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Organic vs non-Organic Foods

There is an on-going debate out there these days with health professionals, nutritionists, and the media giving different opinions about whether organic food is worth the slightly higher prices.

But there are a few VERY important aspects of organic food that is rarely talked about.

First, as you know, the main aspect that most people talk about in the organic vs conventional food debate is simply whether the food in question was grown with pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers, and whether that food contains pesticide/herbicide residues on the actual food when you eat it.

And that IS important… Do you want to be ingesting pesticide residues that are potentially carginogenic or even estrogenic and can possibly increase belly fat (due to the xenoestrogens)? …

The impacts of conventional farm chemicals on the SOIL.

The harsh chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides used in conventional farming can destroy a large part of the microbial activity in the soils (bacteria and fungi) that help to make soil minerals more available to the plants roots. Conventional farming degrades this aspect of the soil which results in lower micro-nutrient levels in the plants that you eat.

In organic farming, these harsh chemicals are not used, and the soil is healthier and more biologically active (fungi and bacteria aid the plant roots with uptake of minerals and nutrients), and the plants roots can therefore obtain more nutrition which produces foods with higher micro-nutrient levels.

Also, it's quite possible that the heavy use of chemical fertilizers, which make crops grow much faster than normal, leads to a shallower root system, that inherently absorbs less micro-nutrients from the soil column compared to organically raised plants that are forced to have deeper, more extensive root systems to obtain all of the nutrients the plant needs.

I think it's quite easy to see why organic foods can have superior nutrition levels and more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than conventional foods.

Sometimes Local may be MORE important than “Organic”

If your choices at the supermarket for the organic food come from half way around the globe (such as organic produce from Chile or New Zealand when you live in the UK), then you might want to consider favoring local produce even if it's not labeled “organic”.

For one reason, many local farm stands may actually have organic produce but simply aren't legally allowed to label their food “organic” if they haven't acquired whatever necessary licenses they need for that. If you ask the farmers, many times you may find out that the local farm produce is in fact organic, or at least close to organic (meaning they use very minimal chemicals compared to a large industrial farm).

Also, local produce that is picked at its peak of ripeness, and on your plate in a matter of hours or days, will usually have much higher nutrition levels compared to “organic” produce that was picked halfway around the world well before it was ripe and travelled weeks to make it to your local supermarket.

The one caveat to this is frozen produce… sometimes fruits and veggies are picked at their peak of ripeness and frozen rather quickly, even if they were picked halfway around the world. In this case, organic frozen fruits and vegetables can sometimes be just as nutritious as local produce (although they may carry a bigger petroleum burden than local produce)

So to save yourself from the inherent health dangers of pesticides and herbicides, while also eating food that contains the highest levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it is this:

  1. choose organic over conventional most of the time, when it's available
  2. choose local foods over organic if the organic food came from very long distances away (although frozen organic fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as local)
  3. Don't forget that choosing organic also helps to protect the environment from chemical fertilizer and pesticide pollution that can harm ecosystems and your own drinking water supply.
  4. Don't fall for “organic junk foods” — I've been seeing this trend lately — Just because crackers, cookies, cakes, and crisps may be labeled “organic”, doesn't mean they are healthy… junk food is still junk food! And these are still overly processed foods that can make you fat!

Remember that forcing change for responsible agriculture starts with your choices as a consumer. The more we demand responsibly grown and raised foods by choosing those foods in our shopping trolleys, the more that producers and suppliers will respond to that demand.