Photo Credit: Chief Wellbeing Officer, Jennifer Osborne - Bayleaf Wellness
From food to cosmetics, as demand for organic grows, so do the options on our supermarket and store shelves. But why would we pick organic options over conventional brands? Whether it is for your health or for the environment the reasons to choose organic are abundant.
So, what is organic food? Organic farming produces nutrient rich food without the toxic pesticides, fertilizers and added hormones that we consume through conventionally farmed products, often without us even knowing! For a product to be classified as organic it needs to be GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) and synthetic/ chemical free, sustainable to grow, fish and manufacture as well as biodiversity friendly, fair trade, not tested on animals and all animals must be free range at all times as well as fed organic feed.
Often organic produce is richer in nutrients as it has been grown until fully ripe in healthy soil or fed organic feed and has not travelled far from farm to table, so it is still fresh when it ends up on your plate at home.
What makes organic a healthier option?
By not allowing growers to use chemicals and other mass farming processes and products, crops must be strong to survive. This means when you eat organic produce you are eating a stronger and healthier plant foods because they have not been artificially grown and supported. It goes without saying that aside from healthier produce you avoid eating chemicals as well.
How do I know if what I am buying is really organic? In Australia there are 6 Certification bodies that test and guarantee that a product is genuinely organic. If a brand or product has met the requirements, then the certification logo will be on the label. This makes it easy for us to make choices when there are often words like ‘organic’, ‘pure’, ‘green’ and ‘natural’ used on packaging to persuade us that they are a healthy choice, even though they might not be.
Organic is expensive!
Many people think that eating organic is expensive, which in some cases can be true, but by cutting back on processed and pre-packaged foods and focusing more on wholefoods we can be stocking up on the nutrients our bodies need to thrive while saving not only our planet but the money in our bank accounts too.
I am ready! How do I start?
No-one expects you to go from a conventional shopper to a Green Queen (or King for that matter) overnight. It can be a little overwhelming to begin with so here are some easy tips and tricks to get you on your way to a smaller eco-footprint and a happy, healthy gut!
1. Use frozen fruit and veggies
These days we are lucky that even frozen goods can be bought organic. So, where you can, use frozen fruit and vegies from your local organic store or supermarket to accompany your fresh ingredients in your meals and smoothies to save a little cash!
2. Plan your meals before you shop
Most of us, especially when hungry, find we buy more than we intended when going to get “a few” groceries at the shops. My tip to you is to plan your meals and write a list of the ingredients you will need to keep you focused when shopping so that you don’t have a total mismatch of food that you struggle to turn into a meal. By being prepared before a shop you should find that at end of the week you won’t have sad looking leftovers or vegies left in the fridge to only be scraped out into the bin!
3. Grow your own…at home
Not everyone has a large garden and green thumb, luckily neither of these are needed to grow your own produce. If you are new to growing your own produce or simply don’t have the space, herbs are a great starting place for you! Basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, coriander, rosemary, dill and mint are all possible to grow in the kitchen or on your balcony in pots. Another popular pot-grown option is tomatoes, in particular smaller varieties like cherry tomatoes. There are many other great options for beginners such as garlic, onion, leafy green and peas. Ask at your local garden centre for advice on which produce, soil and pots will be best for the season you are in.
Source suppliers of organic seeds/seedlings and heirloom varieties. Two examples include Eden seeds https://www.edenseeds.com.au/ and The Diggers Club available at: https://www.diggers.com.au/shop/certified-organic-seeds-and-more/
4. Buy or order from your local farmers market or supplier
It is a wonderful thing to wander through your local community Farmers Market and support the organic growers. This is a wonderful weekly treat where you are active and can feel a real sense of community. If you prefer the convenience of ordering, our Chief Wellbeing Officer, Jennifer loves her weekly delivery of organic produce from CERES Fair Food, available at: https://www.ceresfairfood.org.au/
Jennifer loves buying the ‘Generous Cooks Box’ ‘that has surprise seasonal fruits and vegetables and likes to google recipes with the ingredients she has to use up any leftovers or try something new. CERES has a number of boxes available including a ‘Good Gut Box’ for those of you who need Low FODMAP diets. FODMAP is used mainly with reference to a diet that is low in compounds (which are mainly carbohydrates) that contribute to the symptoms of irritable bowel symptoms and similar gastrointestinal disorders.
If you are brave you can select your own and customise your delivery, not just of plant foods but items from the bakery and dairy. CERES also has several personal care and cleaning products including gifts available. It’s a great way to give an eco-friendly gift!
5. Be creative and experiment on brands or produce
We all have products we grow to love and become loyal to, but sometimes we pick expensive ones! I am not saying to never eat your favourites again but do try other brands also if they are more affordable or even on sale.
With fresh produce you can also compromise for what is more affordable. For example, swapping out this week’s asparagus for $4 and picking up green beans for $2 instead.
6. You don’t need to buy everything organic
An easy place to start when first adding organic foods to your grocery cart may be to select your organic produce using the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™.
This guide is great as it is updated annually shows you the ‘Dirty Dozen.’ It lists which produce is recommended to be bought organic as it is most affected by pesticides and we often eat the skin of these fruits and veggies, and the ‘Clean 15’, the produce that isn’t so terrible to be bought conventionally as they don’t absorb as much of these chemicals.
Feeding yourself and your loved one’s nutrient rich foods is always something that should be celebrated. Buying organic has its benefits on your health and the environment. Don’t be afraid to buy conventionally if it doesn’t match your budget to buy exclusively organic products and produce all of the time.
Buy local and organic whenever you can and enjoy the rewards that come with it!
References: https://www.foodwise.com.au/organic-labelling/ https://austorganic.com/ https://www.agriculture.gov.au/about/contact/phone/approved-certifying-organisations#southern-cross-certified-australia-pty-ltd-sxc https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php