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Why buy organic?

A photo of some organic foods

What exactly is organic food and why is it better for you? – let’s find out...

The meaning of ‘organic’

According to Elaine Ryan from Health Nutz in the Mill Shopping Centre in Clondalkin, Dublin 22 organic basically means that “farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, GMOs, or petroleum-based fertilisers.”

Organic animal products

Any meat or animal products sold as organic must be from animals that have never been given antibiotics, growth hormones or other artificial drugs and farmers must be very careful with any medication they are given.

“Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and be given organic feed,” says Elaine Ryan. “They may not be given any animal by-products.”

If you buy ‘free range’ chicken or eggs they will be from hens that have been allowed to roam outside and not in a battery farm. Many people find free-range meat in particular tastes better because it came from animals that have not been farmed in a stressful environment.

Organic fruit and veg

If you buy fruit and vegetables labeled organic you can be guaranteed they are grown without chemicals or toxic pesticides. Produce is not irradiated to make it keep fresh longer and is grown using only natural fertilisers.

“Organic produce is better for people as it has more beneficial nutrients such as antioxidants,” says Elaine Ryan. Eating organic produce also lowers your exposure to chemicals such as pesticides and tends to be fresher and more local.

Not just fresh foods

No longer just fruit and veg, eggs and meat, now you can buy an organic version of pretty much any type of food and even beauty products. Irish health stores are your best source of these quality products.

“We carry organic herbal teas, chocolate, pre-packed goods, peanut butters, bodycare products, coconut oil, and herbal supplements,” says Elaine Ryan.

Counting the cost

Organic products tend to be more expensive than conventional equivalents for a number of reasons. They have not been forced to grow bigger using hormones, artificial pesticides or fertilisers; the farming of them tends to be more labour intensive and produce has a shorter shelf life due to not being irradiated or exposed to other chemical preservation methods. Many people believe that the benefits far outbalance the increase in cost.

A photo of some organic foods

Buying organic on a budget

Switching from conventionally grown food to organic can prove to be an expensive move if you buy it all in the supermarket, but there are a number of ways you can cut down on the cost of taking the healthier option.

Find a farmer’s market – these are springing up all over Ireland and offer fresh in-season produce that hasn’t had to travel for thousands of miles. Make sure to ask if the food is organic.

Buy an organic fruit and vegetable box – and then get creative with the interesting local and in-season produce you receive. Check out www.absolutelyorganic.ie

Join a co-op – the Dublin Food Co-op in Newmarket, Dublin 8 gives members a discount and those who volunteer get bigger discounts. It has a shop and a café. Check out dublinfood.coop

Buy in bulk – this can often be much cheaper, especially for dry products such as beans, nuts, lentils and rice as you save on packaging. The Dublin Food Co-op gives discounts for buying in bulk.

Buy in season – this can often be cheaper as markets need to sell perishable foods. Make chutneys and jams, or freeze for later.

Grow your own – what better way to get fresh fruit and veg and all from a window box. Check out www.giyinternational.org

Expert opinion

Trevor Blyth, the CEO of Kamut International is closely involved in the Montana Organic Association: “Organic products are better for the human body because they have not received the direct application of toxic chemicals which, even in trace amounts, have been linked with many health problems.

“There are social and environmental benefits too. Organic production promotes healthy and diverse ecosystems through the synergistic management of living systems, rather than the suppression and elimination of natural living systems through the use of toxic chemicals.”

Organic labelling in Ireland

There are two organic certification bodies in Ireland. Both are authorised by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The Organic Trust features on the bulk of Irish-produced organic products in Ireland. It is the organic certification body of choice for the professional organic producer.

IOFGA (Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association) is the largest certifying body in Ireland and it certifies primary producers and processors throughout the country.

When buying organic products, look for those labelled with either the Organic Trust or IOFGA logo, the words ‘Certified Organic’ or the code: IE-ORG-03.

Click here to read earlier Rude Health Magazine natural health articles.
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