I originally published this post back in ‘Organic September’ but with all the talk about the value of eating more fruit and vegetables I thought it would be good to give this a little update and share it with you again.
Organic food is more widely available than ever, but generally has a higher price tag and comes with conflicting messages about whether it’s really worth paying more for. So as we come to the end of Organic September I thought I’d share my view on organic produce…
What does organic mean?
Organic refers to how the food has been grown/reared. The Department for Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) states:
‘Organic food is the product of a farming system which avoids the use of man-made fertilisers, pesticides; growth regulators and livestock feed additives. Irradiation and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or products produced from or by GMOs are generally prohibited by organic legislation.”
Organic farming is basically how we used to farm before the development of chemicals to ‘improve’ the process!
Why should you choose organic?
Research into the nutritional value of organic v non-organic food is mixed. Many claim the increase in nutrient value is small, if any. But organic food is more ethical and environmentally friendly – especially when it comes to the rearing of animal for meat and dairy produce. And the real benefit for your health comes from what is missing…
Organic food doesn’t contain the same levels of chemicals as non-organic produce. Whether that’s pesticides on fruits and vegetables or antibiotics in animals. The full, long-term effects of chemicals used in the food chain these days, is not fully known and that, for me, is a scary thought. But already some pesticides used on non-organic food have been linked to: cancer; diabetes; obesity; Parkinson’s Disease; Infertility and birth defects and Autism.
These pesticides, alongside the antibiotics and hormones used in meat production, increase the toxic load on our body’s systems like the liver which are responsible for the breakdown and safe removal of toxins. This overload of toxins can cause fatigue, sluggish bowel movements, headaches, nausea and in severe cases autoimmune diseases as the body struggles to process these unknown molecules, sending the immune system into chaos.
When should you choose organic?
Ideally always, but in reality not many of us can afford, or have access to organic all the time. But below is the ‘dirty dozen’ – a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticides, published annually by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Cucumber, Kale and Hot Peppers
The EWG also produce a list called the ‘clean fifteen’ – those which rank lowest for pesticide levels so safer but not entirely free from pesticides. If, like me, you’re on a budget, you can feel happier about buying non-organic versions of these fruits and vegetables and use the money to ensure you can buy organic where it’s more essential.
- Sweet corn
- Sweet frozen peas
- Aubergine (Eggplant)
- Honeydew Melon
For other fruits and vegetables, I make the choice while shopping and depending on – budget, special offers and availability. I also get a Riverford box delivered regularly and visit my local farmers market to source seasonal, local produce which is often cheaper and more delicious than that available at the supermarket.
In addition to ensuring I always choose organic if I buy any of the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables, I always buy organic meat, eggs and dairy products.
What does going organic really cost?
To help you see how much choosing organic really costs, I’ve chosen 10 ‘everyday’ food items which I would recommend always buying organic, and researched the price difference at three leading supermarkets.
Prices obtained from supermarket websites on 23 February 2017. Own brands used where possible and prices calculated for same weight of product where possible. No special offer prices were used.
I also looked at Asda, but they had a limited organic selection.
As you’ll see the average price difference is around £9. This is quite a lot of money and it’s sad that we have to pay extra to have more natural produce. But for me and for my health, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.