Are organic vegetables & fruits more nutritious than non-organic?
There is a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding Organic produce. Some people even believe that growing vegetable at their backyard means that their vegetables are organic. Organic farming involves growing fresh vegetables and fruits without synthetic pesticides, chemicals and genetic engineering and raising livestock without growth hormones and antibiotics. The International Foundation for organic Agriculture (IFOA) states that this method helps the strengthening the health of soils & ecosystem. The organic foods market is growing all over the world and of course South Africa is not exception.
In South Africa organic produce mainly include variety of grains/ cereals, vegetables (mostly asparagus and potatoes) fruits (mainly mangoes, pears & banana), herbs, spices, avocado, nuts, and rooibos tea. There is an increase in organic dairy farms, organic wine and olive oil. The organic farms in the country are growing and now the country has over 250 organic farms which accounts to about 0.05% of the country’s total farming area, according to the Department of Agriculture, forestry and Fisheries. In South Africa Fruits and vegetables are the most consumed organic foods.
According to the Gauteng study most people in Gauteng Province, believe that organic foods are more nutritious, tastier than non-organic. They also buy organic produce to support small—scale and local farmers. Organic farming uses much less pesticides and this can arguably make this produce “healthier”. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news; research studies available to-date show very little or no evidence of nutrition-related benefits of consuming organically produced foods (including fruits and vegetables). There is also very little evidence on disease-reducing benefits when a person is following an organic diet. Luckily, there are no negative effects of consuming organic produce.
The nutrient profile of fresh produce is affected by a variety of factors such as geographical location of the farm, Soil quality, climate conditions, maturity of produce and of-course storage. It is very important to note that Organic is more an agricultural concept or term and has no or little to do with nutrition. If you choose organic for nutrition purposes maybe, ask yourself it is worth paying about 40% more for organic fruits and vegetables compared to non-organic fruits and vegetables.
Is it safer to consume organic fruits and vegetables?
Yes, it is safer. This is because much less pesticides are used in organic farming. Pesticides are not good for the farm workers and the consumer. South Africa is the largest user of pesticides in Africa (Harford, 2014). High Pesticides exposure to farm workers showed impact in their sperm quality which affects male reproductive health. There is more research needed on this area but there are disease developments associated with pesticides. However, nothing can be concluded yet as there are a lot of other factors that contribute to disease development. There is a clear occupational health risk that the non-organic farm workers are exposed to due to working with pesticides.
Without a doubt Organic Farming is a agricultural method that will help us reach our sustainable development goals (SGD’s by 2030) in terms of agricultural and climate contribution but no so much nutrition.
People who tend to follow the organic diet trend, eat healthy & are physically active. These are the main lifestyle changes that help improve one’s health.
What can you do at home?
1. Buy organic if you want and can afford it – it will do no harm (Just remember organic does not mean nutritious)
2. Organic or Non-organic fruits & vegetables – wash thoroughly before preparation or eating ‘
3. Make lifestyle changes that you can sustain – that will benefit you more
4. Remember! Everything in moderation
Yours is health