IN A WORLD AWASH with dietary regimens like juice cleanses and ketogenic meals, it’s hard to know which nutritional changes may actually make a difference to your body, and which ones you need to avoid.
But one thing is for sure – exposure to pesticides can be extremely detrimental to our health.
In fact, it’s estimated that exposure to even tiny doses of hormone-disrupting chemicals is responsible for €310 billion in health-related costs in the US. Worryingly, our health costs were found to be 10 times higher in the EU.
So, should we be paying more attention to going organic? We spoke to Galway-based registered nutritionist Tara Canning to find out what the advantages are to going pesticide-free.
1. The vitamin and mineral content may be higher
If you find it hard to reach your five-a-day, opting for organic could increase the level of vitamins and minerals you’re actually consuming. Canning explains:
If you’re using lots of pesticides, you’re actually reducing the production of important enzymes which plants use to protect themselves from bugs and weeds. Without that, they contain lower vitamin and mineral content.
2. They’re more likely to be Irish-produced
The environmental advantages of buying organic might be well-known, but what you may not realise the support it can give to the economy, as Canning highlights:
Organic products contain better quality ingredients produced in better soil quality (a non-organic field can deplete the soil of minerals for a considerable amount of time). But they’re also good for the economy – tending to have less air miles as they are a lot more likely to be grown locally or at the very least, within Ireland.
3. Kids are more likely to enjoy them
Having trouble getting your kids to do anything other than play with their broccoli? Letting them try organic can actually be a huge help, urges Canning:
Organic food is not only going to taste better and have more nutrients, it’s going to have a brighter colour, which kids love. If you take for example a carrot – organic ones will have a natural sweetness that they’re more likely to enjoy.
4. They don’t contribute to antibiotic resistance
When it comes to antibiotic resistance, the discussion tends to be on over-prescribing them (with one expert saying 60% of antibiotic prescriptions in Ireland aren’t necessary). What people don’t tend to focus on is the chance meat can also contain antibiotics and growth hormones. Canning explains how organic meat avoids this:
Organic meat and eggs don’t contain any antibiotics, which is very important in relation to contributing to antibiotic resistance. Animals can be fed and treated antibiotics and given synthetic growth hormones, along with eating artificial fertilisers on the land they’re on.
5. Organic wine could be better for your heart
Although it will still contain sulphites, organic wine is more likely to contain some of the positive elements present in wine, says Canning:
By opting for organic wine, you’re not getting all the sprayed pesticides that are put on the vine to produce a different crop. Organic wine also contains higher levels of resveratrol which is great for heart health. It reduces any buildup in your blood vessels which can help your chances against developing heart disease by sweeping out free radicals.
Here’s how to go about eating organic:
1. Check which items are highest in pesticides
You should prioritise lists given by the Environmental Working Group, who have a list of which foods have the highest levels of pesticides. If you’re watching pocket, print that list off and stick to that if you can.
2. Prioritise fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are probably the most important to invest in when it comes to organic produce, followed by chicken, then meat and then eggs. Organic dairy also contains higher levels of fat soluble vitamins and are free of growth hormones or oestrogens.
3. Wash your produce thoroughly
Always have fresh water running over your fruit and vegetables. I would half a cup of apple cider vinegar or half a lemon to help wash away pesticides too. It washes away a lot of the sprayed-on chemicals which are better to go down the sink than into the body.