The Importance of eating organic – Why does it still matter?
In the world of health and nutrition, a paradigm shift is taking place; Organic produce is becoming ever more popular as a worthwhile, accessible and important part of living as healthy a life as possible. ‘Organic’ when in reference to food, is defined as produce that is grown and cultivated without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically-modified organisms or any other adulterant.
With this increased popularity however, comes an increase in reactionary back-lash. This comment from the Huffington Post instructing readers that [organic food] “is just no longer something I’m prepared to waste my money on, and you shouldn’t either” is a prime example. In this article I aim to dispel misinformation, and highlight a number of key nutritional, environmental and ethical reasons for swapping your bog-standard fruit and vegetables for delicious organic nourishment today!
The health benefits of consuming organic food vs non-organic veg is quite clear. One finding from one of the most comprehensive scientific analyses conducted so far by Leifert shows that organic produce contains more antioxidants than their non-organic counterparts, found to be up to a 69% increase in some cases! This benefit was described as giving the same benefits as adding one or two portions of the recommended “five a day”!
The importance of this finding is that dietary antioxidants are vital in the neutralisation of free-radicals, which have been shown cause oxidative stress to cells. This process of oxidation has also been shown to contribute to a number of degenerative diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, so having more antioxidants in your diet will have profound affects in terms of preventative relief.
Another obvious detriment of non-organic fruit and vegetables is that the harsh chemicals sprayed on the seeds and the produce remain – meaning we ingest them. Analysis shows that non-organic vegetables contain much higher levels of cadmium, mercury, lead and arsenic, when compared to their organic counterparts. Cadmium for one has been shown to (in high amounts) have detrimental effects on virtually all aspects of health, including damage to cardiovascular, kidney and even neurological functions, and the nature of the chemicals is that they build up in the body slowly over time – meaning it may be a while before a consequential health problem is identified.
These “statistically significant, meaningful” results where based on an analysis of 343 peer-reviewed studies from around the world, making this study extremely valid and reliable. So, why not opt for a more nutritious and safer alternative to invest in your future?
The other main reason why it is a good idea to divest non-organic food as much as possible, is because of the devastating environmental impact caused by the cultivation of non-organic foods. We can all make a difference individually, by (as much as possible) avoiding spending money on products damaging to the environment.
The main environmental issue with the non-organic farming of fruit and vegetables is the amount of artificial fertilizers used by farmers. These fertilisers, generally called ‘nitrogenous fertilisers’ (as they contain nitrogen to aid plant growth), and when used inappropriately, can severely damage the environment and human health.
Once sprayed on crops, the fertilisers then enter the soil, and consequently run-off into lakes and rivers, causing a huge overgrowth of algae in the water-system. This increased population of algae use up all of the oxygen in the water, leaving none remaining for the other species in the ecosystem. Slowly but surely, everything dies, and you’re left with a toxic, anoxic and dead body of water. The fact that this process is completely avoidable, and that more than 60% of U.S coastal waters are ‘severely’ degraded by nutrient pollution (like eutrophication) is appalling. This process doesn’t happen with organic farming and though buying organic produce, you are more often than not funding conservation and maintenance of farmland to ensure sustainability, and a future for everyone.
This process is called Eutrophication, and is when ‘dead’ lakes and rivers are formed directly by fertilizers. This reduces biodiversity, and (from an ethical perspective) ruins the habitats and prospects for millions of animals worldwide. And understand, this process is entirely avoidable.
Although it may not be possible for everyone to go 100% organic – making organic choices when you can make a difference. Although it is more expensive to buy organic food, the nature of supply/demand ensures if many people change their consumption habits, the price of organic produce will plummet. So, in conclusion, consider making a change which can invest in your health, the planet and the future.
Thank you very much for reading, and be sure to follow Natural Healthy Foods on social media, to keep up to date with the newest in plant-based living.
- Leifert, C. (2014). Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review
- Functional Foods Fact Sheet: Antioxidants,Foodinsight.org, www.foodinsight.org/Functional_Foods_Fact_Sheet_Antioxidants