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By Katie Jenson-Hull / The Radiant Nutritionist
September brings with it the ever popular #organicseptember. Showcasing all things organic and educating us on the hows and whys of consuming organic produce and personal products.
Every weekend we go on road trips through our local countryside to beautiful farm shops and farmers’ markets. Collecting goodies to create beautiful seasonal weekend dishes and to look in awe at all of the delicious seasonal stars. This activity has been such a family treasured activity. Not only do we leave with a variety of ingredients and produce but we are also supporting local farmers.
Our weekly trips have got me thinking about our consumption of organic food. We hear so much about organic food but what exactly does “organic” mean and do we really need to splurge on these ingredients?
The Department for Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) states that:
“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 (GMOs) or products from or by GMOs are prohibited by organic legislation”.
Don’t eat anything that your grandma wouldn’t recognise as food
Seeing all the fresh seasonal produce each week at the farm shops got me thinking how in essence organic food is actually going back to how food used to be. Allowing produce to naturally grow and mature, without the use of health harming pesticides. Organic food isn’t a passing trend or a fleeting food fad. Organic food is actually food that your great grandma would’ve enjoyed at her dining table. Organic food is real wholefood when you consider it in this way.
Why would you invest in organic food?
A key reason people consider choosing organic is to steer clear of toxins. The pesticides and herbicides have been linked to a variety of reproductive and developmental disorders. These include, the brain and nervous system, hormonal disruption and cancer.
For the welfare of animals.
Where eating meat is concerned I only eat organic or grass fed meat. Same for my dairy products, including eggs, cheese and milk. Why? For the welfare of the animals and also to reduce my intake of antibiotics which are frequently administered to the animal. I would advise you to do this wherever possible. This may seem a tough task, I get you. When I first started to buy better quality meat I realised it meant that I would have to buy it less often and eat it less often. This was a challenge to begin with but now I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Grass fed meat is nutritionally superior to other meat. It contains more healthful omega 3 compared to inflammatory omega 6. It also has higher levels of B vitamins, Vitamin E and antioxidants. Above all they are healthy animals that are allowed to roam and eat natural food on the ground.
Wildlife and the environment.
Organic food is better for the environment as the farming of it uses less energy and has fewer pollutants in the soil and waterways.
Better quality and nutrient dense
Organic fruit and veggies are left to grow at a natural pace therefore developing their nutrients. As they are left with the elements of nature they have to battle tougher weather and growing conditions. They therefore create more nutrient dense phytonutrients - nutrients that help to fight diseases and cancer.
Non-organic produce is typically picked before it is fully ripe and ready to eat. Why? Often so that it can survive the additional miles to get to its final destination. Picking prematurely and without full maturation means that they don’t reach optimal nutrient level.
Think about the strawberry eaten in January compared to the freshly picked strawberry from the garden or PYO (pick your own) in the summer months. That watery tasting strawberry versus the juicy sweet mouthwatering bright red berry, now that is what I am talking about.
But organic food is so expensive
Ok now we know why we may select more organic products in our weekly foodshop, how are we going to marry this with our individual budgets? Look, I will hold my hands up. My weekly food shop won’t stretch to all things organic, it can be a huge investment. Equally though I want to reduce the toxic chemicals making their way into my body and so my bit for the environment. Let me introduce you to the “Dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” by the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) www.ewg.org .
I am a huge fan of this classification. Every year they release a new list of popular fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide contamination, therefore where you would gain more by selecting organic.
2021 Dirty dozen includes:
Kale, collards and mustard greens
Bell and hot peppers
Generally, these items tend to be ones that we eat the skin off and where the skin is thinner and more permeable. I would also include potatoes and sweet potatoes here as they feature at number 13. I would also look to organic for tomatoes, lettuce and blueberries.
This is a great list to keep to hand if you aren’t shopping organic all of the time. This list contains the fruits and veggies that absorb the minimal amounts of pesticides.
2021 Clean fifteen includes:
When preparing my fruit and vegetables I always make sure to wash them. I’m more thorough with my nonorganic to wash as much of the pesticide as possible. Don’t just rinse, rub and scrub them. I often use my vegetable brush for this.
Can I just put this out there? It is very hard to eat organic all of the time. When you visit someone's house or you eat out you can not guarantee that all the ingredients are completely organic. Also, I would never want someone to become fixated about everything being completely organic. Believe me, I’ve been there and neither my bank account or my mental health thanked me for it! Everything in moderation and small changes add up, remember that. When I write recipes I often put where the ingredient listed should be organic, if possible, to help guide.
With all of this in mind, I will be sharing more practical tips for implementing more organic foods throughout September. I would love you to join in over on my instagram.
Before I go, let me leave you with this. Do your best, buy the best quality ingredients you can afford, support local, eat in season and above all enjoy real wholefoods.
For more information, visit Soil Association