In Dietary, Health

Organic food – all hype or a seriously healthy alternative? If you’ve ever pondered changing your diet to include more organic products, one question may have stumped you along the way. Is it really worth it? From conflicting new stories to confusing data, it can be hard to get down to the core of the matter. You could be forgiven for thinking that the whole thing is just too much trouble. With that in mind, let’s dispel the myths once and for all, and take a look at the facts.

What is organic food?

You’ve heard the rumours, but do you actually know what makes some foods organic? Before manufacturers can label their products as ‘organic,’ they need to make sure that they tick all the boxes. The Soil Association has a strict list of guidelines, including:

  • Prohibiting the use of fertilizers or herbicides
  • Minimal use of pesticides (with some toxins completely banned)
  • Zero Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
  • Minimal farming which has a negative environmental impact

These are just the highlights – the list is longer than you may imagine. These guidelines are put in place to protect the environment and the customers’ general health. Opting to buy this type of food rather than conventionally farmed produce means helping the world while keeping yourself healthier than ever. Win-win.

An affordable alternative

Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to organic food is that it’s unaffordable. Many people shy away from switching to a part organic diet as they believe that it will be expensive and unsustainable. However, research has shown that the cost of these particular ingredients isn’t nearly as high as the majority believe.

So, what’s the real cost of this lifestyle change and how much are we willing to fork out? One survey from the University of Kent found that buyers were willing to pay around 13% more for organic produce. However, the most that it costs people to buy organic is only 9%. Experts noted that improved taste and health benefits meant that people were willing to spend extra on these products.

Significantly fewer pesticides

Switching to an organic diet could mean that you consume fewer pesticides, according to a study commissioned by Greenpeace. As part of the research, the experts looked for traces of common pesticides in the urine of young participants. Those who had changed from a ‘conventional diet’ to an organic diet. The results showed higher levels of pesticide traces in those who ate organic food.

“The study demonstrates how switching from a conventional diet to an organic diet can reduce the amount of pesticides in the body. This effect was most pronounced for exposure to pesticides such as organophosphate, pyrethroids and glyphosate,” the study author, Professor Thomas Göen told Greenpeace.

Higher in antioxidants

Choosing to eat an organic diet could offer as many antioxidants as consuming one-to-two extra portions of fruit per day, says research published in the British Journal of Nutrition. The team of experts from the University of Newcastle found that organic crops were 60% higher in key antioxidants than conventionally grown crops.

As though that weren’t striking enough, the study also suggested that organic crops had less toxic heavy metals present than conventional crops. For instance, cadmium, an element which can have toxic effects on the kidneys, bones, and respiratory system, was found to be 50% higher in the average crop as opposed to organic alternatives.

“Choosing food produced according to organic standards can lead to increased intake of nutritionally desirable antioxidants and reduced exposure to toxic heavy metals,” said study lead, Professor Carlo Leifert.

Conclusion

Now that you know the facts, it’s up to you what you do next. Making a conscious effort to choose more organic produce in your weekly shop could be a positive step – both for your health and your planet. Why not give it a go?

Want to find out more? Join the plant pushers on Sunday 8th July as part of the Sheffield Organic Growers Open Day. See you there!  

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