There are studies aplenty out there. Some argue that there is negligible difference nutrient-wise between organic and non-organic; others demonstrate definite health benefits from eating organic. As with any article or study, it’s always advisable to look at the study’s sponsor, as this can actually influence the content!!
Studies aside, for me it’s common sense that organic is healthier. Here is why.
Organic produce contains fewer pesticides and other chemicals
From a naturopathic point of view, symptoms and illness occur when our “toxic load” (i.e. the level of toxicity in our body) exceeds a certain level. In order to heal, therefore, a “detox” is essential so that the body has a chance to rebalance. It’s equivalent to cleaning our house from top to bottom.
Some experts argue that detoxing is not necessary as our bodies already have a sophisticated detoxification system, but the fact is that it was never designed to cope with man-made chemicals or the high heavy metal load that we find in our food, water and environment today. Our bodies are on overload and eventually will start to flag under the strain, producing symptoms to a greater or lesser degree.
To clean up our bodies, it’s necessary not only to get rid of the already accumulated toxicity, but also to minimise the amount of toxins entering. If you think about it, you wouldn’t keep mopping a wet floor without turning off the tap that has caused the flooding in the first place!!
Cleaning up our diet is a great way to start.
Everything we eat is broken down into nutrients which are then used as building blocks for both the structure and day-to-day running of our cells. If our digestion isn’t as good as it could be or perhaps we are a stressed out bunny, then we don’t get as much out of our food as we would like, but for the purpose of this article, it is good enough to say that, in very basic terms, YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.
For the best chance of sparkling health, we need to be drinking plenty of water, following a predominantly plant-based, nutrient-dense diet, and avoiding processed, refined foods as well as stimulants. Such a “clean diet” is nutrient-rich and low in toxicity.
If we eat processed food or food-like substances, full of chemicals and sugar, and devoid of actual nutrients, it’s common sense that we won’t be giving our cells the correct ingredients to be their sparkly best – and therefore nor will we be.
If we add in a good dose of pesticides (and perhaps antibiotic residues found in animal products), we are adding insult to injury, and putting our natural detoxification systems under additional pressure. Our poor old cells, bogged down with toxicity, don’t stand a chance.
There was an interesting short video published in 2015 showing the effects of switching from a non-organic to an organic diet for a period of 2 weeks. The study was run by the Swedish Environment Research Institute (http://nutritionallywealthy.com/eating-organic/) on a family of five. Urine samples were taken from each family member before and after the 2-week period. The first set of samples showed high levels of insecticides, fungicides and plant growth regulators; the second, a dramatic decrease in each of these categories.
In the USA, the “dirty dozen” is a well-known list, showing which fruit and veg top the pesticide-ridden charts. The recommendation is to avoid eating these if not organic. Although there are some differences in the levels and types of pesticides in the UK, we can no way rest easy. Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK produces similar findings.
Mounting evidence shows a link between pesticides and various conditions including neurological diseases and cancer, to name but two. Why are we poisoning ourselves to death?
Organic produce is more nutrient-rich
Plants left to their own devices produce phytonutrients (plant chemicals) which act as the plant’s immune system, protecting it from various threats such as insects, disease, excessive heat, ultraviolet rays, poisons and pollutants in the air and soil. The good news is that what they do for plants, they can do for us, and many of these compounds have been linked to a reduced risk of chronic disease such as CVD and cancer. If, however, a plant is sprayed with pesticides, it becomes lazy. Why bother building up its own defences when it has artificial protection? As a result, it doesn’t produce the same levels of health-giving phytonutrients.
In a 2014 meta-analysis of 343 peer-reviewed publications, it was found that the concentration of a range of phytonutrients was substantially higher in organic crops.
It isn’t just phytonutrient content which differs. Mineral content is also affected. Due to modern farming methods, our soils are largely depleted, and as a result, crops grown in that soil are nutritionally depleted too. Studies show that levels of minerals have dropped dramatically over a period of less than a century.
Organic farmers don’t just avoid pesticide use. They are also more likely to observe more natural methods of farming which help to rejuvenate the soil and therefore provide a high mineral content to their foods too.
How much is your health worth?
Sadly, organic food is seen as a luxury, when in actual fact it should be seen as an absolute essential. Can we really afford to count the pennies at the expense of our families’ health? Often it’s a case of priorities. Personally, I would rather reap the benefits of eating an organic-based diet than, for instance, eat out regularly at restaurants (which is usually non-organic anyway!!) or having the whizziest new phone. Health for me is a priority. Virgil said “Health is the greatest wealth”. And so it is. Without it, we cannot enjoy life to the full.
Eat organic and give your cells the health-giving ingredients which they need to function optimally.
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