Organic food has been widely available to purchase in the UK for the last 20 years. It is defined as “a product of a farming system which avoids the use of man-made fertilisers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives.”
BENEFITS OF ORGANIC FOOD
Apart from sustainability, the reasons for purchasing organic food are surrounded in the extra or better health benefits that it will provide. Organic food is meant to be better for you due to the less intensive production methods and the reduction in chemicals and additives used in farming some non-organic foods. Some people say that the potentially harmful substances used to grow non-organic foods can actually help us create a stronger system compared to eating the molly-coddled organic foods. Having read the science, I would conclude that if the fuel is better for us in the first place (organic food), so that our body needs to do less ‘patching up’ to ensure it carries on working properly, then this is the better option.
Thus, the scientific facts provide a positive answer to the question “Should I eat organic food?” Due to the higher levels of minerals and nutrients and lower levels of manmade substances, organic food will make you more vibrant, allow your bodily functions to occur more efficiently and thus promote longevity.
But this isn’t my final answer as nothing is ever as easy as it is on paper.
OPPOSITION TO ORGANIC FOOD
Organic food is generally more expensive than it’s non-organic counterpart and thus it has been dragged through politics and viewed as an aspirational middle class choice that is ‘unnecessary’ with many unable to afford it. Many people ask how we can visibly tell that eating organic foods will reap the benefits they are meant to provide – humans are notorious for wanting to see tangible results rather than just showing belief. Unfortunately, we cannot compare the same period of time for someone eating organic and then non-organic foods – if only we could rewind time. And we cannot compare different periods of someone’s life because different daily stresses cause as much variety in vibrancy, energy and functionality over time as eating the wrong food does.
So without anyone ever knowing how they would have felt in the same time period with or without organic food, is there a point in buying it when we won’t know if there’s a difference or not? Is organic food just another method to make us spend more money on health kicks?
My final answer is quite simple and it relative to everyone.
THE REAL QUESTION: “CAN YOU EAT ORGANIC FOOD?”
If you want to be the best person you can possibly be in all areas, you need to put in the best fuel into your machine that you can. But read this again. You need to put in the best fuel into your machine that YOU can. This takes everything into account. Your work. Your financial position. Unexpected life occurrences that can happen any day changing your food choices. To be the healthiest person you can, you should choose the healthiest option that is available when an option is presented to you. Will you be less healthy if you choose a non-organic broccoli over an organic broccoli for dinner? On paper, yes you will. No matter how minimally, this is the binary answer. But then asking another question, if you choose to have pizza over a non-organic broccoli, will you be less healthy? Again, yes you will – obviously, some might say.
These are the relative choices that people make to their differing degrees every single day. Health food choices are so individual to every person’s situation. In my opinion, there is no point in suggesting to someone who normally eats a burger and a pizza everyday that they must go and eat organic fruit and vegetables at every single meal. This is an incredible and very difficult shift to make. In this situation, I would suggest that to be healthier and live a more vibrant and energetic life they should cut down on the burgers and pizzas and eat some fruit and vegetables each day – whether it’s organic or non-organic is not a major concern in this instance.
However, in a less extreme example, if you are someone who already has ‘healthy, wholesome’ meals who is just asking about whether they should eat organic foods over non-organic, the answer is yes you should – if you can. But if you can’t, don’t worry, just ensure that for your goals, job, time and financial situation, you are choosing the healthiest option possible.
A BETTER CHOICE THAN ORGANIC?
We can never be perfect and nor can food. We have talked about organic food as if it’s the pinnacle in healthy eating but remember, one mass produced organic food found in a national supermarket is different to a food that is non-organically certified but one that is hand-picked the day of purchase only one mile away from where it’s naturally farmed in its native land. Here you have a comparison of a ‘very healthy choice’ vs an ‘über healthy choice’. In this situation, the ‘organic’ food is actually less healthy than the hand-picked option. So where does the pinnacle of healthy food and our comparisons actually end?
The answer: it doesn’t and will never end.
Thus, what is important is that you bring the situation back to your own life. Don’t feel that, because you can’t reach perfection, you should throw the towel in. If the information on health that we taught people provided the attitude “I can’t afford organic apples so there’s no point, I’m going to have a pizza instead” we would not be achieving anything.
So the take home message for organic vs non-organic food is, if you can afford organic food and it’s available to you, choose it, as on paper it is a healthier option than non-organic. If you can’t, either habitually or on a one off purchase, choose the healthiest option that you can – whether that’s having sweet potato over white potato, or a superfood salad over a sandwich. And if your current diet is way off being called ‘healthy’ then just start with the basics, look to cut out certain amounts of fatty and high sugar foods and replace them with some fruit and vegetables…or just call Fitness Body Pro.
Seriously though, life isn’t about perfection. Organic foods are better than non-organic on paper and we should go with the science but everyday just work with yourself to progress your health and nutrition to the extent that your means can afford.
Chris James MA O.A. Dip
Director – Head of Fitness and Nutrition
Fitness Body Pro