We all want to look after our health. We know that it’s important to exercise regularly, and to have a well-balanced diet. We’re used to hearing about the various diets and lifestyles that are available to us and our supermarkets are stacked high with products that are marketed as ‘low-fat’, ‘low-carb’, ‘gluten free’ and ‘fat free’. There are now so many options available to us, that it can sometimes be difficult to know what the healthy options really are.
One type of food that is regularly presented as the best choice is organic food. Some say that it is the only way to truly eat healthily, while others say that it’s just another label on foods designed to make people spend more money. So, what is the truth about organic food? Can it really help you live a healthier life? Do the benefits of eating organic stretch beyond health and actually help better the environment?
Here’s what we found:
A positive impact for the future
Recent studies have compared the nutritional value of organically grown foods with those that are conventionally grown. Although there were no hugely significant differences in the nutritional contents of the two, the studies found that organic grown foods did consist of lower nitrate and phosphorous levels, and higher levels of vitamin C.
Lower Chemical Levels
Organic crops and orchards may be planted on land that has previously had contact with pesticides and other chemicals, and sometimes, these substances will not have completely dispersed from the soil. As such, there may still be residual traces of these found in the resulting food products. When this occurs, the amounts found are still significantly lower than those found in conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. Under the National Organic Standard in Australia, producers may label food with the term ‘Organic’ if at least 95% of ingredients have been derived from organic production methods. ‘Made with organic ingredients’ refers to products where at least 70% of ingredients were produced using organic production methods.
A Swedish grocery chain recently performed an experiment with a regular family where they tested their urine for pesticides after a week of eating normally. Each member was found to have significant levels of these chemicals in their systems. The family then switched to eating only organic foods for a fortnight, and their urine was tested again. The results were astounding.
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There is little understanding of how chemicals such as fungicides and insecticides affect our bodies over time. Ensuring we are eating organic foods may lower these levels, and could potentially reduce the risk of pesticide/fungicide-related health issues in the future.
Not just fruit and vegetables
If you’re conscious of the welfare of animals, and want to lessen your impact, then organic foods may be a great option for you. Organic choices for animal products such as beef, lamb, chicken and eggs are now commonly available in supermarkets.
Animal products labelled as organic generally come from livestock that has been treated more considerately, and therefore usually more humanely, than the non-organic options. For example, organic eggs are usually laid by free-range chickens rather than by chickens that are kept in cages. The animals are also not subjected to growth-regulating drugs, steroids, hormones or antibiotics, (although they may be vaccinated to ward off diseases).
Organic foods are better for the environment
Organic farming encourages the use of sustainable resources, within a framework of conscious and responsible growing, as well as the employment of natural techniques in order to grow crops and feed livestock.
Some modern methods used in conventional farming, such as the use of chemicals and pesticides, have led to the decline of soil fertility and the increase of blue-green algae within waterways. Natural methods of weed control are used in organic farming, which can have a significantly lower impact on the environment. These processes are not only great for helping the environment now, but will also mean greater land longevity and better crop yield for our future generations.
A positive impact for the future
When we make buying choices at the supermarket, we are essentially telling organisations and businesses what we want. By purchasing organic foods, you could be using your buying power to tell governments and businesses that you support practices that help to sustain our environment, while encouraging organic farmers and eco-friendly agriculture. At the same time, you’ll be eating healthy and delicious food!