Eating Organic Food: A Guide to Natural Foods That Benefit Your Health and the Environment
Organic food is food that is grown naturally without pesticide use or genetic modification, and produced in a more energy efficient, resource conserving, environmentally sound, health giving, sustainable and productive manner. In the United States and the European Union, there is comprehensive organic legislation, and the term organic may only be used by certified producers.
There has never been a reported case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease in organic cattle in the UK.
For fresh foods to qualify as organic, they must be produced without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics or hormones. They are required to be free of genetically modified organisms, and often they are locally grown. For processed foods to qualify as organic, they must contain only organic ingredients, have no artificial food additives, and cannot be processed with artificial methods such as chemical ripening or food irradiation.
Why Organic Foods are Healthier for You and the Environment
A natural diet can be powerful protection against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, strokes, obesity, osteoporosis, and other illnesses. Exposure to modern pesticides is suspected to be one of the reasons for the increase in the rate of cancer in recent years. Studies show that many of the poisons sprayed on food crops are known to cause cancer. According to a new study, fruits and vegetables that were grown without pesticides produced higher levels of the cancer-fighting antioxidants called phenolics. Pesticide exposure is also linked to hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, cardiovascular disorders, birth defects and other health problems.
Children are far more vulnerable to pesticide exposure than adults. Several factors account for this:
- Activities include eating food and drinking water with detectable levels of pesticides, crawling on floors and on the ground where pesticides and other toxins accumulate, and playing with animals that are treated for fleas and other pests. Visit our Ecotips section for more information on Natural Flea Control.
- They eat more food and drink more water as measured per unit of body weight.
- Their bodies are growing, undergoing rapid cellular development.
- The standards for pesticides are for the average full-grown man, not a developing child. They are not protected by pesticide regulations.
- The combination of exposures to pesticides and other synthetic chemicals can have a synergistic effect, creating a resulting toxic effect that may be many times greater than the two separately.
Children are far more vulnerable to pesticide exposure than adults.
Pesticides are poisons, and not using them has numerous advantages not only to your health, but also the health of the environment and farm workers. Pesticides can poison soil, birds and wildlife. Farm-workers who are exposed to pesticides on the job have substantially higher rates of cancer, birth defects, and infant mortality. Why does anybody use pesticides? Farming without them requires more people-power and less machines, which means it costs more money. Choosing to spend your money on natural food means choosing not to support industries that are harming the environment and people’s health. Here are some more great reasons to go organic:
More Reasons to Go Organic
- There has never been a reported case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease in organic cattle in the UK. 99% of non-organic farm animals in the UK are now fed GM soya. Organic food is safe food.
- Organic produce that is fresh contains on an average 50% more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micro-nutrients than intensively farmed produce.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that pesticides contaminate ground water in 38 states, polluting the primary source of drinking water for more than half the country’s population.
- Organic farming results in lower pollution from sprays and produces less carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas.
- Naturally produced foods create less dangerous wastes.
- Dairy cows and farm animals are fed anti-biotics, hormones, anti-parasite drugs and other medicines on a daily basis, whether or not they have an illness. These drugs are passed directly on to the consumers in dairy products or meat. This may be a contributing factor to meat-related diseases like coronaries and high blood pressure.
- Organic produce tastes better. Fruit and vegetables are full of juice and flavor.
- The Soil Conservation Service reports that over 30 billion tons of topsoil are eroded from U.S. crop lands annually due to environmentally insensitive farming practices. Organic farmers build their soil through natural amenities, such as compost, and by planting diverse crops. For more information on about composting, visit our guide How to Compost Food and Yard Waste.
If you like the idea of your children and grandchildren being able to visit the countryside, view wildlife, and play in forests and fields like when you were young, go organic for their future.
How to Start Eating Whole Foods
How can you make the switch to natural foods? Here are some suggestions for making the transition:
- Look closely at package labels and watch for signs in the supermarket. Along with national organic standards, the USDA developed strict labeling rules to help consumers know the exact organic content of the food they buy. The USDA Organic Seal tells you that a product is at least 95 percent organic.
- Visit your local natural foods stores, and see which one has the best supply of organic foods.
- Try to buy foods that are local, and in-season. The typical mouthful of American food travels 1,300 miles from the farm to the dinner plate. All this transportation uses energy and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Food that has been through all this may also be weeks old and less healthy for your family.
- Shop at a local farmer’s market. The food is usually fresh, organic, and cheaper than food in supermarkets.
- Shop online for Organic Foods or Whole Foods. Start with some of the selections to the right.
By purchasing and eating foods that don’t harm our health or the environment, you are casting a demand vote to manufacturers, growers and service people to let them know what you want. Eating Organic can help turn the economy into one that respects the earth, rather than harming it.