Why I am committed to eating Organic FoodJun 27, 2022
The demand for organic food, specifically produce and animal products, has skyrocketed in recent years, with the growing concern over our exposure to pesticides driving the buying and consumption of organic foods. Research and several experts have validated the idea that if you want to reduce your exposure to chemical residues (such as pesticides), the best way to do that is to choose more organic products in your health routine overall.
But, how can you be assured that what you’re buying really is ‘organic’?
And what does ‘organic’ actually mean, not just for our food but also for our bath, beauty & cleaning products?
Or has it just become another slick marketing word designed to influence and drive our purchasing decisions?
I’m going to unmuddy the organic waters and give you some clarification around this confusing topic.
And as always, keep reading to find another delicious whole foods recipe – which I hope you will make with organic ingredients! ;-)
Let’s start with a basic definition…
Organic produce and other foods are grown without the use of:
- Synthetic fertilizers
- Sewage sludge
- Ionizing radiation
- Genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and/or using bioengineering technology
Plus the animals that produce meat/poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.
When it comes to bath, body & cleaning products and cosmetics labeled as ‘organic’, this refers to the product itself, as well as how the ingredients were grown, produced and/or processed to create the product.
But what’s wrong with “conventionally” grown food?
Because “conventional” foods are often grown in soil lacking the richness and diversity of matter that develops when plant matter breaks down, and with the use of chemicals, they may lack nutrients, and also add the potential for ingesting toxic chemicals/fertilizers, which will directly affect our health! The modern agricultural industry believes that the only way to grow enough food to feed the planet is through the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified seeds. They believe that biodynamic or organic agricultural methods are passé, and a waste of money. They argue how “science” proved that plants grow best with chemical inputs and this is why it is the foundation of the “how to feed a hungry world” doctrine. But “the science” was incomplete at the time industrial agriculture was emerging, and the role of soil life was unknown.
Nineteenth century agricultural experts and soil scientists had no idea what microbial populations were doing in the soil, and in the absence of this knowledge the chemical fertilizer theory of agricultural productivity was embraced because it did sustain and increase yields in the short term.
However, by the mid to late twentieth century, chemical-based agricultural practices were causing steady losses of soil carbon, topsoil, and humus (organic matter), and creating water pollution, crops that were more susceptible to pests, greenhouse gases, and oceanic dead zones.
In their book, The Hidden Half of Nature, David R. Montgomery and Anne Bikle reveal why good health—for people, for plants, and for the planet—depends on Earth’s smallest creatures. From garden to gut, they show why cultivating beneficial microbiomes holds the key to transforming agriculture and medicine.
The microbiomes of both the human gut and the soil are ecosystems of unimaginable complexity; they are interdependent and are the foundation of health and well-being.
A healthy soil biome is rich in carbon because soil microbes feed on sugar-rich exudates from the roots of plants. In turn, the bacteria dissolve rock and minerals to make those nutrients bioavailable to plants. In one gram of soil there can be up to 10 billion inhabitants representing between 50,000 and 80,000 different species of bacteria, nematodes, and fungi.
Plants and soil feed upon each other, and when that cycle is interrupted by synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, the plant is weakened, and the soil is diminished.
There are five key elements essential for plant growth: water; carbon dioxide; nitrogen; and two rock-derived mineral elements - phosphorus and potassium. Rather than directly absorbing organic matter (decomposed vegetable matter) as was previously theorized, it is now understood that they absorb the metabolic by-products of soil organisms that feed on and break down organic matter. Soil organisms are responsible for keeping soils fertile and plants fed, through the plant’s roots. Not to mention that plants grown in nutrient-rich, organically diverse “live” soil just taste better! Try doing a comparison taste test between a “conventionally grown” carrot, and one that is organic - I’m sure you will notice the difference!
Organic food & food products with ‘organic’ on the label
The demand for organic food, specifically produce, has skyrocketed over the past two decades, with the growing concern over our exposure to pesticides driving the buying and consumption of organic foods.
Research and several experts have validated the idea that if you want to reduce your exposure to chemical residues (such as pesticides), the best way to do that is to choose more organic products in your health routine.
Foods to consider buying organic over conventional counterparts
According to the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List, updated for 2022 - you should consider purchasing the following organic produce:
- Kale, Collard and Mustard Greens
- Bell and Hot Peppers
The goal of the Dirty Dozen list, which is updated annually, is to let consumers know which fruits and vegetables have the highest amount of pesticide residues.
How can I be assured that what I’m buying is actually organic?
In the United States, the USDA has identified 3 categories of labeling organic products::
- 100% Organic: Made with 100% organic ingredients
- Organic: Made with at least 95% organic ingredients
- Made With Organic Ingredients: Made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
- Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.
- A product is considered legally organic when it:
- bears the USDA Organic Seal
- has been certified organic, and
- contains 95% or more organic ingredients.
In Canada, foods and food products are regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, products must be certified organic according to the Canadian Organic Standards and carry the ‘Canada Organic’ logo.
However, a food product must also be free of artificial food additives, including artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colouring, flavouring (and that includes MSG) in order to be labelled ‘organic’.
Personal Care & Beauty Products with ‘Organic’ on the label
Did you know that the term ‘natural’, commonly being used by food & beauty product marketers, can be used on any product label without third party verification? This particular label is what confuses consumers into thinking that the product is also certified ‘organic’. But the two terms are not interchangeable.
Certified Organic personal care & beauty products must adhere to the following standards:
- NO animal testing
- NO GMO’s
- NO controversial chemicals
- NO parabens and phthalates
- NO synthetic colours, dyes or fragrances
- NO nanoparticles
Whether to use natural and/or organic personal care products is up to your preferences. But whenever you’re introducing new products into your routine or for your family, you should always do your research. Look up the ingredients, figure out if they are natural or organic - if that’s important to you!
So give organic a try! Your body and the planet will thank you!
RECIPE ~ Sautéed Organic Greens w/ Garlic
- 2 large bunches of mixed cruciferous greens (chard, collards, kale and/or mustard greens)
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- Few pinches red pepper flakes
- 1 Tb avocado oil or ghee
- 1 Tb sherry vinegar, apple cider vinegar or freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- ½ tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
- Pinch of pepper
- Rinse greens well. Tear leaves away from stems and discard stems, and coarsely chop greens.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic and pepper flakes briefly, then add greens (a few handfuls at a time), stirring in between.
- Stir in vinegar (or lemon juice), salt & pepper. Then cover.
- Cook until just tender, 2-5 minutes, depending on the type of greens and your preference for “wiltyness”.
- Best enjoyed immediately after cooking.
- Serve with your choice of protein and additional veggies or starchy veg.
The Spruce Eats (May 2019) - What Does “Organic” Really Mean?
Choose Canada Organic - Organic 101: What Does Organic Mean?
Healthline (September 2018) - The Dirty Dozen Foods: 12 Foods That Are High In Pesticides
The Balance Small Business (January 2019) - Learn How to Tell When “Organic” on the Label is True
The Balance Small Business (October 2018) - How To Shop For Real Organic Food & Products
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (January 2019) - Regulating Organic Products in Canada
Healthline (May 2016) - What Is Organic Food, and Is It Better Than Non-organic?
Healthline (June 2016) - Healthy Cosmetics
The Balance Small Business (November 2017) - Do Organic Body Care Products Need to Be Certified?
For more info on this and other natural health topics:
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