Posts tagged “fruits and vegetables

Is Organic Really Better?

The organic food movement has found a secure footing amongst the sea of conventional produce but some people may not be fully convinced about the benefits of organic food and what it really means. People often ask me why they should spend more on organic produce, with the argument that just eating more fruits and vegetables is a big enough jump in their efforts to realize a healthier body.  Skeptics have a strong voice in questioning organic claims with good reason, as the average consumer is bombarded with conflicting messages about food on a daily basis.  We are all too familiar with the concept that something is good for us, as advocated by one sounding board, only to be discredited by another such authority.  From a holistic point of view avoiding any artificial chemicals in my food is reason enough for me to choose organic but there may be some other convincing evidence to sway your vote towards the organic campaign.

 
So what does organic really mean?  Depending on the food category it can take on a few slight variations but for now let’s just talk produce.  According to the CFIA (Canadian  Food Inspection Agency) organic in relation to agricultural products is defined as the following:

 “An organic product is an agricultural product that has been certified as organic. A product can be certified if it is produced using the methods outlined by the Canadian Organic Standards.”

“Products that make an organic claim must be certified by a Certification Body that has been accredited, based upon the recommendation of a CFIA designated Conformity Verification Body. The Certification Body must certify the product to the Canadian Organic Standards.”  

The purpose of such definitions is ensure regulation so that the consumer is confident that they are getting what they pay for and not being mislead by false claims.  Now, the purpose of this is not to conjure up ideas of conspiracy theories or make people weary about the validity of organic claims but rather to remove the mysticism of organics and inform you about why they are the healthier choice from a nutritional stand point.

 
Organic farming practices not only ensure that your food is free from harmful chemicals but that it is grown in such a way that produces the most nutrient dense end product.  While it is true that our food does not contain the same level of nutrients it once did before corporate agribusiness became a world wide phenomenon, organic farming standards are put in place to ensure that we avoid any further degradation to the quality of our soil and the crops it generates.  Crop rotation and proper tilling of the land creates nutrient rich soil to give us the most nourishing food available given our current resources.  Avoiding harmful chemicals, protecting our precious resources, and feeding our body with the best food possible should be at the top of everyone’s priority list, an idealistic perspective from a nutritionist’s point of view ; -)  This alone is reason enough to spend your grocery dollars on organic fare however, there are even more enticing reasons to choose organic from a health protective rationale.
 
One of the most interesting aspects about organic produce is that they contain a much higher level of phytonutrients than traditionally grown, pesticide laden crops.  Phytonutrients are compounds separate from the essential vitamins and minerals contained in plants that the body requires in order to survive.  These are the health promoting constituents within plants that are getting so much praise these days for their ability to protect the body and foster optimal health.  Phytonutrients are responsible for color pigments and odiferous characteristics in fruits and vegetables, that pungent smell of garlic is mother nature’s gift from her sulfur containing phytonutrients.

All the buzz about eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables is due the ability of phytonutrients to protect the body.  As it turns out this makes perfect sense when you understand the role of these powerful compounds as part of a plant’s infrastructure. Besides adding beauty and wonderful aromatic qualities to our food, phytonutrients play a much larger role, they are actually the immune system of the plant.  Phytonutrients help plants fight off invaders through a carefully orchestrated combination of releasing odors and parading saturated pigments that discourage pesky critters.  So how does this all tie in with organic vs. non-organic?  Simply put, when plants are sprayed with pesticides they are given an ‘artificial immune system’.  If there is no threat from outside invaders due to a cloak of chemical protection, then there is no need for a plant to develop its own natural suit of armor in the form of additional phytonutrients.  While these are still present in plants sprayed with pesticides, otherwise produce isles would be filled with colorless, odorless heaps of plant matter, the optimal level of phytonutrients is never developed because there simply is no need.  You can liken it to a child whose parents never allow them to be exposed to ‘germs’, they will often have a weakened immune system over their life span because it was never given the chance to fully develop at an early age.  So when you are eating blueberries for their beneficial blue pigment from the anthocyanin group of phytonutrients, you are getting much more for your money savoring an organic blueberry and believe me you will taste the difference too!

 

If you are not yet completely convinced that organic produce is better for you and the planet then at least start off by avoiding the ‘dirty dozen’ when it comes to conventional produce.  The dirty dozen is a list of the top 12 most sprayed fruits in vegetables which, in my opinion should always be bought organic

For a complete listing of pesticide levels in foods and other prominent health and environmental issues the Environmental Working Group is an excellent resource.

 If you have added juicing to your health regime this is another crucial area to always use organic produce.  Juicing concentrates nutrients from the ingredients used so in effect when you juice non-organic produce you may actually be concentrating the level of pesticides, that seems pretty counterproductive when incorporating juices to improve health!!
 

Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is a wonderful way to improve your health and fuel your body but if you want to reap the most benefit organic is the only way to go!

Wishing you a fresh, nutritious, and delicious day!

Michelle Waithe, Holistic Nutritionist at Fuel