Wellness Wednesday: The Benefits of Eating Organic
This month is Organic month, and so today I wanted to share my thoughts on eating organic – as it’s something that both Charlie and I have become increasingly passionate about. Perhaps its our move to the Cotswolds and speaking with local farmers and producers, mixed with our growing passion for cooking fresh meals and interest in our health – but the more I learn about eating organically, the more I am keen to ensure that most of what we consume is in fact grown in this way.
The biggest argument that I hear against eating organically is the price, and this is an incredibly important factor and one not to ignore; it could be considered a luxury to be able to afford to purchase most of your weekly food shop from organic stores, and for many this simply isn’t an option – but there are certain foods where choosing organic is more important than others (such as oats and fruit – far more important to eat this grown organically, than beef for example!) and given that the food we eat has such a huge impact on our health, it seems sensible in my opinion to prioritise this expenditure over other luxuries in life. I recently enjoyed a Zoe podcast with Tim Spector where he discussed the benefits of eating organically which you might enjoy here; The Truth about Organic Food ; and read on for my thoughts on eating organically this month, and beyond!
What does organic actually mean?
Organic food is food which is grown or produced by working with nature, with the minimal use of chemicals (such as pesticides, weed killers and chemical fertilisers) and using real ingredients.
In terms of livestock, organic producers must give their animals a high living standard, such as by allowing the animals to roam freely (for example by having free-range hens rather than caged hens) on a natural, more biodiverse landscape.
For a company to call their food organic, they must comply with the legal organic standards of whatever country they’re in. The legal definition of ‘organic’ varies from country to country, but here in the UK, organic foods must contain at least 95% organic ingredients.
If you’ve ever wondered why organic food tends to be a little more expensive, it’s because organic food costs more to produce. For example, organic farming tends to be more labour intensive than non-organic farming, and high-quality animal feed costs more.
How going organic benefits our health
I’m sure you’ve heard that organic food is better for our health, but why is this the case?
1 – Reduced consumption of antibiotics through the meat we eat
Did you know that when we consume meat, we are often consuming second-hand antibiotics that were given to the livestock? Antibiotics can wreck havoc on our microbiomes, as antibiotics don’t only kill harmful bacteria; they kill the helpful ones as well! Organic farming bans the use of routine antibiotics, minimising the second hand antibiotics we’re exposed to
2 – No consumption of genetically modified crops
Organic crops are never genetically modified, which is good as who knows what modified crops are doing to our health!? In my opinion, natural is usually better, and that is especially true when it comes to livestock. Genetically modifying animals to get more meat from them sounds a bit questionable to me, as it probably negatively affects the animal’s welfare!
3 – Reduced consumption of chemicals
Organic crops will contain lower amounts of pesticides and herbicides, which are likely to be harmful to our health. Organic fruit and veg is also not washed in chlorine (unlike non-organic fruit and veg!); and packaged organic foods such as cereal bars do not contain harmful additives such as unnatural food colourings and sweeteners
How going organic benefits the environment
1 – Reduces use of nitrogen-rich fertilisers
The use of nitrogen rich fertilisers causes nitrogen pollution which negatively affects our soils, rivers and seas. Production of these fertilisers also involves the burning of fossil fuels, which leads to global warming. If all of that wasn’t bad enough, nitrogen fertilisers also affect the biodiversity of our land, as they encourage certain plant species to grow like crazy, which then suppresses other plant species; disrupting the natural balance of our ecosystems.
According to The Soil Association, if all of Europe’s farmland became organic, agricultural emissions would decrease by 40-50% by 2050!
2 – Reduces use of pesticides
The use of pesticides in farming has a devastating effect on our insect populations. By killing the insects that munch on our crops, we are also killing our pollinators, and any other insects in the vicinity, which has a knock-on effect on the entire ecosystem, putting many species at risk of extinction
3 – Reduces use of weed killers
As with the use of pesticides, the use of herbicides does not only kill the intended target (the weeds), but also kills other plants, such as our native wildflowers, which are a key part of our ecosystems. Reducing the use of herbicides will improve the biodiversity of our land and will help the health of our soils
How to eat organically
So, have. tempted you?! I certainly am far more conscious recently of always opting for an organic option if it’s available, and feel exceptionally fortunate to be surrounded by so many wonderful farm shops where shopping organically is relatively easy. Living in a city would mean a little more attention is needed; searching for a smaller delicatessen or butchers and asking these stores if their produce is organic. I always look out for the word ‘Organic’ on food packaging, and thankfully here in the UK, it does seem that food does actually have to be organic to get this label – which may sound silly, until you discover that in some places such as the USA, the word ‘Organic’ is not regulated by the FSA, so it’s easier for food companies to label their food as organic, when only a small part of the final product is in fact organically grown.
It’s harder to ensure you’re eating organic food when you’re out and about, dining in cafés and restaurants, so while you can certainly do a little bit of googling to find out if there are any organic eateries near you, it’s fine to relax your organic rules every once in a while, if it means more options when dining out with friends!
I hope you’ve found this post useful, and while organic food still remains more expensive than none organic, I’ve been consciously making savings in other areas so that I can afford to purchase mostly organic food to cook with and enjoy at home – it is certainly worth it for our long term health, and the environmental benefits too!
I’d love to know how you feel about eating organically – let me know over on Instagram! xoxo