Angela Frieswyk, Registered Medical Herbalist & Holistic Nutritionist from our Tauranga store, Wild Earth sheds light on the benefits of choosing organic. Just in time for Organic Week!
Yes, it’s true, there is a class of chemical that is higher in organic food compared to conventionally grown food. But don’t give up on the mantra “don’t panic, it’s organic” … this class of chemical is associated with many health benefits!
Polyphenols, a group of naturally occurring antioxidant plant chemicals, have been confirmed to be substantially higher organic produce1. Antioxidants help reduce cell damage and regulate gene expression and many of the polyphenol antioxidants have been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers1.
Some of the top organic polyphenol rich foods to add to your shopping list include green tea, cacao, berries, citrus, apples, coffee (in moderation), herbs such as peppermint, sage, rosemary and many spices such as turmeric, cinnamon and saffron.
But the benefits of eating organic go far beyond the higher antioxidant content and with Organic Week approaching (29 April – 5 May 2019), this is a little reminder of the notable health benefits of an organic diet:
- Pesticide residue and heavy metal content have been confirmed to up to four times lower in organic produce1. Reducing our body’s chemical burden is equally essential to good health as eating the right food, exercise, sleep and mental/spiritual health. Consider eating organic as a pillar of health.
- Certified organic animal products are not permitted to contain antibiotic residue. Consuming organic food is one way to help control the increasing problem of anti-biotic resistance.
- Certified organic food is not permitted to be exposed to growth promoting hormones, genetically modified organisms, ionizing radiation, synthetic fertilisers and sewage sludge5. Most would agree that it is better to reduce all potential causes of ill health, than wait for science to clearly conclude what we already suspect.
- Certain nutrients are higher in organically grown foods2. For example, a large study found organic meat and dairy contain up to 50% more omega 3 fatty acids, a result of these animals eating a natural foraging diet. Yet another study found organic tomatoes contain significantly higher levels of vitamin C and flavonoids3. Many are still hotly debating whether organic food is more nutritious, but this should not over-shadow the leading facts about what’s not in organic food, pesticides and other such nasties.
- Eating an organic diet may incur greater protection for the vulnerable, such as those with chemical sensitivities, food allergies and intolerances, pregnant women, children and the unwell.
- And lastly, but perhaps the loftiest health goal – global health. Supporting organic growers and farmers is an active role you can take to tackle the issues of biodiversity, animal welfare, climate change and traceability (knowing what's in your food and where it came from). When it comes to the bottom line (often the budget!), shop wisely by buying more affordable in season organic produce, follow the specials, buy from bulk where appropriate and if you have to prioritise, opt for organic dairy, eggs, meat and check in on the Environmental Working Group’s updated ‘dirty dozen’ list4.
Angela Frieswyk is a registered Medical Herbalist and Holistic Nutritionist practicing at Huckleberry’s Wild Herbs Natural Health Shop and Dispensary in Tauranga.
- Br J Nutr. 2014 Sep 14;112(5):794-811. doi: 10.1017/S0007114514001366. Epub 2014 Jun 26. Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses.
- Br J Nutr. 2016 Mar 28;115(6):1043-60. doi: 10.1017/S0007114516000349. Epub 2016 Feb 16. Higher PUFA and n-3 PUFA, conjugated linoleic acid, α-tocopherol and iron, but lower iodine and selenium concentrations in organic milk: a systematic literature review and meta- and redundancy analyses.
- PLoS One. 2013; 8(2): e56354 Published online https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3577808/
The Impact of Organic Farming on Quality of Tomatoes Is Associated to Increased Oxidative Stress during Fruit Development