The health benefits of going organic
The benefits of eating and using organic produce and products have long been advocated: lower levels of potentially dangerous pesticides on farmed foods, higher levels of animal welfare and an increase in the protection of natural resources. There are also significant differences in the nutritional content of organic foods compared to non-organic foods, but what does eating organic mean for our health?
We spoke to the UK's leading food and farming charity and organic certification organisation Soil Association to find out:
"In 2016, a new independent study was published looking at the impacts of organic food on human health and comparing organic and non-organic foods and farming. The research shows that eating organic brings a number of health benefits, including:
- Reduced risk of allergies in children
- Reduced likelihood of obesity in adults
- Dietary patterns of people who eat organic are associated with health and environmental benefits, such as reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and reduced greenhouse gas emissions
- Higher omega-3 fatty acids in milk and meat, thanks to higher grass, clover and forage content of animals’ diet
- Reduced exposure to heavy metals like cadmium, which collect in high concentrations in artificial fertilisers and non-organic soils
- Reduced exposure to pesticides through food, which can reduce risk of negative effects to children’s cognitive development
- Reduced risk of antibiotic resistance through organic farming practices, as organic animals are in some cases less likely to develop diseases related to intensive production.
While the authors caution that these are early results and point out that more research - in particular, more long-term studies - are needed to fully understand the evidence, the study has helped to unearth some of the differences between organic and non-organic food and farming systems and confirmed what we already knew - that organic food is worth it!
The research also confirms something else we already know about organic food - that it's nutritionally different. For example, organic meat and dairy are higher in omega 3 fatty acids, as well as some vitamins and minerals. Organic veg crops are higher in antioxidants and have fewer pesticides and toxic heavy metals (among other benefits)".
Learn more on the Soil Association website.
Simple tips to go Organic
Ready to take the plunge and start introducing organic into your routine? The benefits are clear, but it can be difficult to get started so we have a few quick tips to help:
- Know what to buy: Start slow and only get things that are necessary; some organic products have more benefits than others. By limiting your purchases to only the most essential organic foods, you can save a lot of money. A good place to start is with the dirty dozen, a reported 12 fruit and vegetables that can show higher concentrates of pesticides than other produce, and as such are better to buy organic if possible. They include: strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers.
- Find an organic box scheme: Delivery schemes are a great way to get fresh, organic produce straight to your door, use Soil Association's Organic Box Locator to find the nearest one to you.
- Look for the signs: All certified organic food will either have an organic logo or, even better, be certified by the Soil Association. Their seal of approval means the product has been produced to the strictest organic standards, including protecting the environment and animal welfare.
- Grow your own: If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you may want to consider growing your own. This will allow you to eat organic and can cost even less than buying traditionally grown produce. Start small with a mini herb garden and see if your fingers turn green.
- DIY your beauty regime: Try creating your own beauty products using natural and organic ingredients - one of our favourites is this Baobab, Coconut & Honey Lip Balm - or pick products that only have a handful of organic ingredients (we love Skin & Tonic).
Organic Benefits Sources:
Newcastle University has shown the nutritional differences between organic and conventional crops: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/news/2015/10/organicvsnon-organicfood/
Research and studies: https://www.soilassociation.org/
The Environmental Working Group’s 'Dirty Dozen': https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php