Thursday, February 5, 2015

You a JERF? 7 Compelling Reasons to Eat Organic

So I'm nearing the end of my Holistic Nutrition program at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. The time flew by. I can't believe I'm almost done! I know I haven't been that consistent with my blog, but I have so many articles and posts planned to share with you! I've been soaking in as much information as I possibly can and kicking school butt! Now let's move on to today's post. 

A few years ago not many people knew what organic was, yet today it is increasing in popularity. This is thanks to amazing documentaries, articles, and the efforts of health advocates who have helped raise awareness. I'm extremely proud to be among this group of people and I will do my part to help spread the word and share my evolving knowledge on the topic as well. So! If you don't already eat organic, here are 7 reasons why you should: 

1) Organic Foods Are Regulated, Conventional Foods Are Not

First of all, what is the difference between “organic” and “natural”? According to Think Canada Organic, "A lot! In Canada, organic is regulated by the government and must follow national standards, while “natural” is a marketing term used by companies based on their own definition of what “natural” is. That means anyone can use the word “natural” on their products, and consumers have to trust them. “Organic” on the other hand, is the gold standard for “eco-labels”—inspected and overseen by the government."

In order to be considered organic, a product/company undergoes strict rules. Every single aspect of the production, from the quality of the soil, use of chemicals and additives, harvesting, packing, handling, and so forth, is tested and examined to ensure the utmost quality for our health, as well as the health of the animals and environment. The products that have passed this epic test get the honour of wearing the organic badge. Although this part is optional, so make sure to read the label! For more information on the regulation policies according to the Canadian standards, please check out the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)  Any misdemeanour deviating from the strict rules, results in the loss of the 'organic' stamp of approval.


2) Organic Foods Reduce Exposure To Chemicals, Additives, and Artificial Ingredients

Unfortunately, because of cross-contamination of conventional practices, the 100% guarantee of absolutely no chemicals is not possible. But, organic foods do reduce the exposure of these unnecessary pollutants harmful to our health. For the most part, organic foods do not contain food additives, flavor enhancers (like MSG), artificial sweeteners (like aspartame and high-fructose corn syrup), contaminants (like mercury) or preservatives (like sodium nitrate). Many of our modern day degenerative disease result from our overexposure to unnatural toxins.

3) Organic Foods Consider Animal Health 

Organic practices respect animal health. The animals have to have outside access to freely roam around (permitting weather and ground conditions); they have to live in conditions that reduce stress and disease; they have to be fed a natural diet free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or animal by-products; they must only be given antibiotics to treat illness, not for 'prevention' to compensate for poor and unsanitary conditions; and they cannot be given growth hormones (GH), although rGBH is prohibited in Canada anyway. Examples of taking animal health into account include cage-free pasteur produced eggs versus caged eggs or grass-fed cows versus grain-fed cows. (source: Soil Association)

4) Organic Foods Consider Environment Health

Organic practices produce healthier foods by taking a proactive approach to ecological balance. How? Through soil health, rotating crops, using organic fertilizers, improving soil productivity, increasing biodiversity, and reducing soil erosion. Reducing soil erosion is absolutely critical as we can only grow food in 'top soil', which unfortunately due to conventional farming practices, is eroding at a rapid pace. Overall, organic practices reduce pollution with less synthetic fertilizers and pesticides leeching into the water supply, mitigate greenhouse gases, and are sustainable for the long term. (source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

5) Organic Foods Have Flavour

An organic fruit, vegetable, egg, poultry or meat compared to its conventional counterpart is different in colour, appearance, and flavour. It needs less intervention, salt, spices, or sauces to taste good. They are also free of artifical preservatives and as a result, are more fresh. Eating organic foods is like a party in your mouth! 

6) Organic Foods Are More Nutritious

Organic fruits and vegetables are more nutritious mostly because they have grown in healthy conditions and nutrient dense soils. On average, organic foods are 25% more nutritious in terms of vitamins and minerals than products derived from industrial agriculture. Some of the nutrients in higher levels include beta carotene, vitamins C, polyphenols, antioxidants, flavonoids, essential fatty acids, and essential minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, iron and chromium, which are severely depleted in chemical foods grown on pesticide and nitrate fertilizer-abused soil.) Poultry and meats from organic sources have organic feeds appropriate for their digestive systems, yielding more nutritious foods.  (source: Organic Resource Center)

7) Organic Food is 'REAL FOOD'

I know, I know, "organic food is expensive." But think about that for a moment. Is it more expensive? What are we comparing the cost to? The non-foods filled with chemicals that have taken outrageous shortcuts and have zero concern for human, animal or environmental health? Technically, organic food is the cost of 'real food.' Personally, my health is my greatest wealth. I try my best to choose organic options. If my budget is a little tight, I refer to Environmental Working Group resources for the 'dirty dozen, clean fifteen' list:  

Also, I came across these fun and extremely encouraging numbers (compiled by Think Canada Organic) -->
  • 3,732 - Number of organic farms in Canada 
  • 11,167 - Number of agricultural workers employed by organic farms in Canada 
  • 5,000 - There are nearly 5000 certified organic farms, processors and handlers nationwide 
  • 20 million - Canadians are buying organic products weekly 
  • 12% - Organic farming attracts the next generation of farmers- While 8% of farmers in Canada are under 35, this percentage rises to 12% among organic farmers 
  • 20,3000 acres - Organic wheat is the top organic crop in Canada; 203,000 acres of organic wheat were grown in the country in 2012 
  • 4TH - The Canadian market for organics is the fourth-largest in the world 
  • $3.5 billion - Organics sales in Canada (up from 1.1 billion in 2006) 
  • 59% - Percentage of Canadians that believe organic farming is better for a healthy environment
  • 825 thousand - Number of hectares of organic farmland across Canada 
  • 66.5% - While total farms in Canada declined by 17% since 2001, organic farms grew by 66.5% 27% - Saskatchewan has the most organic farms in the country (27%) followed by Quebec (26%), Ontario (18%) and BC (12.7%) 
As an athlete, trainer, nutritionist, and whole foods advocate, I call upon all of you to join me on the #JERF movement. What does that mean?! I'm asking you to 'Just Eat Real Food.' Clever eh? I love it!

In conclusion, I just want to remind us all that we, the consumers, make an impact with where we spend our hard earned dollars. The food industry relies on a simple concept: supply and demand. The more we demand high-quality real food, the more is supplied, with a potential decrease in cost too. 

I, Parastoo Badie, am part of the #JERF movement. Are you?

Thanks for reading!