With the desire to lead a healthy lifestyle growing rapidly, it seems that everyone is talking about organic foods. So is it just a status symbol? Or is organic food really the way we should be going?
WHAT IS ORGANIC FOOD?
Organic means higher levels of animal welfare, lower levels of pesticides, no manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers and more environmentally sustainable management of the land and natural environment. Organic food is considered not only to taste better but it has also been proven to have greater health benefits for the body.
WHY GO ORGANIC?
Organic farming is a sustainable use of land and resources. Produced with natural fertilisers from plants, less energy and more respect for animals that provide it, organic farming means higher levels of animal welfare, lower levels of pesticides, no weed-killers or artificial fertilisers and more environmentally sustainable management of the land and natural environment. Organic farming creates a healthy living soil with crop varieties being selected for their natural resistance to particular pests and diseases, with the aim of reducing or avoiding disease problems and the need to control them with chemical inputs. A mixed farming approach with crop rotations helps break cycles of pests and disease and builds fertility in the soil.
Organically raised animals are NOT given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal by products. In addition, the animals are given more space to move around and access to the outdoors, both of which help to keep the animals more happy and healthy.
Organic farming offers the best, currently available, practical model for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture. If organic farming was common practice in the UK, we could offset at least 23% of the UK agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions through the soil alone!
Better For Your Body
Even if you wash your produce, you cannot remove all of the pesticides widely used in conventional agriculture. These harmful chemicals can seriously affect your immune system and have been proven to contain cancer-causing properties.
Organic meat and milk are richer in certain nutrients. Results of a 2016 European study show that levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50 per cent higher in organic meat and milk than in conventionally raised versions.
This may be because organic milk and beef come from cattle that graze on a natural diet of grass, while conventional meat and milk usually comes from animals fed with grain.
Researchers have found that organic foods have higher concentrations of a range of antioxidants such as flavonoids that contain anti-inflammatory properties to boost the immune system and gut health.
It is also said that fat burning compounds are 12% higher in organic food than conventional crops.
Organic food is also GMO-free. But what are GMOs?
Genetically Modified Organisms or Genetically Engineered (GE) foods, are plants or animals whose DNA has been tampered with, most commonly in order to be resistant to pesticides. The question of GMOs is a complicated one though and there are pros and cons. Did you know that Dutch growers in the late 16th Century took strains of purple carrots and turned them into the orange ones we have today? It is thought they grew in popularity due to The House of / William of Orange! Genetically modifying our crops has led to greater yields making us able to feed ourselves more effectively. But it has also led to a higher increase in allergies and food intolerances.
TASTE AND APPEARANCE
Although it is difficult to prove or disprove whether or not organic foods taste better than conventional foods - as each of us responds to the flavour of foods in such different ways, many food experts and chefs believe that organic food not only looks but tastes better. It makes sense that food would taste better when raised in harmony with nature as well as being more vibrant in colour and higher in nutrition.
READY TO MAKE THE SWAP?
Making your entire shopping list organic may be a little excessive. Let's face it, it's not cheap. But like anything, it doesn't have to be all or nothing! Here are a few simple changes you could start with ...
Buying Organic Tips:
- Plan out your meals for the week according to your budget
- Make your own granola, kale chips, juices or smoothies with organic ingredients rather than buying them expensively ready made.
- Use your freezer. Don’t waste food by letting it go bad! You can freeze fresh produce or leftovers to reduce waste and save money.
- Buy locally. Buying from your local farmers market or organic supermarket can be significantly cheaper than food shipped from miles away and helps to ensure that the quality of the produce is trustworthy.
- Reduce meat and dairy consumption if you cannot afford organic. This will not only benefit your wallet but also your overall heath and impact on the environment.
-Buy in season. Fruits and vegetables are cheapest and freshest when they are in season.
If you want to start buying some organic food, these fruits & veg are a good place starting point, as they are treated with more chemicals than others:
•Sugar snap peas
Remember to read food labels carefully– The word ‘organic’ has become quite popular as a marketing tool. EU-wide rules require organic foods to be approved by an organic certification body, which carries out regular inspections to ensure the food meets a strict set of detailed regulations.
At the next Fare Healthy in February, we will be working the Soil Association - they are the gold standard of organic labelling. As well as certifying organic products, they are a charity supporting farmers and growers across the country.