Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably seen or heard the terms organic and GMO. You might have an inkling that organic foods are supposed to be healthier, but you also might be wondering why a slightly pricier organic apple is in fact healthier than a non-organic apple? I get this question a lot - so I wanted to simplify and uncover why organic eating, which is also non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) eating, may be the holy grail of nutrition resulting in a healthier you, environment and world. Let's start with a simple question to illuminate why eating organic is so imperative..
--"Who would you rather pay - your local organic farmer or your local hospital?"--
If you want to be proactive when it comes to your health, you’d choose your local organic farmer. Up until the 1950s, the vast majority of our food was organic and non-GMO. But today we need these labels to help us, savvy consumers, make informed choices about our foods and supplements. If optimal health is a concern of yours then you’ll want to better understand:
1) How to avoid pesticides and genetically modified foods.
2) How to select the most densely nutritious foods and supplements possible and..
3) How to make choices that most align with your environmental and global values.
Organic Eating 101: Pesticides and Toxins
Pesticides are poisons designed to kill things. Why eat them if you don’t have to? Organic produce is grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, genetically modified organisms or ionizing radiation. Before labeling food “organic,” the US Department of Agriculture examines the farm where the food is grown to confirm the farmer is following organic standards. Conventional farmers apply anywhere from two to twelve synthetic insecticides to their crops. Such pesticides have been linked to serious health problems including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, reproductive harm and obesity. Many of us buy and eat fruits and vegetables on our quest to be healthier. So why then pick foods laced with toxic pesticides that can ultimately deteriorate our health? Organic products cannot be grown with such pesticides, additives or other synthetic substances (hooray)!
And you know that little USDA Organic symbol you see on some products? It also means no GMOs. GMOs are plants and animals that have been created by merging DNA of different species in a way that could not happen in nature or by traditional cross-breeding. They comprise a large percentage of commercial soy, corn, zucchini, squash, beets, and alfalfa crops in the United States. This is typically done in order to give foods a new characteristic - e.g. resistance to insects, extreme heat or drought. But there's a cost (#nofreelunch)! We get to consume all the delightful viruses and pesticides used with GMOs, which of course can have a negative effect on our health, ranging form mild to more serious repercussions from headaches to cancer.
When it comes to dairy and meat, conventional livestock farmers use growth hormones, drugs, feed supplements and high grain diets to push animals to produce more per day. Organic dairy and meat farmers prohibit the use of all synthetic drugs. Thus at the end of the day - healthier, happier animals produce healthier, more nutritious foods. To sum it up, less pesticides, hormones or additives in our foods = better health for us.
Better Nutrition & Overall Health
Most of us hope to derive nutrients from our food and supplements, but several studies show that the nutrient value is less in conventional products when compared to its organic counterparts. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that on average, organically grown foods provide: 21% more iron, 27% more vitamin C, 29.3% more magnesium and 13.6% more phosphorus than their conventional equivalents. The difference is in part due to the soil. Organic products are grown in soil that is managed and cultivated using sustainable standards. This healthy, biologically active soil used in organic farming increases the production of cancer-fighting compounds, called flavonoids. On the other hand, conventionally grown foods deplete nutrients, serving up an array of toxins instead. Overall, crops treated with chemicals have a negative effect on our body while organic foods add nutritional advantages, so the choice seems easy.
Caring for Our Environment & Each Other
Organic farming considers the long-term impact of growing food on the environment and the ecosystem. Organic farms work to supply food while establishing a plan to keep the soil nutrient-rich and fruitful for future years. Unlike conventional farms whose use of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides pollute the groundwater, organic farms use organic fertilizers like compost and animal manure to reduce the risk of groundwater pollution.
In 2000 the National Water Quality Inventory concluded that pollution from agriculture in the United States negatively affects the water quality of rivers and lakes. You can help minimize the damage by supporting farmers who maintain their crops and livestock conscientiously. Also organic farms grow an assortment of food, which leads to diversity; this increases long term sustainability of our ecosystem.
As giant agricultural businesses continue to dominate food production, small family farms have trouble contending with big business prices. When you buy organic, you support mindful farmers who model how to care for the environment and our nutrition.
--"Smart shopping choices matter."--
The verdict is out; regardless of diet, choosing organic foods and supplements is a smart priority that sets the stage for optimal health and a hopeful future for generations to come. Ultimately putting our money where our mouths are is a powerful position to take. Spending your dollars in the organic sector is a vote for a sustainable future and a healthier you. Here’s to smart organic shopping and optimal health for us all!
About the Author
Hi! I’m Dr. Erika Austin, an entrepreneur, writer, teacher, fitness enthusiast, mother, wife and seeker of all things organic, uplifting and joyful. My goal is to inspire others to find and live from their highest inner wisdom, the place where everything flows. My background includes 15 plus years of teaching, mentoring, guiding and encouraging others. In 2005, I completed my doctoral studies at the University of California, Irvine in Sociology. Since then, I have served as a middle and high school principal and former University Professor. I am now an experienced business owner with a passion for helping others live in joy on every level of their lives- body, mind and soul. You can learn more about me by visiting drerikaausitn.com or @drerikaaustin.