Regardless of diet, organic foods are a smart priority. Opting for organic foods is an effectual choice for personal and planetary health. Buying organically grown food—free of harmful chemicals, bursting with more nutrition, taste, and sustainable sustenance— is a direct vote for immediate health and the hopeful future of generations to come.
So What Exactly is Organic Food ?
Organic food is anything agricultural that has been grown and processed according to a very strict set of rules. To be classified organic, the soil must be safe, there must have been no modifications to the food product, it must not have been exposed to synthetic pesticides, petroleum or sewage-based fertilisers (nice!) and it must not have been genetically modified.
You will be very lucky if you are able to buy all the plant based foods that you desire from a nearby farm or can easily make organic choices. For most of us though, this can prove too costly and quite often isn't actually feasible. Therefore, it is important to understand that some plants are affected more drastically by the pollution in soil than others - which basically means that they absorb more of the bad stuff farmers put in their crops. See below my list of the Dirty Fifteen - those foods that you I advise that you spend a little more on and ensure you buy organic. It is also worth keeping in your mind the Clean Fifteen - these are the fruits and veggies that absorb the fewest pesticides, and therefore in theory can be bought non-organically. This list is updated annually - but you can just search online for any changes, however, in the most-part it remains the same.
Reasons to Choose Organic
1. Avoid chemicals
Eating organically grown foods is the only way to avoid the cocktail of chemical poisons present in commercially grown food. Many of these chemicals were approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before extensive diet testing.
The National Academy of Sciences reports that 90% of the chemicals applied to foods have not been tested for long-term health effects before being deemed "safe." Further, the FDA tests only 1% of foods for pesticide residue. The most dangerous and toxic pesticides require special testing methods, which are rarely if ever employed by the FDA.
2. Benefit from more nutrients
Organically grown foods have more nutrients—vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and micronutrients—than commercially grown foods because the soil is managed and nourished with sustainable practices by responsible standards. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine conducted a review of 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains and concluded that there are significantly more of several nutrients in organic foods crops.
Further, the study verifies that five servings of organically grown vegetables (such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage) provide an adequate allowance of vitamin C, whereas the same number of servings of conventionally grown vegetables do not.
On average, organically grown foods provide: 21.1% more iron (than their conventional counterparts); 27% more vitamin C; 29.3% more magnesium; 13.6% more phosphorus
3. They Taste Better, Try it!
Organically grown foods generally taste better because nourished, well balanced soil produces healthy, strong plants. This is especially true with heirloom varieties, which are cultivated for taste over appearance.
4. Make Sure That You Avoid GMO
Genetically engineered (GE) food and genetically modified organisms (GMO) are contaminating our food supply at an alarming rate, with repercussions beyond understanding. And would you believe that in the US GMO foods do not have to be labelled. Because organically grown food cannot be genetically modified in any way, choosing organic is the only way to be sure that foods that have been genetically engineered stay out of your diet.
5. Avoid hormones, antibiotics and drugs in animal products.
Often, we don't think about is what the animals are eating ! In the same way that we don't want to fill our bodies with chemicals, neither should we want their bodies pumped with them either. When those chemicals are absorbed into an animal's body, they also filter into the produce we eat, whether that is their meat, their milk or their eggs. For Livestock to be considered organic, it must be given organic feed, have access to the outdoors, cannot be given antibiotics, animal by-products or growth hormones, and the soil must have been free from fertilisers for a set period of time.
Antibiotics, drugs, and growth hormones are also directly passed into meat and dairy products. Farmers have been giving sex hormones and growth hormones to cattle to artificially increase the amount of meat and milk the cattle produce without requiring extra feed. The hormones fed to cows cannot be broken down, even at high temperatures. Therefore they remain in complete form and pass directly into the consumer's diet when meat is eaten.
Hormone supplementation is the biggest concern with beef, dairy products, and farmed fish. In the United States, the jury is still out. However, Europe's scientific community agrees that there is no acceptably safe level for daily intake of any of the hormones currently used in the United States and has subsequently banned all growth hormones.
Many scientists and experts warn that rampant use of antibiotics in animal feed, like penicillin and tetracycline, will breed an epidemic that medicine has no defense against. Karim Ahmed, PhD, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) states that it "is perhaps one of the most serious public health problems the country faces. We're talking about rendering many of the most important antibiotics ineffective."
So if you are choosing to buy eggs, dairy or other animal products then organic is definitely the only option that I'd recommend.
6. Preserve our ecosystems
Organic farming supports eco-sustenance, or farming in harmony with nature.
Preservation of soil and crop rotation keep farmland healthy, and chemical abstinence preserves the ecosystem. Wildlife, insects, frogs, birds, and soil organisms are able to play their roles in the tapestry of ecology, and we are able to play ours, without interference or compromise.
7. Reduce pollution and protect water and soil
Agricultural chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers are contaminating our environment, poisoning our precious water supplies, and destroying the value of fertile farmland. Certified organic standards do not permit the use of toxic chemicals in farming and require responsible management of healthy soil and biodiversity.
According to Cornell entomologist David Pimentel, it is estimated that only 0.1% of applied pesticides reach the target pests. The bulk of pesticides (99.%) is left to impact the environment.
8. Preserve agricultural diversity
The rampant loss of species occurring today is a major environmental concern. It is estimated that 75% of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost in the last century. Leaning heavily on one or two varieties of a given food is a formula for devastation. For instance, consider that only a handful of varieties of potatoes dominate the current marketplace, whereas thousands of varieties were once available.
Now, dig back to recent history's potato famine in Ireland, where a blight knocked out the whole crop, which consisted of just a few varieties, and millions of people died of starvation. Today, most industrial farms also grow just one crop rather than an array of crops on one piece of land. Ignorance is bliss? Or amnesia is disastrous? Crop rotation is a simple and effective technique used in organic agriculture to reduce the need for pesticides and improve soil fertility.
Most conventional food is also extremely hybridized to produce large, attractive specimens, rather than a variety of indigenous strains that are tolerant to regional conditions such as droughts and pests. Many organic farms grow an assorted range of food, taking natural elements and time-tested tradition into account. Diversity is critical to survival.
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!