Twenty years ago, you would have had a hard time finding organic food at a supermarket, you have had to travel to some hip health food store, but now the shelves are full of a whole variety of organic produce. Although many people believe that organic food has been grown without the use of any chemicals, this is not entirely true. Organic food contains some chemicals including those that naturally occur, obviously, but also many from a list of approved chemicals that organic farmers can use which may come as a shock to many organic-produce purchasers.
There is a reason why people believe organic farming is more environmentally friendly than non-organic. Rather than using chemicals on the land, farmers rely on techniques such as crop rotation and habitat management. Many EU countries have developed schemes that promote organic farming, including providing financial assistance to organic farmers. The organic movement has been rapidly growing in recent years, as people become more and more aware of the benefits of eating food that is kept as natural as possible.
Many studies have been carried out that prove the greater health benefits that organic produce can have, as well as showing that the toxins found in non-organic food can be detrimental to your health. Organic food typically contains less residue of pesticides, which are extremely harmful when consumed by humans. The pesticides contained on conventional foods have even been linked to ADHD and autism in children, whilst the long term effects are still unknown. However, with all that being said, there are also many studies which disprove all of these. In fact, The British Nutrition Foundation state there is no scientific evidence to prove that organic food is better for you.
Despite all these so-called benefits to buying organic, many people still choose not to for one main reason – organic food is often significantly more expensive due to it being more labour intensive to produce and can often lead to smaller yields, since chemicals encouraging growth are not being sprayed onto the plants. Products can cost anywhere from 10% to 100% more than conventional foods, and for the majority of us, it simply isn’t an option to keep everything we eat organic. Still, certain foods contain more pesticide residue than others, and if we’re selective about which organic products we buy and prioritise our purchases appropriately, we can keep our ingestion of pesticide residue to a minimum.
Some of the fruits and vegetables that are known to contain a high level of residue include apples, lettuce, celery and carrots. Due to the risk of fungus and insect threats, many farmers spray their apple orchards with a variety of different chemicals, meaning that an apple can contain up to 45 different pesticides. Since this is the case with most conventional apples, this would mean that non-organic apple products, such as juice or sauce, will also contain these pesticides. Strawberries, although they may be a superfood, have such a bumpy texture that it is much harder to wash the pesticides off, meaning that they are often found to contain up to thirteen different pesticides. Celery stalks, like potatoes, bell peppers and spinach, are extremely porous, which means that they soak up pesticides that have been used on them, and usually contain some of the highest pesticide levels amongst all vegetables.
Bread is a staple food for the nation, but 90% of non-organic bread has been found to contain pesticides. There are always organic alternatives available, and when it comes to bread, they don’t cost too much more either. This is generally the same when it comes to other grains, and pastas and other products that are made with non-organic flour.
When it comes to meat, you should always try to buy organic. Conventional meat production usually involves a regular dose of antibiotics, which ends up in your body when you eat the meat. Research has also shown a strong connection between the growth hormone given to cows and cancer, particularly breast cancer, in humans. In addition to this, the taste of organic meat is a noticeable improvement when compared to non-organic.
Since dairy products come from animals, it is also best to stick to the organic type when buying these. Conventional milk, which is then turned into cheese, can contain lindane, an insecticide that affects hormone activity. Organic milk and dairy products also contain more beneficial nutrients than non-organic, for the simple reason that the animals are able to eat more grass, and the grass itself is not treated with chemicals.
When you’re browsing the wine section at the supermarket, all thoughts of organic have probably left your mind. But the same organic standards are in place for wine, stating that only organic grapes are used, as well as enforcing tighter controls on the processing of the wine. The majority of conventional supermarket wines contain high levels of sulphur dioxide, which is a huge problem for people with asthma and different allergies. Organic wine contains one third of the amount of sulphur dioxide as conventional wine, and is definitely an area where it is worth paying extra to go the organic route.
Whether or not you do decide to buy organic produce, keep in mind that there are likely to be pesticide residues on all foods. Remember to properly wash and scrub fruits and vegetables under running water before using them, and if possible, peel off outer skins and remove outer layers of leafy greens, as these are the parts that come into the most direct contact with any chemicals. With meat and poultry, the best thing to do would be to trim off all visible fat, as this is where pesticide residue tends to build up.
And finally, don’t always trust organic labels from other countries. China has been aggressively exporting organic products, such as canned tomatoes, tea and dried fruit, but their standards, as well as how these are enforced, on what constitutes as organic are less than reliable. Avoid this by always buying locally whenever possible, as the lower transport costs would also mean lower prices.
Do you Buy Organic Produce? Or is it Just Mumbo Jumbo?
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