This question recently occurred to me when I was talking to my father-in-law about his garden and organic food. He laughed at me and said, “Organic food makes me laugh. All food is organic, everything uses pesticides. Organic is a scam.”
I looked at him, both dumbfounded and perturbed. I know organic is different, and I know it’s better. But I couldn’t explain that to him because, frankly, I didn’t know the exact answer.
Then, just last week, I was in the car for a few hours and started listening to Stephanie Selene Anderson’s Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is! In just the first section I was shocked and excited at all the glorious facts I was learning!
(Side note: This invaluable guide to healthy food shopping is currently available in print and ebook editions, but SRP will soon be releasing an audiobook edition as well. As someone who doesn’t particularly love to read, I was thrilled to be able to listen to it during my long drive. One of the perks of being the Managing Editor at Selene River Press is the opportunity to preview our new products before they’re released. Yes, you can be jealous.)
In the beginning of the book, Anderson cites an awesome quote by Dr. Royal Lee: “A food that is counterfeit is no different than money that is counterfeit.” What a splendiferous analogy! I used to work in banking, so these words really hit home for me. I remembered what it was like getting fresh, crisp, new bills in from the press and then comparing them to the dirty, discolored, misshapen counterfeit bills that would occasionally pass through the bank.
When I imagined the same scenario about the food I prepared for myself and my family, a light bulb went off. Ah ha! Nonorganic food, especially when it’s processed, is the equivalent of those dirty, ripped, misshapen counterfeit bills. Sure, it can sometimes pass for the real thing. But upon closer examination, it’s worthless. Fresh, organic, unprocessed food is akin to the fresh, clean, crisp, and untampered-with bills from the press.
So let’s delve into three real differences between organic and nonorganic foods.
#1. Organic Food Is Pesticide and Hormone Free
One of the biggest misconceptions about organic food is that pesticides are still used on organic crops. This is something even I believed. Even though it’s not true, this is the main reason why my father-in-law and so many others don’t think organic foods are any better than their conventionally grown counterparts. However, in order to earn the Certified Organic label from the USDA, the food must be grown without pesticides, artificial chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, or the increasingly controversial genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Not quite the same as nonorganic, is it?
#2. Organic Food Is Grown in Healthy Soil
Studies show that organic foods are packed full with many more nutrients, which has a lot to do with the soil they grow in.
As Anderson eloquently explains, nourishment and health begin in the soil. For instance, the same elements we find in healthy soil—including calcium, phosphorus, chlorine, sulfur, and potassium, just to name a few—are also required by the human body to function properly. Naturally, it follows that if we eat foods grown in nutrient-rich soils, we’re more likely to provide our body with those same nutrients. And one great advantage of certified organic foods is that they’re grown in such nutrient-rich soil. On the other hand, nonorganic foods are typically grown in overused soils that contain more pesticides and chemicals than it does nutrients. Think about this: Our bodies share many of the components in soil. If the soil is sick, our bodies will be sick too.
Keep in mind that many foods from local farmers grow organic crops but are not certified organic. This is because many local farmers cannot afford the certifification process. If you’re getting your produce from local farmers, make sure to ask them how they grow their crops. Oftentimes, you’ll be pleased to find they are, in fact, organic. And if you aren’t buying produce from local farmers, explore Local Harvest. This is a nationwide directory that helps people learn about and connect to small farms in their area.
For more information on how healthy soil affects our health, check out Empty Harvest. This phenomenal book explains how the health of our planet directly affects our own health.
#3. Organic Food Is Grass-Fed and Pasture Raised
Now let’s talk about organic meat and dairy products. If it’s important to eat produce that’s grown in nutrient-rich soils, the same principle should apply to the meat and dairy products we consume. Buying grass-fed, organic meats ensures we get all the wonderful nutrients we need, while avoiding those nasty added chemicals, hormones, and steroids. The same is true for eggs. It’s vitally important to get eggs from chickens raised on pasture. Unfortunately, the “all natural” label on egg cartons is meaningless. Look for the words “pasture raised.”
Grass fed meats and dairy are also proven to contain 50 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than nonorganic! That’s quite a difference.
(Side note: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is! is a great resource for learning how to decipher misleading labels like “all natural” and “cage free.” Anderson walks you through exactly what to buy and what not to buy, despite deceiving labels.)
It’s important to note that although organic dairy products are better than nonorganic, they are not the most nutritious. Raw milk and cheese is the best way to consume dairy. Raw milk hasn’t undergone pasteurization, which denatures the milk and strips it of many of its health components. To learn more, check out Maria Atwood’s informative blog post “Raw Milk Awakening!”
After reviewing these three aspects of organic vs. nonorganic food, I’m prepared to offer a rebuttal to the “organic is a scam” argument and emerge triumphant. How glorious! After all, it’s hard to imagine “that a chicken that never has access to sunlight, for instance, produces equally nutritious eggs as a chicken that has both access to daylight and scratching, or a cow confined at high stocking density in a barn produces as nutritious milk as a cow grazing outdoors on grass all year round.”
But, I must admit, there’s a lot more to eating and shopping healthy than simply picking organic options, all of which are discussed in Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is! You’ll also learn about what dangerous chemicals to avoid, what antioxidants are and aren’t, how to get the most nutritious grains, where to get the best produce, the importance of healthy drinking water, safe household cleaners, proper skin care, and so much more!
I’ve always had the desire to be healthy, but, like many others, I’ve felt overwhelmed by the volume of (often conflicting) information out there. I’ve followed popular fad diets (like buying fat free foods) because I believed it when people said they were healthy.
I also used to think that disease and sickness are just part of life, especially when the body gets older. This is what society teaches us. Just pop some pills and carry on! Sure, sometimes chronic disease cannot be prevented, but this isn’t the norm. I would argue that the majority of the diseases we face today are, in fact, things we do to ourselves, and we can prevent them if we replace the Standard American Diet with a whole foods diet and lifestyle.
I’m grateful to have learned the fact vs. fiction of the health industry and, thanks to this easy-to- understand resource, I’m better armed to live a true healthy lifestyle and help my family do the same—not just during my younger years, but for life!
I’d like to end with a wonderful quote I found on Facebook a few months back, by an unknown author: “You are what you eat…so don’t be fast, cheap, easy, or fake.” Enough said.
Image from iStock/julief514.