September is Organic month, and in light of this, I’m here to give you the scoop on organic products – what they are exactly, and how they might offer an advantage to our health, as well as the environment.
The Rise in Organic
A few years back, the term ‘organic’ referred to a specialist category of products, marketed (perhaps) as ‘luxury’ versions of their mainstream counterparts. It was easy to dismiss them as overpriced and unnecessary; I was one of those people who scoffed at the thought of paying an extra 40p for a bag of apples with a fancy label.
However, there’s been a sharp rise in the popularity or organic products; according to statistics published by the Organic Soil Association, organic sales have gone up by 4.9% this year alone, and continue to grow.
What is Organic Food?
So, just what is meant by the term ‘organic’? Essentially, it is food grown without the ‘nasties’. 'Organic food is the product of a farming system which avoids the use of man-made fertilisers, pesticides; growth regulators and livestock feed additives.’ This is the definition given by the Department for Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
I however, feel the above is a somewhat clinical term that may overlook other, important aspects; organic usually means a better quality of life for animals, and sustainability for nature and the environment.
Animals reared organically, by law, are free range with availability to pasture and lots of space (not cooped up in tight spaces and arguably cruel conditions that promote disease and distress). They are supplied with organic crops to graze on, and genetically modified food sources are banned from their diets, along with growth hormones and antibiotics.
When it comes to fruit and veggies, these are grown in accordance with nature. The application of artificial growing methods is avoided (on the whole); for example, chemical or ‘forced’ ripening.
The Benefits to Going Organic!
It was originally believed that pesticides (and so forth) did not pose any long-term threat to health, but ongoing studies now suggest otherwise. Data published by the British Journal of Nutrition found that non-organic crops may increase exposure to cadmium – a toxic metal, found in industrial practices; levels of which have shown to be higher in the aforementioned. There is also research to suggest that pesticides could have a potentially carcinogenic effect.
Moreover, organic crops have actually been shown to contain higher levels of antioxidant nutrients. This increase is believed to be in the region of 18-69%. Pretty astonishing! When it comes to organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy – including organic whey – the main findings relate to omega-3 fatty acids. Non-organic versions are said to contain just HALF the level the omega-3s (approximately), compared with organic. Since many of us in the UK are deficient in this vital group of fats, choosing organic could significantly impact our nutritional health.
Here’s something else to make you smile: organic farms provide a sanctuary for our wildlife, too, allowing a safer environment to thrive in. Awww! :)
Are there any Downsides?
Perhaps the obvious downside to opting for organic is the increased expense. However, when you truly consider the organic advantages outlined – is the added cost a smaller price to pay than originally perceived?
Organic products are more expensive because without chemicals, hormones etc. used in conventional farming, growth is slower and less effectual. It’s important to note that a lower cost can also equate to poorer value (in some cases). When it comes to buying organic fruit and veggies, one of the best ways to reduce expenditure is to eat seasonally, and buy from local farmers’ markets. Read our article on seasonal eating here to find out more.
The Bigger Picture of Organic
Nowadays, you can walk into just about any supermarket and find an organic section. Many superfood products are organic by default – for example – coconut oil, nut butters and superfood powders. Reason being, some manufacturers believe that for a superfood to truly be classified as such, its quality is reflected not only in its level of purity, but its contribution to the environment.
Organic products are not restricted to edibles, either; personal care and beauty products (e.g. bath and shower gel), household cleaning items, and even clothing often have organic formulations! The logic is that if organic can benefit you on the inside, this will likely be true of the outside, too!
So, as it turns out, there are many proposed reasons to choose organic this month... and beyond!