Emed’s Top 5 Reasons To Choose Organic
People often ask whether organic foods really are a better health option for themselves and their families. In short, the answer to this question is yes.
Organic food is generally produced using ecologically integrated practices without use of synthetic chemicals, genetically engineered materials, sewage sludge or irradiation. (NRDC)
While cost and availability are commonly perceived as barriers to consistently buying organic foods, there are a number of reasons why organic foods are a superior option to non-organics.
Emed explains our Top 5 Reasons to Choose Organic Foods and gives you a simple guide to going organic!
Top 5 Reasons To Choose Organic Foods
1. Avoid Agricultural Toxins
Since the 1940s, the use of agricultural chemicals and other environmental toxicants has dramatically increased. Now, over 80,000 chemicals are commonly used in conventional (non-organic) farming practices worldwide.
Many of these potentially toxic compounds lack long-term safety data or established ‘no adverse effect levels’, meaning that they may be used in amounts that exceed human tolerance.
This is particularly worrying as almost 50% of pesticide residues detected on common Australian fruit and vegetables are suspected to have endocrine disrupting effects, and countless studies have found an association between toxin exposure, disease and even cancer in humans.
Toxic compounds, including pesticides, are stored within our bodies in our fat cells and accumulate over time, thereby magnifying our exposure to these harmful substances during our lifetimes.
Conventionally grown fresh produce is three to four times more likely to contain one or more pesticides than organic produce, and a given sample of conventional food is also far more likely to contain multiple residues than the corresponding organic food.
2. Nourish Yourself With Nutrient Dense Foods
You may have seen or heard the results of the recently published Stanford University study on organics, which found that the published literature on organic foods “lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.”
Organic food sceptics and the media alike jumped on this finding, believing it would finally end the long-standing argument over whether organic food really was nutritionally superior to conventional food.
Unfortunately, they overlooked the fact that the authors of the study themselves concluded “consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria” which is a significant finding in support of organics.
In addition, the Stanford study has some serious methodological flaws, and the credibility of their results condemning organic foods are somewhat questionable.
A better designed and more thorough meta-analysis investigating the nutritional differences between organic and conventional plant foods, recently showed that organic produce contained on average 12% more Vitamin C and secondary metabolites such as the antioxidants- tocopherols and anthocyanins in comparison to conventional produce.
Furthermore, organic grass-fed meats and animal produce such as dairy have consistently been shown to have healthier nutritional profiles in comparison to their grain fed, conventionally bred counterparts. This includes higher levels of polyunsaturated omega 3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, vitamin E and other antioxidant nutrients.
Organic livestock are also bred in more humane and natural conditions than conventionally farmed animals- they are given access to the outdoors, fresh air, water, sunshine, grass and pasture, and are fed 100 percent organic feed.
Organic livestock are not given any growth hormones or antibiotics, which is important, as bacterial resistance to antibiotics is becoming a major public health crisis. People who eat non-organic foods are at far greater risk of ingesting antibiotic resistant bacteria that have been found on conventional food crops irrigated with animal-waste-contaminated water, and on meat and poultry products.
3. Support The Health And Development Of Your Children
Children are now exposed to, and affected by toxins from the point of conception.
Research indicates that foetuses are literally developing in chemical cocktails inside the womb as a result of their mothers’ toxic encumbrance, which is linked to increased risk of low birth weight, birth defects, reproductive problems and abnormal neurological development.
A recent study has found that several banned and currently used chemicals including PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, PFCs, phenols, PBDE flame retardants and phthalates, were detected in 99-100% of more than 250 pregnant women.
During childhood, evidence indicates that exposure to pesticides is associated with a higher risk of children developing ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), learning and behavioural problems and having lower IQ.
Infants and children are especially vulnerable to the risks of pesticide exposure as they ingest a larger amount of food and water per kilogram of bodyweight than adults, their skin is more permeable and their livers do not metabolise chemicals as efficiently.
Evidence shows that children who are fed an organic diet for as little as one week following a conventional diet can have drastic reductions in the levels of organophosphates (pesticide metabolites) in their urine- some to undetectable levels. This research demonstrates that “an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to organophosphate pesticides commonly used in agricultural production”. (Lu et al 2006)
4. Make A Positive Impact On The Environment
Supporting organic farming practices by choosing to eat organic foods has many positive effects of the environment, both directly and indirectly.
Firstly, it contributes to a reduced requirement for agricultural chemical use. Many chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), used by conventional farmers have the ability to remain in the environment long after they are used.
POPs have been found to contaminate water supplies, soil and air around the world, resulting in bioaccumulation and biomagnification throughout global food chains. Many POPs have also been found to have carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting effects in humans.
In contrast to conventional farming, organic farming practices take into account the medium and long-term effects of agricultural interventions on the agro-ecosystem. Organic agriculture aims to produce food while establishing an ecological balance to prevent soil fertility or pest problems. (FAO)
Buying locally farmed organic produce also reduces the environmental impact of long-distance food transportation often involved in the sale of conventional and imported produce.
5. Avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
As we discussed in our recent ‘Why You Should Say No To GMO’ article, Genetically Modified foods are currently an unknown quantity as there is no evidence for the long-term safety of GM diets in humans.
In fact, preliminary research results show harmful health effects as a likely outcome of genetically modified diets.
As GMO use is not allowed in organic farming systems and food production, eating organic foods guarantees reduced exposure to GMOs.
Genetically modified foods do not just encompass plant foods that are added to other processed products (eg. corn starch, soy) or refined for cooking purposes (eg. cooking oils). GMOs are also used as animal feed and can affect the physiology of the livestock we eat.
So, not only is it important for us to avoid GMOs by buying organic fresh and processed foods, eating organic meat is becoming more and more important to avoid indirect exposure to GMOs.
*Extra Tip: When purchasing processed or soy based products such as milks, tofu and vegetarian meat substitutes, ensure you read ingredient lists carefully to avoid added GM Soy or Corn (Maize) products.
The Easy Way to Go Organic
Avoid the ‘dirty dozen’
The top 12 foods with the highest pesticide detections in Australia between 2000 and 2011 include: apples, wheat, strawberries, pears, grapes, lettuce, nectarine, peaches, barley, tomatoes, apricots and carrots.
If you want to introduce organic foods into your diet on a gradual basis, buying organic versions of these foods is a great way to start.
Find an easily accessible organic fresh food supplier
Depending on where you live, Farmers Markets, local organic farms or fresh produce markets such as the Queen Victoria Market can be a great place to source your organic foods (including meats) at a reasonable price.
People living in more regional areas who may not have access to these options, or time-poor individuals can try online organic delivery services that offer a range of budget-friendly food packages perfect for singles, couple or families!
Plant your own organics
Planting your own organic garden is an economical, easy and enjoyable way to start eating more organic foods.
It provides an opportunity for the whole family to get involved in healthy food production, and can also be used as a way to become more involved in the community through community gardens.
- Genetic Mutation On A Plate – Why You Should Say No To GMO
- Are You Being Poisoned By Your Drinking Water?
- How To Reduce Your Toxic Burden
- Are Environmental Toxins Hampering Your Chances of Becoming Pregnant?
Lu , C. et al 2006, Environnemental Health Perspectives, Vol. 114 (2), pgs 260-263
Smith-Spangler, C. et al. 2012, Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives? A Systematic Review, Annals of Internal Medicine
NRDC, 2009, The Benefits of Organic Food – Food grown without intensive use of synthetic chemicals is better for the health of people and the environment, http://www.nrdc.org/health/farming/forg101.asp
FAO, 2012, Organic Agriculture, http://www.fao.org/organicag/oa-faq/oa-faq6/en/
Friends Of The Earth Melbourne, 2012, Pesticides, Food and You- The Dose Makes The poison?
Brandt, K. et al 2011, Agroecosystem Management and Nutritional Quality of Plant Foods: The Case of Organic Fruits and Vegetables, Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07352689.2011.554417
Oates, L. et al. 2009, Human Consumption of Agricultural Toxicants From Organic and Conventional Food, Journal of Organic Systems, Vol. 4 (1)