The organic food industry is growing rapidly around the world, and it’s all for good reasons!
For a food to be labelled as certified organic it must be grown without the use of synthetic chemicals pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides, antibiotics or growth hormones. Certified organic also means the product has not been genetically modified, and meat and poultry must be fed organic foods.
In organic farming the quality of the soil is always important, as it’s the foundation to the food chain. Here in New Zealand conventional farmers only add a few nutrients back into their soil, namely nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. There are many more nutrients that our bodies need and rely on for optimal health. If the nutrient is not in the soil our health can often suffer.
One example of this is iodine. New Zealand soils from commercially grown produce can be low in iodine. Iodine is essential in our diet to ensure our thyroid gland (a butterfly-shaped gland found in our neck) functions optimally. The thyroid is responsible for growth, brain development, hormonal health, metabolism and is crucial for pregnant women for normal brain development of the baby. Recent evidence from a number of studies has indicated that the iodine status of New Zealanders is now declining to the point where intervention is again required to ensure that iodine deficiency disorders do not once again widely affect the New Zealand population. This is just one example of a nutrient which we need for excellent health and is found in higher amounts in organic produce.
Studies have proven conventionally grown produce to have higher levels pesticides. When a plant is grown without disruption it creates its own substance to ward off harmful organisms. When a plant is sprayed with pesticides or herbicides they no longer need to produce their own substance to ward off harmful organisms.
When pesticides are ingested they need to be detoxified by the liver before they can be excreted by the body. The liver has over 500 jobs it has to do in a day, and detoxification processes by the liver need to be prioritized. When the liver is overloaded pesticides aren’t at the top of the priority list, so they can potentially end up stored within our fat cells instead of being processed and excreted.
Children are also at risk for high levels of pesticides with a University of Washington study found that pre-schoolers fed nonorganic diets have six times the levels of certain pesticides as children fed organic food. High doses of certain pesticides have been shown to cause neurological and reproductive disorders in children exposed to them. With young children being less able to detoxify them from their body.
I understand eating 100% organic isn’t affordable for everyone, but when possible, I do strongly urge you to choose organic whenever possible, especially organic produce. Sometimes I encourage clients to re-evaluate spending, as I’m aware financial constraints can be a real barrier, but a gentle reminder, health is wealth, we don’t need excess clothes, numerous coffees daily or bought lunches or beers daily, we need good health, and that starts with food. Food is medicine.
Written By Natalie Brady, Holistic Nutritionist
Ministry of Health. Iodine. 2019. Available from https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/preventative-health-wellness/nutrition/iodine
Mie A, Andersen HR, Gunnarsson S, et al. Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: a comprehensive review. Environ Health. 2017;16(1):111. Published 2017 Oct 27. doi:10.1186/s12940-017-0315-
B Acosta-Maldonado, B Sánchez-Ramírez, S Reza-López, M Levario-Carrillo. Effects of exposure to pesticides during pregnancy on placental maturity and weight of newborns: a cross-sectional pilot study in women from the Chihuahua State, Mexico. Human & Expermental Toxicology. Published 2009 doi: 10.1177/0960327109107045