* Skip to the ‘Key BENEFITS’ & The Tips’ sections below if you just want the quick nuts & bolts.
What is ‘Organic’ food exactly?
Basically, organic foods are foods that are produced without the use of pesticides, synthetic/chemical fertilizers, hormones (e.g growth hormones), radiation or antibiotics etc. Organic food is in no way genetically engineered and has a strong emphasis on the utilisation of renewable resources and the conservation of land and water.
What about “Certified Organic” – what does that mean?
“Certified Organic” means the food has been produced according to certain (strict) uniform standards that are overseen/policed by independent private or governmental bodies. So getting ‘certified organic’ is the best, as you can be sure it meets certain standards.
* Different countries of course regulate this differently.
Is there a difference in ‘nutritional value’ between organic food and non-organic food?
Well, this is a classic case of who’s side are you on. Conventional producers will site research to say the nutrition from non-organic foods is the same as for organic.
Organic producers of course, cite studies to show organic food is nutritionally ‘superior’. So who do we trust?
The whole debate is very similar to the western pharmaceuticals vs natural medicines debate. In all these situations, we need to stop listening to the ‘experts’for a minute and simply ask ourselves, “what’s ‘natural’ here? What are the ‘natural laws’ governing healthy food production?
We know that the universe is infinitely ‘intelligent’. Our whole planet is designed in such a way that everything can work in an ongoing sustainable way…naturally! So basically, we have lost the knowledge of how to grow abundant food without harming the environment (and lost the patience to grow food according to its natural cycle!).
Like modern drugs, the ‘business’ of food production has become unnaturally based on speed, efficiency, aesthetics and the bottom line…as opposed to real health in harmony with the laws of Nature. Just like large drug companies, when a swing back to more ‘natural’ means comes, food producers whose livelihood depends on selling their food, will understandably argue (and quote research etc) to suggest non-organic food is just as good etc. I can certainly sympathise with them.
However, over the long-haul, it’s fairly well proven that chemical farming damages the natural fertility of soil because it kills or suppresses the beneficial soil organisms that help ensure the nutrient richness of soil.
What about the research?
Yes, there are a number of studies suggesting there is no significant difference in the ‘nutrition'(vitamin/mineral content etc), of organic & non-organic foods. However, nearly all of these studies were very poorly controlled** (see Shane Heaton’s article below).
Nearly all the well controlled studies, carried out by independent or bipartisan groups, have shown significantly higher nutrient levels in organically grown foods.
* I would also suggest, that we will find the ‘bioavailability of these nutrients (how readily our bodies can use them), will also be shown to be much higher in organically grown foods…as the body’s resources are not sidetracked/sapped from processing all the chemicals & chemical residues. * Note; this is just my feeling – to my knowledge, there is no research yet to show this.
Key BENEFITS of Organic Food:
1. You Avoid known Disease Contributors:
Did you know that the EPA considers 60% of all herbicides, 90% of all fungicides, and 30% of all insecticides, as potentially carcinogenic (cancer causing)? Antibiotics, which are regularly used in animal feed in conventional farming are known to create dangerous antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Organic farming keeps all these harmful chemicals out of the foods we eat.
2. Better nutritional value:
Organic foods generally contain higher levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants etc**
3. Environmentally friendly:
By choosing organic food, you promote ‘sustainable farming’ & farmers that try to keep the balance in nature: Organic farmers/farming tends to conserve water, reduce water toxicity & pollution, create healthier soils and preserve natural diversity.
4. It’s Non-Genetically Engineered:
I’m not going into the GE debate here (another article), but believe me, GE food is about as bad as it gets for your health…not to mention the long-term health of our environment. Avoiding GE foods (which are about as ‘unnatural’ as food can get), is probably motivation enough for going organic.
5. Free from food additives:
Additives known to cause many common health problems (e,g aspartame and monosodium glutamate) etc are not found in organic foods.
6. More Life-force/Energy:
An important point from the standpoint of Ayurvedic medicine/science, is that organic foods have more ‘prana’ (essential ‘life-force’), than foods that have been polluted with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Also, if your body has to work hard to purify the chemicals every time you eat, you’ll be more likely to get tired and possibly build up a chemical toxicity.
7. Better Taste:
Yes good old taste. Food is actually meant to taste good!!! When you get it fresh and free of all those chemicals, you can actually taste the fruit or vegetable…wow, now there’s a novel concept!
Have you ever seen battery hens squashed up in the tiniest of containers, waiting to get their head chopped off? Do you think they are thinking, “Oh great, my life is fulfilled, I’m going to be sacrificed in the service of mankind”? Do you think they would be creating happy, healthy chemicals inside their bodies? Or might they be extremely stressed and therefore producing huge amounts of stress hormones that then become part of the meat you eat?
Most likely the latter. Is that healthy for you? No way. Solution? Organic meat.
Organic meat farmers tend to have much better conditions for livestock and do not feed them growth hormones and the like, meaning a much healthier meat for you.
Organic is one thing, ‘Freshness’ is another:
Another important point here. Don’t confuse organic with ‘freshness’. Getting ‘fresh’ food is still arguably the most important factor you should consider when purchasing things like fruit & vegetables etc. Organic is great…fresh is compulsory.
There is very little real argument – food produced organically is definitely better…in many ways. But be practical. It’s a bit like modern drugs. If you can avoid them great. If you can’t get a good alternative ( or every now and then, it’s just easier) then fine. Like that, eating organic rather than non-organic, will definitely be better for your health over the medium to long-term. And assuming you are not paying exorbitant prices, then yes it’s worth the extra cost.
This Weeks Tips:
* The tips below are on the assumption, you can’t or don’t want to grow your own ‘homegrown’ vegetables. This of course would be the best of all. Or maybe see if someone local who grows their own would be happy to grow some for you (you pay them). This is the way ‘community’ type growers start, so don’t be shy. Why not create something like the good old days where someone grows things for their local friends/community…who knows we might actually start talking to our neighbours… now there’s a healthy idea!!!
1. Where possible, buy & eat fresh ‘organic’ produce. If you don’t have a local supplier, consider getting it delivered…you may be surprised that it doesn’t always cost that much more, now there are so many more suppliers.
2. If you can’t buy fresh, organic produce – if possible, buy non-organic from a market or where you know the food is good quality and ‘fresh’.
3. If you can’t get from a market, buy from a good quality fruit & vegetable shop.
i.e. one that specialises in fruit & veg. *Basically, try and avoid buying fruit & veg from a Supermarket.
4. Don’t forget meat, grains, herbs etc too – where convenient, buy them organic too.
5. Get ‘Certified organic’ products where possible.
* Kids Health:
And don’t forget your kids health… just think, when it comes to them putting carrot sticks in their ears & snorting peas out of their nose, wouldn’t it be nice to think that they were ‘organic???
** References/More information: A great article on the nutritional differences between organic & non-organic food was written by Shane Heaton from Organic Food News Quarterly.