We’ve all heard the saying, ‘You are what you eat,’ right? And you’re probably quite pleased that it’s not physically possible! However, nutritionally speaking, the phrase is sound. If you were a good student who listened in human biology class, you will remember being taught that the cells within our body are constantly dying, with new ones being created. Well, those new cells take nutrients from the food we eat to create their structure and function, so what happens if that food we consume is grown or farmed using chemicals?
Our great grandparents and their parents (as far back as we can imagine) probably never had to ask themselves that question because organic food was what they ate back then. But nowadays, in our fast-paced, got-to-have-it-now, time-starved world, we have sped things up. Conventional farmers are using pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, growth hormones (yes, you read that right), ionising radiation and sewage sludge (euw) to grow their crop or feed their livestock. The finished product is then processed, packaged and sent out to supermarkets. Food which we regularly place in our trolleys and on our plates to feed ourselves and our loved ones. Mind boggling really when you think we probably wouldn’t consciously make the decision to feed our families toxins, because that is what chemicals are. So, if this is all true, why are we not eating organic food all the time?
Well, like a lot of things in life, it comes down to money. Take the use of ‘antibiotics’ for example. Farmers regularly inject antibiotics into their livestock to promote faster growth. The faster the animals grow, the quicker they can get them from farm to fridge and the quicker the farmer gets paid. With pesticides, orchard owners regularly spray these on their fruit trees to eradicate insects and fungus, but also to enhance fruit production. With hormone use, it’s much the same – the feed of dairy cows, for example, can be laced with genetically engineered bovine growth hormones called rBGH. This increases their milk production, which means more milk on the shelves! Unfortunately, this can also cause an infection in the cow, which is then treated with a dose of antibiotics, and you guessed it, the antibiotic ends up in the finished dairy product which we then buy and consume.
Another reason a farmer may use chemicals is for appeal. Buying fruit is a little like finding a life partner (don’t worry, I know you will wonder where we are going with this, so let’s explain). You wander the aisles [open your tinder app], stop near the fruit of choice and pick it up to check its attractiveness [suitability], then you either pop it in your trolley to take home [swipe right] or put it back because it’s not up to scratch [swipe left]. Farmers don’t want you to swipe left! That means less profit. So, they genetically modify the fruit to make it appear more attractive and edible! It’s just pure human nature to be attracted to something that is aesthetically pleasing.
So, now you are aware that the apple you bought at the fruit shop and are about to eat is an imposter (albeit a very attractive one) … what should you buy instead? Cue the organic apple. Organic food, by definition, is non-GMO (non-genetically modified) and does not include any of the nasties mentioned above. With an organic apple you will find that it has not been sprayed with pesticides or grown using synthetic fertilisers. Instead, the farmer will have used animal manure, engaged in companion planting (planting near other plants that aid with its growth and reduces pest infestation) and ensured regular crop rotation. The fruit will therefore taste nicer, but more importantly be healthier for all those cells in your body.
The only downside to this however is that obviously given the care taken to grow an organic crop, the product will not all look consistent and will take longer to produce. Also, organic farms are typically smaller than their toxic counterparts. This influences the bottom line (profit), so in order for the farmer to make a living the cost is passed to the consumer. However, some could (and do) see this as a small price to pay to live a healthy lifestyle and nourish themselves and their family with food that they know is good for them.
While studies are still ongoing as to whether, scientifically, organic food is better for you than conventionally farmed food, some people like to err on the side of caution. For example, if you walk down a street and see a large gaping hole in the footpath, you are going to walk around it so as not to fall in and hurt yourself, right? So, similarly, if you know that conventional food is farmed using toxins, this knowledge may encourage you to avoid those types of food to live a healthy lifestyle.
Of course, if the topic is very important to you than it makes sense to conduct your own research and see how it makes you feel. Start slow and pick one or two items from your shopping list that you could swap for the organic equivalent. That way it is not going to break the bank while you are testing your theory. Take a note of whether you feel any differently. Maybe your skin glows, maybe that cough goes away, or maybe it comes down purely to taste. Whatever you discover, enjoy the process and please let us know what you find!