Whether your reason for considering organic is that it’s nutritional denser, superior in taste, more sustainable from a farming perspective, or all of the above, there is no denying the ever-growing demand for organic produce. In Australia alone, the total value of the organic industry has grown by 88% since 2012!
What Does ‘Organic’ Mean?
The World Health Organisation defines ‘Organic’ as a holistic system that "enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity".
Simply put, organic produce and products are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. Animals diseases are prevented with natural methods and they must have access to the outdoors. Organic farms are also inspected once per year to make sure everything is tip-top.
So, What are the Benefits of Organic Food?
Organic foods contain fewer pesticides.
Eating organic food reduces your toxic load.
Organic food is often fresher.
Organic produce is much higher in phytonutrients than conventional produce.
Organic farming is better for the environment as it promotes soil health and biodiversity.
Eating organically encourages to eat the way nature intended…with the seasons.
Organically raised animals are not given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts. Which considering the amount of antibiotic resistance we are beginning to see is definitely something to consider!
Organic animal products are richer in healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fat and have lower levels of saturated fats than non-organic meat.
Eating organically helps to support small businesses and local farmers.
Organic food is always GMO-free.
What Are The Risks of Pesticides?
To put it simply, pesticides are quite literally substances that are created to control pests, such as weeds, fungi, or insects. Under the umbrella of pesticides falls insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides and herbicides.
While pesticides offer some advantages (greater yield of a crop, protection of crops), they come at a cost to not only the environment but also our health.
Children, in particular, are at greatest risk of the potential effects as there internal organs and excretory systems are still developing, making them less able to effectively remove the breakdown products of pesticides.
There is continuously evolving evidence to support the link between pesticides and neonatal reflexes, psychomotor and mental development and ADHD. The negative health impacts of pesticide use and exposure are also seen in adults, despite having fully developed. Research on the health implications in adults ranges from increased risk of cancer to infertility.
Scarily, the widespread use of pesticides has also led to the emergence of “superweeds” and “superbugs,” which can only be killed with extremely toxic poisons, meaning that the pesticides we are using are going to have to keep getting stronger as weeds and bugs continue to evolve. Scary stuff!
Tips to Help you Navigate Organic Eating
In an ideal world, we would all grow our own food organically and eat it within a few hours of picking it… But let’s be honest, life, affordability, practicality and a whole host of other reasons will keep that lifestyle just a dream for the majority of us!
What I think is important to stress is that it is always better to eat a healthy, balanced diet full of plant-based foods that are non-organic than it is to eat an unhealthy organic diet. It’s about doing the best we can and striving for consistency, not perfection.
Hopefully, the tips below will help you find practical and realistic ways to squeeze a bit more organic-ness into your life… without having to uproot the family and move to a farm!
Make the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen your shopping companion. Print off the lists and keep it in your wallet or screenshot the slides.
If you buy conventional produce, make sure that you wash and scrub well before preparing.
Learn to love your freezer! Take advantage of organic offers. Par cook and freeze up veggies and turn meat and fish into batch cooked meals and save them for easy mid-week dinners at a later date.
Look out for the Aussie Organic Stamp of approval. If it’s organic or in the process of being signed off by them, it’ll have a certified sticker.
Keep an eye on what produce is in season. Nature has a pretty amazing way of knowing exactly what we need and you’ll probably find that what your body really needs a particular time of year is what can be found in the seasonal produce… Think Vitamin C from citrus fruits in winter.
Personally, I prefer to eat less meat, but buy top quality, the organic meat just occasionally instead.
Check out your local farmers market and buy directly from the farmers (see my farmers market directory).