Introduction to Organic Food
On behalf of, and with our thanks to Keith Higgins
1. INTRODUCTION TO ORGANIC FOOD
Organic food has always been viewed as the healthy option, but only in recent years has the notion become a nationwide phenomenon. In the past, organic food was somewhat of a fad and although the principles were practiced, it was by no means mainstream.
However, the desire for healthy, organic food has grown. Families are taking the values of healthy eating and helping the environment seriously. With people more aware of the pesticides and herbicides used in the growing or non-organic produce, they’re instead turning to the healthier alternative.
In fact, growing organic food is a way of controlling what’s consumed on a daily basis. It’s free from the nasty chemicals associated with other produce available and gives a welcome boost to the eco-system at the same time.
Those against the idea of organic gardening and farming would suggest it’s impractical and expensive. However, organic growing is no different to what our ancestors practiced in the past – when herbicides and pesticides wouldn’t have been available.
Of course, it may cost a little more to to keep your grass and produce growing without the use of chemicals, but over time the quality of soil and sustainable gardening practices will bring your overall expenditure down.
What’s important to understand and what this resource will aim to highlight, is that organic growing doesn’t need to be a compromise, but in fact a sustainable way of living your life. When well practiced, organic growing offers an opportunity for high yield and bountiful harvests. With carcinogens, petroleum byproducts and endocrine disrupters removed, you’ll have a healthy alternative to the dangerous produce harvested worldwide.
WHAT IS ORGANIC FOOD?
Organic food is viewed as the healthier alternative to its processed equivalent and is great for the environment too. To be classified as organic, at least 95% of ingredients must be from organic plants or animals and this is tightly regulated by the EU. All organic food in fact falls under the regulations 834/2007 and 889/2008.
Food can be inspected to ensure it complies with these regulations and certified bodies will ensure it meets the criteria. Once organic food has been packaged, it must clearly display the code number and the EU’s organic logo. Aside from the organic properties, all food must comply with the usual legal requirements too.
So, why does only 95% of the food need to contain organic ingredients? The answer’s simple and it’s because not everything can be obtained organically. Instead, organic food can contain up to 5% of ingredients from a pre-approved list. This will typically include things such as salt and water. However, ingredients that wouldn’t be accepted are colourings and sweeteners, which are banned in their entirety.
As you’d probably expect, there’s actually a large list of banned ingredients to ensure nothing harmful finds its way into organic foods. All labels should display both the organic and non-organic elements, in the same font, colour and style.
It’s the health benefits that largely set organic and non-organic materials apart though. Take milk for example. Research from both the Glasgow and Liverpool University, show organic milk to contain up to 68% higher levels of the needed omega-3.
Then there’s crops to consider, which by and large are the biggest source of organic foods in the world. The same research highlights that the nutritional goodness in organic produce is much greater than non-organic counterparts. Some of the key findings suggest organic crops contain more of the sought-after antioxidants, whilst also reducing the intake of cadmium and pesticides.
Research suggests organic food contains:
20-40% more antioxidants: Phenolics (19% higher), flavanones (69% higher), stilbenes (28% higher), flavones (26% higher), and flavonols (50% higher).
Fewer pesticides: The frequency of pesticides in non-organic fruit is 75%, non-organic vegetables, 32% and non-organic crop based processed foods, 45%. More than 300 pesticides can be used in non-organic farming.
Less cadmium: There is typically 48% lower concentrations of toxic metal cadmium in organic crops.
Less nitrogen: Organic produce contains less nitrogen, which has previously been linked to cancers – Including stomach cancer.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF GROWING ORGANIC FOOD?
There are so many benefits to the growing of organic food, that in some ways it’d be easier to list the disadvantages. Of course, as a starter for ten, organic food will give you the vital vitamins and nutrients your body needs on a daily basis.
Then there’s the reduction in harmful chemicals entering your body. As discussed briefly above, this is because organic farming doesn’t use pesticides, fertilisers or toxic additives. Startlingly, children consuming organic as opposed to non-organic, have up to six times lower levels of pesticides in their body.
Organic foods also taste better. They’re sold in their natural state, which is great for the environment and superb for your body. With that said, let’s go into a little more details on the major benefits organic food offers.
1. No Genetically Modified Organisms
Genetically modified organisms, or most commonly shortened to GMOs, are foods that are altered to preserve their life and change fundamental elements of their make-up. In layman’s terms, those in favour of GMOs suggest they’re making improvements to food, however it’s a case of manipulating a species, by merging genes.
2. Greater nutritional value
It’s no surprise that organic food is more nutritious and in turn, much better for your body. This is despite the illusion of non-organic foods looking healthier because of a bigger and prettier look. The fact is though, organic food not only is more nutritious, but also tastes better – so that’s two great reasons all rolled into one.
Research suggests organic fruit and vegetables contain:
27% more vitamin C
21.1% more iron
29.3% more magnesium
13.6% more phosphorous
18% more polyphenols.
3. No pesticides or herbicides
Then there’s one of the obvious benefits – that organic food doesn’t contain herbicides, pesticides or fertilisers. Do you really know what pesticides and herbicides are used for? In effect, they’re a poison and used to kill things – insects and weeds primarily.
Therefore, why would you consume food containing poison? These substances can’t be washed off, as they’re absorbed by the soil and then by the roots of fruit and veg that’s growing. Pesticides can affect the nervous system and should be avoided.
4. Meat & dairy foods of high quality
It’s often claimed that meat is unhealthy for you, despite it being a staple part of our diets for thousands of years. In fact, vegetarianism and and veganism seems to be gaining popularity by the day, with widespread fears that processed meats are carcinogens in themselves. The truth is, much of the meat sold at supermarkets can have a negative effect on your health.
Non-organic meat is full of antibiotics and other drugs to preserve its shelf life and give it a healthy looking shine. However, the fact of the matter is, animals raised in non-organic farms and left to wallow in their own faeces is not healthy.
Therefore, when purchasing meat and dairy products you should instead focus on finding organic and free range alternatives. There would not have been the same level of cruelty involved in their rearing and they’ll produce natural foods too.
5. Reduced risks of food-borne illness
There has been a spate of food-borne illnesses affecting people around the world, from dairy products such as eggs, to vegetables including cabbage and spinach. The simple truth is though, the longer produce is manufactured by agribusinesses, the higher chance there’ll be of food-borne illness.
The good news is, these illnesses are restricted to non-organic products. Take for example the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) where animals are reared on mass. No matter the number of drugs and vaccines they’re administered with, they will be sick and in turn, pass illness onto those who eat their produce. As a clear example of this, E. Coli infections have been a direct result of CAFOs.
If you wish to avoid the illnesses associated with foods, your best bet is to choose an organic alternative. These haven’t been sterilised and exposed to the same disease as non-organics.
6. Eat with a clear conscience
If you haven’t yet managed to see the full picture, it’s worth pointing out again that much of the non-organic foods found in your local supermarket will be unhealthy and damaging to the environment. Therefore, what better way to eat than with the clear conscience of choosing only organically sourced products?
With a choice to make between organic and non-organic, it should be obvious every time which you opt for. With all the great benefits of organic food, make sure it’s a staple part of your diet. Eat healthily and reduce the harmful impact on the environment non-organic produce has.