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Going organic

Plagued by indecision about whether to honour her health & wellbeing by eating organically or to honour her bank balance, Joanna Tovia makes a choice once and for all. MiNDFOOD reports.

Going organic

Organic or non-organic, that is the question. It’s a question I’ve been struggling with for some years now but I’m tired of thinking about it and have decided this week to make a choice – I’m either in or I’m out.

Like many people, I’ve found it hard to look beyond the difference in price of organic and non-organic food and recently compared the price of shopping at my local fruit and vegie shop to the same produce bought at an online organic store. Sadly, it cost more than twice as much to buy organic, excluding delivery costs.

When money is tight, buying organic seems out of the question. And yet, the benefits are hard to ignore. There is ongoing debate over whether organic fruit and vegetables contain more nutrients than non-organic. Some studies say organic produce contains a much greater percentage of many nutrients; others say there is little difference. But, to me, nutrient levels are not really the point. I’m more interested in what’s not in organic food. Do I really want to be consuming fruits and vegetables grown with artificial fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides? Not really.

The fact that traces of these linger in and on what we eat is not up for debate and when I eat any of the top 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables – peaches, apples, capsicum, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce, or potatoes – instead of enjoying their taste, I find myself thinking about the nasties I’m eating along with them. When I eat their organic equivalents, I relish the taste and appreciate why organics are described as “clean”. To me, eating organically means I am prioritising my health and wellbeing and, when I eat well, that flows into other areas of my life. I consume less sugar and caffeine, focus more on moving, take time out for me and live more in the present – I look after myself, in other words.

Updated mid-last year, the US-based non-profit Environmental Working Group also came up with a list of the least contaminated fruits and vegies based on data collected from the US Department of Food and Agriculture: onions, corn, pineapples, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit, cabbage and watermelon.

The obvious option is to replace the most contaminated foods with organic alternatives and the lesser offenders from my usual store to cut down on the cost. But, just as most of us are watching our pennies, we are also time poor, so having to shop in too many places every week is, well, a bit of a drag.

I also like the idea of doing my bit to take a stand against profits-first conglomerates that are forcing farmers to deliver greater yields at lower costs to survive. Chemical-based agriculture is used to this end. Not only are fruits and vegetables being forced to mature early, the focus is also on lengthening their shelf life and making them look as appealing as possible at whatever the cost. The goal is to maximise profits to please shareholders rather than maximising the quality of our food.

The counter argument, of course, is that there are regulations in place to ensure the levels of pesticide residues in food are safe for human consumption. Point taken, but what do we really know about their impact over the long term?

If I decide to eat organic fruits and vegetables, what do I then do about dairy, meat and grains? The price of milk alone is daunting. But I’ve decided the pleasure I get out of drinking it and seeing my family consuming such untainted goodness is worth the price. As for meat, aside from any health benefits, the research I’ve done tells me that organically raised, free-range animals live a better life. And that’s enough for me to know.

The only question remaining then, is how to pay for all this clean, wholesome goodness. I’m not sure about the answer to that one yet, but there is one thing I know for sure: I’m in.

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