If 2017 has become the year you jump in to the wild world of health and fitness, then you might have come across the term ‘organic’ just a couple of hundred times. If 2017 has not been your year and you’re still dabbling your toes, you’ve probably still seen or heard this word flying around. So, what on earth is all the fuss about?
The ‘organic’ movement has been gathering pace in Britain since the 1940’s, when a group of farmers decided to snuff their nose at industrialised agriculture and make their own, more sustainable rules. Since then the movement has soared, with most – if not all – supermarkets now fully stocked up on all kinds of organically grown produce. Problem is, most of us still don’t even know what exactly ‘organic’ means.
According to the Department for Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) organic farming avoids the use of man-made fertilisers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives. Of course, none of these things sound very appetising, but apparently can all be used in regular farming processes. This could mean that tucking into our beloved Sunday roast dinner could also see us digesting a hefty dose of fertiliser. Lost your appetite yet?
Organic farmers do things differently, refusing to join in on the pesticide parade and instead opting for more natural methods. They discount the use of antibiotics and genetic modification when rearing livestock, and avoid spraying chemicals on the land; this in turn reduces waterway pollution, another nasty result of conventional methods.
So that’s one giant environmental tick for this trend, but are there any other benefits to be had when opting for organic? A growing body of evidence would suggest so. The British Journal of Nutrition have previously published two separate studies that suggest organic farming can boost the key nutrients in foods.
The first study discovered enough additional antioxidants in organic crops to equal an extra 1-2 portions of fruit/veg a day. Antioxidants are those powerful little things that prevent the oxidization of cells; in other words, they can prevent cells within our body from either becoming cancerous, or toxic and burning through our artery walls.
Alongside this, the study also found organic produce to have 50% less heavy toxic metals, such as lead and mercury, when compared with conventional produce. As the name suggests, these substances can cause a whole host of problems for our bodies, including oxidative stress and attacks to our nervous, cardiovascular and reproductive systems. They simply do not belong in the body.
With many sceptics having voiced their opinion following this study, the journal published a meta-analysis of 343 studies two years later. The conclusion was this – organic meat and dairy contain a whopping 50% more omega-3 fatty acids, because these animals were able to forage on grass enriched in this heart healthy vitamin. The cycle is a simple one. If we allow our animals to feed on the right stuff, free from chemicals and additives, we will in turn be able to reap all those fabulous health benefits.
This cycle does not just apply to the food we eat. In fact, the organic movement has expanded rapidly over the last decade or so to encompass many consumer industries. The world of beauty has especially grown to include a long list of labels dedicated to organic production, for which the benefits are plenty.
While conventional production methods use a whole host of harmful chemicals for some of the most popular beauty products, organic processes do not; the only ingredients you’ll find in these products will be natural and chemical free. But why is this so important?
Think about how our skin operates. It is essentially a giant sponge, soaking in everything that we apply to it and filtering this down through the body. If what we apply to our skin is all natural and packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, then our internal system will be free to function at its best, without chemical aggravation.
There seems to be no doubt then, that organic is great for our health, be it the food we eat or the products we use. But if we think outside our own box, and come back to the environmental side of things, we start to see why opting organically can be such an important decision for that bigger picture.
The clothing industry can especially tell a chilling story. Recent stats show that cotton production uses 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of the world’s pesticides. Not only does this affect those of us wearing these chemical-laden clothes, it can also be extremely harmful for the people on the production line; from farmers to factory workers.
Zoom out even further, and we can see the benefits that organic cotton production can have on Mother Nature. Cutting out all the toxins helps to increase soil fertility and the bio-diversity of agriculture on the whole. Not to mention, organic cotton also requires far less water, something that our little planet needs to hold on to.
So, to say that organic is good might be a little underestimating. While it may be a touch more expensive than its conventional counterparts, the benefits we gain for our health and wellbeing, and for Mother Nature, is pretty invaluable. It’s time to jump on the organic bandwagon.