ORGANIC FOODS: WORTH PAYING EXTRA
If you like to watch what you eat, then chances are you’ll know a thing or two about organic food. You’ll probably have more than a few organic products in your kitchen, and will no doubt like to seek out the organic food labels when you do your weekly shop.
But does this organic vs. non-organic argument really matter? Is organic food always the healthiest, soundest option? After all, not everyone will find the organic options they want always available to them, and not every supermarket stocks organic produce. Not everyone will have a local farm shop to fall back on, for that matter, and not everyone will be able to regularly afford the extra cost often involved in shopping organically. So is it really worth the extra expense? Is organic food really as good for you as many people presume it is?
FIRST THINGS FIRST…
So what exactly do we mean by “organic” food? Well, officially food is classed as “organic” if it is produced without the use of chemical and other man made pesticides, fertilizers, and additives. Everything from livestock and dairy produce to fruit, veg, cooking oils and even some household cleaning and beauty products can be organic these days. But just because a product has “organic” on the label, it’s worth bearing in mind that you might not be getting precisely what you want: organic fruit and veg are straightforward enough, but so-called “composite” foods—i.e. processed foods made from a variety of ingredients or sources—can still be legally labelled as “organic” even if as much as 5% of their weight comes from non-organic ingredients. Long story short, those “organic” soups and ready meals sitting in your cupboard might not be 100% organic…
WHY CHOOSE ORGANIC FOOD?
If you’re a fan of organic produce, you’ll probably like to think that it contains more nutrients, fewer questionable and potentially harmful additives and trace chemicals, and is better for the environment than non-organic produce. There’s some truth to pretty much all of that: databases of trace chemicals and residues found on agricultural produce make for an interesting read, while the widespread use of chemicals and pesticides in farming has been blamed for all kinds of ecological problems.
But nutritionally speaking, the Food Standards Agency has found that the benefits of organic produce are often not quite as startling as many people presume. In their words:
Consumers may choose to buy organic fruit, vegetables and meat because they believe them to be more nutritious than other food. However, the balance of current scientific evidence does not support this view.
The FSA might have their reservations, but that’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of studies providing solid evidence that choosing organic produce is indeed the healthier option. It’s true that some studies have found little nutritional difference at all, but others have shown the opposite and suggest that organic choices are on the whole the healthier option. The jury is still out it seems!
SO IS IT ALWAYS WORTH THE EXPENSE OF ORGANIC FOOD?
Because of the more careful and labour-intensive way in which it is produced, organic produce is typically more expensive to manufacture than non-organic produce, and those costs are often reflected in the price of the final product—often by quite some margin. A study in 2015, for instance, found that on average organic produce was an eye-watering 47% more expensive than its non-organic counterpart! So is it worth it?
Well, as is often the case with this sort of thing, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.
Eating foods that have been untouched by manmade chemicals and pesticides has always got to be a positive choice, and so paying that extra few pence for an organic product over a non-organic one will never not be a responsible option. The environmental factors surrounding organically produced food are also a massive positive, and it’s good to know that by paying that little bit extra for your weekly shop you’re helping to keep soil, wildlife, and agricultural workers all healthy.
But there are other factors worth considering here too—some of which suggest that organic food isn’t always entirely necessary.
For one, the freshness and storage of your food is just as (if not even more) important a factor than whether or not it’s organic. Put another way, if you’re looking for the highest nutritional content possible at mealtimes, you might be better off with buying some fresh non-organic food than using that more expensive organic food that’s been allowed to sit around your kitchen for a few days!
Wondering what to buy? Then read about these Winter Superfoods to help you stock up.
EVEN THEN, SOME FOODS JUST DON’T NEED TO BE ORGANIC FOOD
It’s also worth thinking about what the organic foods you’re looking to buy actually are. Studies have found that some foods are less susceptible to carrying trace amounts of chemicals and pesticides than others, and so paying the extra for their organic equivalents might make little difference to what you actually end up eating.
Onions, for instance, are naturally fairly pest-resistant and tend to require fewer chemicals in their production—and even then, their natural hardiness led to one study finding that less than half of 1% of the onions in an average supermarket tested positive for any kind of chemical residue at all.
Even then, it’s no surprise that vegetables like onions that have tough shells or throwaway skins are naturally going to carry less chemical residue into your diet than others. So avocados, coconuts, pumpkins, bananas, pea pods and the like are all less susceptible to non-organic contamination than the likes of courgettes, tomatoes, grapes, and other soft fruits like blueberries and strawberries.
In Pakistan, the Organic Food industry is relatively new and it has just recently started picking up momentum. Himalayas Organic Foods is one such startup which aims to bring to the masses all the naturally and organically grown food products in the organic villages of Himalayas and Karakorum mountains located in Gilgit Baltistan region of Pakistan.