According to a recently released Roper survey, 40 per cent of all Americans said that organic fruits and vegetables would play a bigger role in their diet within a year; of those surveyed, some 63% already purchased organic foods and beverages at least occasionally. There are many reasons why you should consider going organic this year. They include:

* Organic fruit and veg are healthier, tastier and more aromatic: Pesticide-free products are richer in phytochemicals, compounds which are responsible for many of the wonderful aromas of vegetables, herbs and spices. It is thought that organic produce contains higher levels of phytochemicals because they are unprotected by pesticides and fungicides. As they are more stressed by insects and microbes, they need to defend themselves more and they do this by producing more phytochemicals. These powerful compounds have an important role to play in fighting ageing. Some of the most powerful phytochemicals include:

* Allicin (found in onions, garlic and leeks): These enhance the production of glutathione S-transferase, which protects against some types of cancers and strengthens the immunity.

* Beta Carotene (found in dark green, red and yellow vegetables and fruits, such as carrots and peaches): These phytochemicals also reduce the risk of many cancers and improves the immunity.

* Lycopene (found it abundance in tomatoes and watermelon): This phytochemical protects against cell damage.

* Sulphorophane (found in cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and kale): These help the body rid itself of harmful toxin and has been found to inhibit breast cancer development in animals.

There are many more phytochemicals, which are present in large amounts in nearly all types of fruit and vegetables; ensure you consume a wide variety of these foods to maintain the maximum benefit.

* Organic food is healthier:  A recent study finally put a famous 2012 study (deeming organic product to be no healthier than conventionally grown produce) to rest. The new study was published in July, 2014, in the British Journal of Nutrition. It involved a review of 343 peer-reviewed publications, which looked into the nutritional value and safety of conventional vs organic produce. The team used updated meta-analysis techniques, which lent greater reliability and accuracy to their findings. The researchers found that organic produce contains significantly more antioxidants. This is because conventional produce is normally exposed to high levels of synthetic nitrogen, which cause plants to produce more sugar and starch, and lower levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants help eliminate the free radicals that are linked to heart disease, cancer and premature ageing. Therefore, we should aim to increase our consumption of antioxidant-rich foods whenever possible.

The researchers also found that organic produce contained between 10 and 100 times less pesticide residues than conventional produce. Conventional crops also contain twice the amount of cadmium, a toxic metal which builds up in vital organs such as the liver and kidneys. They also noted that organic produce contains a lightly lower content of proteins and amino acids. This was not relevant, they noted, since typical diets in the US and Europe contain more than enough (indeed, often excessive) levels of protein and amino acids.

Challenges Ahead for Organic Farming

Those surveyed by Roper said they failed to buy more organic foods because of the limited availability of this type of produce at commercial supermarkets and grocery stores. The most popular items, surveys indicate, are organic milk and baby foods, owing to the fear of toxins and growth hormones present in their conventional counterparts. The growing number of large-scale organic farms promises a further decrease in the price of organic products, though it is vital that the government offer more subsidies to help farmers transition from conventional to organic farming methods. Interestingly, in Europe, most conventional supermarkets have at least a small organic foods section and governments support the organic produce industry through subsidies.

Which Organic Foods to Opt For

If the price or accessibility of organic fruit and vegetables are posing a problem, you may wish to narrow the list of organic foods you buy. The list of ‘Dirty’ foods which should, whenever possible, be consumed in their organic form, include: strawberries, apples, grapes, celery, spinach, peaches, cucumbers, nectarines, bell peppers, imported snap peas, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, blueberries and hot peppers. These foods (when conventionally raised) contain pesticide residues, as determined by the US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. Do the required research before making your purchase; obtain full lists of ‘Dirty’ and ‘Clean’ foods.

Gemma Hyam (5 Posts)