A decade ago organic foods were produced on a small scale by a few farmers and sold mostly in health food stores. Fast-forward to 2017, and though much pricier than conventional produce, organic foods are hot items — a direct response, anti-ageing specialist Dr Sandra Knight believes, to the thrust for a healthier lifestyle.
“More people are choosing organic foods because of the health benefits to be had. The theory is that many of the fertilisers that [regular] farmers use are made up of cancer-causing hormones. The same is true for some of the livestock feed, and other unhealthy toxins are in the pesticides used in the production of conventionally grown plants. And these are prime reasons why some people, even if they have to pay double the money, are now going for organically produced foods,” Dr Knight explained.
She was supported by food chemist Latoya Johnson who explained that organic foods, unlike other conventional foods, are grown and/or processed without man-made synthetic or chemical fertilisers and pesticides or bioengineered genes. This makes them a much safer food choice than conventionally grown foods.
“Farmers who practise organic farming use natural alternatives to grow their plants and rear their livestock.
“What we eat impacts our health. So because we are exposed indirectly to all the chemicals and hormones fed to livestock and plants, this can affect our health in a significant way. Numerous studies have shown that the effects of pesticides can be catastrophic, as they have been linked to leukaemia, brain tumours, breast cancer and prostate cancer. Because the systems of young children and foetuses are not fully developed, they should not ingest conventionally grown foods which expose them to the following risks: immune system complications, their motor skills may be affected, they are at an increased risk of developing behavioural problems and other cognitive challenges such as autism, and their growth and development may also be affected,” Johnson explained.
Other benefits of organic foods, according to Johnson, include:
•They taste better. They are usually juicier and taste better because they don't have preservatives.
•They have more nutrients. Since the soil is nourished by using sustainable agricultural practices, this allows it to retain and supply plants with required nutrients. As such the products are usually much richer in vitamins, minerals, enzymes and micronutrients than their conventionally grown counterparts.
•You reduce the risk of ingesting harmful hormones and antibiotics. Organically bred livestock are free of hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs.
•They are richer in antioxidants.
The benefits, however, according to Johnson, are not limited to people alone. She said that choosing organically produced food is also beneficial to the environment, and the logic is simple.
“Among the benefits to the environment is the reduction in pollution by way of chemicals, and the possibility of chemicals getting to water sources is also reduced. There is the reduction of soil erosion and increased soil fertility since practices such as crop rotation encourage this.”