The Answer to Excellent Health? You’re Standing on it.
While organic eating is not a new catch-phrase, many people still lack a solid understanding of exactly why it benefits our health and how organic contributes to the enhancement of our wellbeing.
For those who have heard that the organic is a better way to eat, but are unsure of the difference between organic and conventional foods, the United States Department of Agriculture defines organic as:
- Food that is grown on soil that has been healthy for a minimum of 3 years. Unlike conventional farming methods, that means no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides have been used on that soil for 3 years leading up to harvest.
- Organic meat requires that the animals have been allowed to behave in their natural manner by grazing on pasture, eating organic feed and forage, and have not received antibiotics or hormones.
- Processed foods containing more than one ingredient (think most things you buy from a shelf rather than the meat or vegetable refrigerators at the supermarket) require extra rules and regulations; to be considered organic, 70% of ingredients must be organic and cannot contain artificial preservatives, colours or flavours. That means, if you want to be sure you are eating organic, start by reading food product labels or make more meals from scratch.
But how do organic foods actually help us become healthier? In terms of gut health, we look to the root of the matter: soil.
You may not think about it, but the health of the soil that our food grows in directly impacts our health. Most humans inevitably ingest some soil regularly from fruits and vegetables, but this is usually a good thing because many of the essential nutrients we need for optimal health are found in soil. Many elements exist in soil that are essential to humans, including calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, sodium, and selenium, to name a few. Deficiencies in essential elements can lead to neurological problems, fatigue, cancer, thyroid issues, and weakened immune function. When we eat food grown in nutrient-depleted soil, we have to work harder to ensure that we are getting all the nutrients we need. While supplements can make up for the missing elements, consuming nutritious whole foods is a more efficient and sustainable solution.
On the flip side, unhealthy soil may contain contaminants like heavy metals and organic chemicals such as lead, mercury and arsenic, which can build up toxins in the body over time and eventually cause damage to our kidneys, reproductive organs and immune system. Unhealthy soil can also be the source of one of our gut’s worst enemies: antibiotics. Antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria can enter soil and into our food when farms use manure or waste water on crops. If the animals that made that manure were not organically raised, they were likely given antibiotics which ends up in their waste, and in turn, gets absorbed into our food. When we consume these antibiotics or antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we damage our own microbiome, leading to higher chances of bacterial infections and gut issues like SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Reducing the exposure to antibiotic laden foods will help keep your gut populated with friendly bacteria.
What about just washing off unhealthy soil if organic options are not available to you? Unfortunately, the matter is not so simple. Think of soil as the amniotic fluid for our food. As our food grows, it absorbs both helpful and harmful elements from the soil it grows in. As the saying goes, ‘it’s what’s on the inside that counts’ - just because there is no visible dirt on the food we eat does not mean that it is clean. Rather than investing in fancy fruit and vegetable “washes” or soaps, spend that extra money on organics and enjoy the extra soil residue on your food as a little nutritional side dish. While the extra money at the grocery store may sting now, the long-term benefits of investing in clean, organic produce and meats may help your future look and feel a whole lot healthier.
If you’re looking for organic foods in Hong Kong that you can conveniently buy after your chiropractic check-up at Atlas Chiropractic, head over to the organic farmers market at the Star Ferry Pier in Central every Wednesday and Sunday. Click here for more info.
In case you missed it, here's the secret to a healthy immune system.
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8/F, 10 Pottinger St, Central, Hong Kong