Organic food: reasons why it’s better for you

Organic food isn’t only pesticide and herbicide free; it’s non-GM, contains no hormones and antibiotics, preserves the ecosystem, sustains livelihoods and even improves your mood and sex life.

You are what you eat. So said French lawyer and politician Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1826, who, in an article written for Physiologie du Gout, declaimed that the food you eat influences your state of mind and health. One hundred and eighty nine years later, nutritional scientist Heidi du Preez agrees. “Your mood, weight, overall health and even sex drive is significantly affected by what you eat. And the more nutrient dense your food is, the better all the metabolic reactions in your body work.” Yet good, nutritious food is not as abundant as we would like. “A non-organic diet doesn’t supply all the nutrients that our body needs to function optimally and in fact places more stress on our detoxification pathways, further depleting our nutrient reserves,” says du Preez.

Fewer nutrients lower our resistance to disease, making us more susceptible to cancers, diabetes, mood disorders and even obesity. It also means we’re less likely to be able to deal with the excess of toxins that we are exposed to in day-to-day urban living.

Myriad benefits of organic

To help guard against illness and sustain overall health and longevity the ideal route is to choose organic produce wherever possible so doing, you’ll also avoid GM (genetically modified) foods, growth hormones, antibiotics and drugs found in the fat and tissue of meat and dairy products. Organic farming methods also preserve our ecosystems by reducing the use of pesticides and protect water and soil biodiversity.

“Organic is generally understood as being free of pesticides and herbicides,” says du Preez. “But in fact it means so much more, and is something about which consumers are largely ignorant. It is a holistic way of farming that considers the sustainability of peoples’ health as well as that of the environment.”

Working with nature

Fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy and wine can be produced organically. But while this means farmers work with an area’s climate and use only certified organic control measures that protect and build the soil, it is not ‘Mother Nature’ farming, emphasises Samuel Viljoen, Winemaker for Earthbound Wines, which is certified both 100% organic and Fairtrade.

The quality wine is lower in added sulphites and has limited its impact on the environment during its production. This is good news if you enjoy a fruity Pinotage or a crisp Sauvignon with your meal.

“Organic produce is becoming more readily available in South Africa, although it is still a relatively niche product,” says consumer activist and food researcher Sonia Mountford. So while organic products can be found in select national supermarkets, she suggests that the best way to source truly organic foods is to buy directly from a trusted and transparent small retailer, organic market or producer.

“There is no organic legislation in South Africa and we rely on third party certification based on other countries’ legislation, which may not be 100% relevant to us. As a consequence of an unregulated organic market there is confusion about what organic produce actually is, she explains. Adding to this challenge is the fact that organic agriculture is not well enough supported in South Africa, making it harder for organic farmers to survive.

Where to buy organic?

To overcome this you could grow your own, says Mountford, or buy from PGS-certified (Organic Participatory Guarantee System) producers such as Green Road in Stellenbosch in Cape Town or Bryanston Organic Market in Johannesburg. PGS is a voluntary group of growers, retailers and consumers who support organic agriculture and local food production. “The best advice I can offer conscious consumers is to know their farmer. Find out how they produce their food, visit the farm, ask questions and choose your produce with the peace of mind that it is properly certified and truly good for you.” Such relationships between producers and consumers make consumers more confident about the product because they know where and how it was produced.

In the case of wine, organic certification is strictly regulated globally, and there are stringent rules that must be complied with. If wines carry an organic certification, they can be bought and consumed with confidence. Viljoen encourages consumers to choose labels that bear an organically certified stamp or the words ‘certified organic’ on the back label. “Organic wines are becoming more popular as consumers become increasingly more aware of what they put in their bodies, and also discover that they taste as good, if not better than non-organic wine.” They are also readily available in supermarkets and specialist liquor merchants.

The full range of Earthbound organic wines can be foraged from TOPS @ SPAR, Liquor City, CyberCellar.com and Darling Wine Shop, and Makro, Wellness Warehouse Cavendish and Kloof street, Pick n Pay and wine.co.za for between R45.00 (white) and R55.00 (red) RSP.

For more information about #EarthboundWines visit www.earthboundwines.co.za and join them on Facebook at EarthboundWines and Twitter @EarthboundWines.