Supercharge Your Health By Eating Organic

Jess says: Remember as a child, when vegetables actually tasted like vegetables? A lot of the change in how our food tastes is down to how our modern-day food is now produced. Organic food doesn’t just taste better, it’s much better for you too! Here are my top five reasons to eat organic, which I hope will convince you to make the switch. Eating organic is healthier, tastier and all-round better for both ourselves and our environment.

organic food is higher in essential nutrients

Organic food is up to 60% higher in antioxidants (natural compounds that boost our health, prevent disease and help us deal with toxins) than its non-organic counterparts. Organic milk and meat are also 50% higher in beneficial omega 3 fatty acids. Organic milk is also 40% higher in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a natural anti-inflammatory.

organic food is four times lower in toxic pesticides

Pesticides include glycophosphate, which is classed as a probable carcinogen (a substance that causes cancer) and pesticides in our food have been shown to affect brain development in children and developing babies.2

Several studies have confirmed the impact of pesticides (from regularly eating food that has been regularly treated with pesticides) on our nervous systems and even our IQ.3 Worryingly, we have little information on the long-term health impact of consuming pesticides. If all farming was organic, pesticide use would drop by 98%.4

organic food is much lower in cadmium

Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal, associated with kidney disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Pollution, sewage sludge and poor farming all contribute to much higher levels of cadmium in our food.5 Organic food contains much lower levels of cadmium, than non-organic. 

genetics

organic food is free from genetic modification (GMO), artificial hormones and antibiotics

Genetically modified food is shown to be higher in herbicides (similar to pesticides) – the long-term health effects of this are yet to be studied.

GMOs are likely to produce unpredictable and hard-to-detect side effects, because as a population, our bodies have never encountered these foods or adapted to tolerate them.  Safety assessments to date have been inadequate. Herbicides are also very harmful to biodiversity and the natural environment.

Artificial hormones, again, are poorly studied to date, but we do know that high levels of hormones can be dangerous to our health, as evidenced in cases of hormonal cancers and thyroid disease.

Antibiotics are a much wider problem for us all. By routinely giving animals unnecessary antibiotics, there is an increasing issue of antibiotic resistance, which is leading to an abundance of ‘superbugs,’ which do not respond to antibiotic treatment and have the potential to create life-threatening infections.

organic foods are much better for the environment

Organic farming works with nature, not against it. Organic farms have healthier soil and over 75% more plant species. By farming organically and biodynamically (a way of organic farming, which reuses waste and works in harmony with nature), we can reduce carbon in the atmosphere and offset many of the damaging greenhouse emissions that occur from farming.6 With our current high emissions and carbon levels in our atmosphere, the future of the planet is very uncertain. Unless we change our behaviours, we will be leaving our children a very fragile ecosystem to exist in. A dramatic change in agriculture could dramatically revert some of that damage. 

how to eat organic on a budget

Organic food can be more expensive than buying non-organic equivalents, but we really owe it to ourselves and our health to make the fuel we need a priority. If you can’t afford to eat organic all the time, even making small changes can help. There are many ways to keep costs down, including:

look for local organic box schemes or co-operatives

These are often much cheaper than organic produce from supermarkets. We shop at Unicorn Grocery, our local co-operative. We also visit a nearby organic farm to buy our meat directly from the farm shop. This helps us to support our local organic growers and farms, and because we buy direct, we also get better prices than if we were to buy from a farmer’s market or supermarket.

where possible, make meat, dairy and eggs organic or the highest possible welfare

Washing fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating can help to reduce the pesticides you consume. When it comes to meat and dairy, non-organically raised animals often live in very poor, stressful conditions, where they are fed antibiotics, pesticides, and the byproducts of other animals in their feed. It’s little surprise that animals raised this way do not produce healthy meat, milk or eggs.

If you can’t afford to buy organic meat and dairy, visit local farmers for produce you know was raised in non-factory farmed conditions, find local egg suppliers (many people now keep chickens at home, including us!), or ask your butcher where their meat comes from. Try to trace your food supply, to find farms with high levels of animal welfare and suppliers who elect not to use pesticides and hormones. Organic certification can be expensive, so many farms raise animals and grow products organically, just without official certification. They can be a great source of cheaper, high-quality food.

know the fruits and vegetables that are highest in pesticides 

prioritise organic for these high pesticide fruit & veg:

or you could even try growing your own! 

  1. Apples
  2. Banana
  3. Berries
  4. Cherries
  5. Cucumber
  6. Grapes
  7. Herbs
  8. Kale & Spinach
  9. Lemons
  10. Oranges
  11. Peaches
  12. Pears
  13. Pineapple
  14. Salad
  15. Strawberries

these fruit and vegetables contain the lowest amount of pesticides: 

  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocado
  3. Beetroot
  4. Broccoli
  5. Cauliflower
  6. Corn on the cob
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mango
  10. Melon
  11. Mushrooms
  12. Onion
  13. Papaya
  14. Peas
  15. Sweet Potato

use cheaper cuts of meat and bulk cooking techniques

When we first started eating organically (whilst we were still struggling to pay off student debts and mortgages), we used a slow cooker so that we could use less expensive cuts of lamb, beef and chicken, which all make great soups, stews and casseroles. We would make these meals in bulk and freeze individual portions, which had the added bonus of providing healthy ready meals for days when we were short on time. We wasted nothing! We would use the organic meat bones and chicken carcasses to make our bone broth, for a nutritional super boost, or to use as stock in other recipes. 

q&a with jess:

I really can’t afford to eat everything organically. What are the best foods to switch first?

  • Eggs
  • Milk and cream
  • Butter and cheese 
  • Fruit – most non-organic fruit is heavily sprayed with pesticides 
  • Cucumber, leaves (kale, spinach etc.) and salad
  • Fresh herbs (why not grow them instead? They are very easy to keep and grow from seed)
  • Meat – Whilst switching to eating organic meat is the most expensive change, you can buy less expensive cuts to stew, or visit organic farm shops and buy in bulk directly. Talk to local farms and butchers and ask them about pesticide, antibiotics and herbicide use. You can often find a farm that may not be organically certified, but be aiming towards more natural farming. Try and find a local farmer’s market, and get to know the butchers and producers. Other options are increasing the amount of wild game in your diet (venison, duck etc), which is less likely to be intensively farmed.
  • Baby formula. If you are feeding your baby formula, be aware that many are high in pesticides and heavy metals. If you can, make the swap to an organic, or even better, biodynamic formula (like Holle’s Goats milk). Children are more susceptible to the toxins in their food, and heavy metals are more of a concern for brain development than it is in adults.

Is there really much difference between say, lamb, which is already reared outdoors, and organic lamb? Or free-range eggs, and organic eggs?

There is a big difference between free-range and organic standards. Organic standards apply to the feed and grazing land (which is the main way that animals ingest pesticides). Organic farming doesn’t allow any genetically modified foods in the animal’s diet and prohibits the routine use of antibiotics. All of this ensures much healthier, meat, eggs and dairy.

The Soil Association is a great logo to look on your food, as they have even higher welfare standards. ‘Free-range’ eggs, for example just means that the chickens have access to the outdoors (this may be little more than a hole at the end of a packed barn of 16,000 hens). Soil Association certification is for organic-only farming and feeding, with a limited flock size of 2000 hens with continuous and easy access to the outdoors with multiple exit points. The difference in the welfare standards is marked. Soil Association standards also prohibit beak trimming (which is traumatic for the birds). Read more about their standards here.

What about organic shampoos and skincare – does it really make any difference?

Our skin is the body’s largest organ and has a large surface area for absorbing chemicals. This is one of the most common ways for users to be exposed to toxins, which is important because many common household, cosmetic and skincare products contain chemicals that are potentially harmful. 

The Environmental Working Group is a charity with an excellent website and phone app where you can look up any cosmetic ingredient, in order to find out whether it is harmful or not. ‘Organic’ standards in cosmetics, unfortunately, does not have proper regulation and you can still find that the product contains harmful chemicals. 

Soil Association certification is much more reliable for organic skincare. We buy much of our make-up and skincare from the online website Naturisimo, who have excellent standards for only selling ‘clean’ products. 

references:

  1. Organic vs non-organic food – Press Office
  2. Pesticide Exposure and Stunting as Independent Predictors of Neurobehavioral Deficits in Ecuadorian School Children
  3. Pesticides in food can damage the brain and lower IQ, EU study suggests
  4. What Is Organic?
  5. Cadmium Exposure and Potential Health Risk from Foods in Contaminated Area, Thailand
  6. What Is Organic?

 

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