heavily fertilized conventional crops grow bigger and faster, which can result in a more diluted crop. “That’s why when you buy these great big juicy apples that are just sweet as sin, it’s that extra moisture and carbohydrate that dilutes the vitamin C and the anthocyanins,” says Benbrook.
4. All-natural vitamins and minerals
Because of the NOP’s strict standards, organic supplements are primarily made with whole foods. Whole foods provide all-natural vitamins and minerals, which are superior to any synthetic version. In fact, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study that compared synthetic vitamin E to a natural form. The result? Natural vitamin E has nearly twice the bioavailability of synthetic vitamin E.
A similar effect was found when comparing synthetic vitamin K to a natural form, menaquinone-7 (MK-7). Both varieties were absorbed well, but MK-7 showed a very long half-life, leading to more stable vitamin K serum levels. In other words, your body recognizes the all-natural vitamins and minerals and can more readily use them to support your health.
5. Healthier soil
There has been a long-standing debate over the environmental impact of conventional agriculture. Unfortunately, the solution is not obvious or straightforward. But one thing is certain: organic agriculture improves the quality of soil and promotes biodiversity. By eliminating the use of chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and genetic engineering, the soil maintains its natural composition.
It’s also worth noting that synthetic fertilizers rely on cheap fossil fuels as a source of energy. Fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, are known to cause air pollution and contribute to global warming emissions. Organic agriculture, on the other hand, has a much lower energy demand. In fact, it has the potential to improve carbon dioxide emissions if adopted on a large scale.
Are you ready to do your part? You may not be able to change the world tomorrow, but you can make a small difference when you buy organic supplements.