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Is Organic Food better for you?

The Organic vs. Non-Organic Food Debate Put Simple


It's Organic September in the UK and I thought I'd share some insights in regards to eating organic vs. non-organic food.

Let's begin by defining 'organic' food: "On an overall basis, organic food is prepared and processed without using any chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or chemical preservatives." Also, no genetically modified organisms are permitted.


Organic farming recognises the soil as being central to sustainable farming system. Instead of manipulating the soil with chemicals to increase productivity, organic farming relies on ecological processes and biodiversity and natural cycles in nature. Healthy soil is rich in rich in bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, nematodes and other tiny creatures, which are known as “organic matter.” The more organic matter in a sample of soil, the healthier that soil is.


Some of the ways to maintain the soil healthy include cover crops - which are usually planted in between seasons to protect the soil from nutrient loss, erosion, pests, weeds and enhance water availability and biodiversity - crop rotations, composting (decomposition of many materials usually considered waste, including food scraps, animal manures, leaves, straw, and more) and pest management, using biological control agents, fixed coppers, lime or potassium bicarbonate.


Is organic food better?


According to the literature, there is not enough scientific evidence pointing to nutritional benefits linked to the consumption of organic foods. There have been some recent studies suggesting that organic cow milk and organic tomatoes contain higher quality nutrients, however, the links to better health are still not strong enough or backed by evidence.


Benefits of Organic food


There are some other factors, however, that have contributed to think that organic food is better:

  • It contains more of the antioxidant compounds linked to better health than regular food. This is possibly due to the fact that foreign chemicals are not negatively interacting with the different vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds that are so essential for the positive impact of fruits and vegetables in the prevention of premature aging, vision problems, and cognitive malfunction.

  • Reduced exposure to toxic heavy metals including chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

  • It has been shown that organic milk has more antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, CLA, and vitamins than non-organic milk.

  • Organic food growers and dairy farmers do not use antibiotics in their processes, whereas non-organic food sources, particularly livestock and feed houses, also use antibiotics to feed their animals. This extra dose of antibiotics may actually be weakening our immune system by basically overdosing on antibiotics, thereby reshaping it so many times that it will eventually be unable to defend itself.

Downsides


There are also some cons to buying organic food and it's important to have all the facts before choosing to spend more money on food.

  • Organic food is usually 20% to 100% more than conventional food, this is because the production of such food is generally labor-intensive and involves the use of organic fertilisers and organic pesticides, which are more expensive than chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

  • Organic food may not be local, hence not environmentally sustainable as its transportation will have a high impact on our environment and climate.

  • Organic food has also a larger impact on the climate than conventional food because of the greater area of land required to farm it.

So should we eat organically?


If you can afford to buy some of your weekly shopping as organic produce, I have put together a guide to where to spend the money.

Most Contaminated Foods These foods contain higher levels of harmful chemicals and therefore non-organic versions should be avoided where possible:

  • Strawberries

  • Nectarines

  • Grapes

  • Celery

  • Spinach

  • Pears

  • Potatoes

  • Peaches

  • Bell Peppers 

  • Apples

  • Cherries

  • Raspberries

Least Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables These are the foods that require least spraying or have hard protective layers. If you cannot buy all organic produce then these are the best non-organic options.

  • Asparagus 

  • Kiwi

  • Avocados 

  • Mangoes 

  • Bananas 

  • Onions

  • Broccoli

  • Papaya

  • Cauliflower

  • Pineapples

  • Corn (However, corn may be genetically modified) 

  • Sweet Peas

When it is not possible for you to buy organic food then you should wash all non-organic fruits and vegetables thoroughly before use. Either remove outer skins/peel or wash the produce in a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar.


Practical ways to making ethical and sustainable food choices


Considering the vast and complex ethical issues that arise in the food and farming sector, we are constantly being asked to make difficult choices about the food we eat.

When working with my clients, who often feel overwhelmed by all the considerations to be made when buying food, this is what I tell them:

  • Buy locally sourced produce when possible. There is a big difference between the nutritional value of the apple grown a mile down the road and the organic apple that is transported from half way across the world! If it’s a choice between non-organic and local or organic and non-local, choose local.

  • Eat the food that is in season, which is usually the food that we naturally need.

  • Read the labels! Learn about the origin of the products and search for the Fair Trade certification when possible, as it that guarantees that the farmer received a reasonable price for their crop and ensures safe working conditions for employees.

  • Eat more plants! While the majority of my clients are omnivores, I try to encourage considering a more plant-based diet, which doesn't mean we'll remove meat, fish or dairy, instead we will focus on introducing more vegetables, pulses, fruits and grains.

If you have found this post helpful and would like to know more about groceries shopping, drop me an email and I'll be happy to help!

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