Organic food costs more and is not as easily available. The question is, is it necessary? Follow our two-part series to know more.
IT’S the beginning of the year, and chances are five out of 10 people would list “eating healthily” or “making healthy choices” as one of their New Year resolutions.
For some, this includes planting their own vegetables or opting for organic produce to reduce the amount of synthetic substances in their diet. The only problem is cost.
Anyone who has ever planted vegetables will be able to tell you that growing and caring for vegetables is no walk in the park. Organic seeds, soil quality, fertiliser and water cost money and time.
For those without green fingers, the organic section in supermarkets is the best choice. Yet, organic produce costs many times more. For instance, you can get a non-organic carrot for RM1, while an organic carrot may be priced at RM8.
Nutritionally, both carrots may contain the same vitamins, minerals, fibre and micro-nutrients that are good for you.
Not only that, organic produce may spoil faster because they have not been treated with chemicals to prolong their shelf lives. With so many obstacles, you may wonder why we should bother going organic.
Here are some reasons why going organic may be better:
Washing can get rid of dirt, pesticides and herbicides on fruits and vegetables, but not when they are trapped in the waxes used to seal in additives.
That’s how conventional fruits seem shinier and more perfect, without any insect bites or blemishes.
Consumed daily, these minute amounts of pesticides accumulate in our organs over time, causing various health problems. Studies have linked diseases such as lymphoma, myeloma and cancers of the stomach, prostate, breast and testicles, with pesticides.
Recent research also links infertility to pesticide use, which may explain why many modern-day couples are finding it more difficult to conceive, even though they practise a healthy high-fibre diet of fruits and vegetables.
Higher nutrient value
In order to remove pesticide and herbicide residues from fruits, many people make it a practice to peel the skin of fruits before consumption.
Unfortunately, this means forgoing a large amount of fibre and nutrients that are located in the skin.
Various studies show that organic oranges contain 30% more vitamin C than regular oranges, while regular broccoli has 63% less calcium and 34% less iron.
Studies on potatoes showed that non-organic potatoes have zero vitamin A, 57% less vitamin C and iron, 28% less riboflavin and 18% less thiamin.
A large-scale multicentre review in 2008 on 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and non-organic foods showed that organic foods contained higher levels of 11 nutrients and antioxidants.
The scientists also found organic food to be 25% more nutrient-dense, so each serving delivers more nutrients. This means you can eat less, yet enjoy higher nutrients.
What’s more, nutritional supplementation can be reduced or eliminated, saving you more money!
Save the environment
Planting trees and recycling are not the only ways we can save the environment. If you care for the environment, going the organic way is also another good option.
Organic farms conserve water and soil quality by using natural and permaculture planting techniques, which means harvesting nature’s resources with minimal disruption to the natural order of life.
The result is greater diversity in flora and fauna on organic farms. Studies show that organic farms have deeper vegetation, more soil microbes, earthworms, birds and friendly insects.
The benefits of eating organic produce do not just involve humans. Animals fed organic food that are grown in open fields not treated with pesticides, fungicides or herbicides have been shown in studies to have better reproductive outcomes.
In one study, rabbits that were fed non-organic food saw decreasing fertility after three generations, while organically-bred rabbits had no reduction, and chickens on organic feed had 28% more eggs.
As any gardener knows, organic content enriches soil, increasing its fertility and yield. This means less spending on synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, which translates into less pollution.
What if you have decided to go organic, but are held back by the cost? You can start by growing small amounts of herbs and vegetables, such as spring onions, tomatoes, chillies and various types of ulam, for your own consumption.
Otherwise, start your organic journey by buying the most essential first, such as green leafy vegetables, potatoes and chillies. The non-organic versions of these vegetables have been found to have the highest content of pesticides and herbicides.
Opt for local fruits such as rambutan, longan, mangoes, bananas, nangka and others where the skin provides a protective shield, over imported fruits which are eaten with intact skins such as blueberries, apples, pears and others, unless there are organic options.
Eating organic food is only the first step towards a healthy life. Organic enthusiasts are also into organic shampoos and personal care products, clothing, textiles, mattresses, towels and others. You can choose to go that path someday – one day at a time!
> Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar is a consultant obstetrician & gynaecologist (FRCOG, UK). For further information, visit www.primanora.com. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice.
Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care.
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