26 December 2006

Natural and Organic Foods

Naturally and organically grown foods have the flavor nature meant for them to have. Because of the use of chemical pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, and factory farms, mass farmed poultry and produce have lost much of the qualities that attracted our ancestors. American culture has put price before quality, nutrition, and flavor. Instead, visual appeal, yield, and disease resistance are the prized attributes.

Nutritious soil is the beginning of organic farming, producing adequate nourishment for the plant, which provides healthy nutrients for the body and flavor for the taste buds. Many people prefer organic and naturally grown foods, as they taste better and remind you of what grandma would put on her table. Chemical fertilizers, added to the soil in traditional farming, leave a chemical residue on the product, which can be harmful. Pesticides can have adverse effects on our health causing many different health problems. Such problems include neurotoxicity, immune system suppression, disruption of the endocrine system, and effect male reproduction.

While comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventional grown fruits, vegetables, and grains in forty-one published studies show organic have more nutrients. In comparison, there is 27% more vitamin c, 29.3% more magnesium, 21.1% more iron, and 13.6% more phosphorus. Nitrate levels were 51% less in organic than in the conventional. Salicylic acid, helps combat hardening of the arteries, in addition to acting as an anti-inflammatory, and is up to six times greater in organically grown foods, in addition to having higher percentages of calcium and antioxidants.

Organic grown foods have strict regulations, which prohibit the usage of hormones, anti-microbials, antibiotics, or any growth promotants. Animals that are treated with any drug or chemical cannot be sold as organic, not them or any of their by-products. When organic foods are processed, they are restricted from the use of synthetic chemicals as preservatives, colorings, and antioxidants.

Battery cage broiler chickens, raised for their meat are placed in windowless buildings with as many as 40,000 other chickens. Because of the cramped confinement, chickens have no room to spread their wings and have to get their beaks clipped to keep from pecking one another. Waste products, dust, feathers, and ammonia from the urine permeate the air, causing breathing difficulties for the animals. Large fans are used to circulate the air, giving the atmosphere a sandstorm effect, which actually sandblasts their skin. The chickens are given mass doses of antibiotics to help keep them alive. These doses total more than four times the amounts given to humans. In addition to the antibiotics, the birds are given drugs to promote faster growth, in so doing, the average chicken breast of today weighs seven times more than did the average chicken breast 25 years ago. This drug induced growth results in obesity for the birds; internal organs and legs are unable to keep up with the growth rate. The birds suffer from heart attacks, organ failure, and crippling leg deformities. Chickens developing leg deformities usually die because they cannot reach the water or feed. Once chickens reach seven-weeks old they are packed into crates, and then shipped to the slaughterhouses.

By contrast, chickens that are raised on a natural farm are never given hormones, antibiotics, or any other artificial ingredient. The soil, feed, and pastures have no pesticides or herbicides used in them. The chickens are raised the way nature intended. They enjoy the freedom to move around in open pastures, scratch, preen, and benefit from the fresh air and sun light. In the evening, they automatically return to roost in the buildings that protect them from predators. The buildings are secured at night for the birds' protection, but are immediately opened back up the next morning for the birds to graze and exercise another day. Some farms have portable buildings so that the birds can be moved from one location to another, giving them access to different grazing areas, which helps the land to recover. Tender grasses and seedlings are able to reproduce.

Conventionally grown produce has ten times less mineral content than produce that is grown organically. There are over 400 chemical pesticides used on a regular basis in conventionally grown produce with 79% of the conventionally grown products containing chemical and pesticide residue. Modernized, conventional farming uses more petroleum than any other industry. To produce synthetic fertilizer, more energy is used than to till, cultivate, and harvest crops. Leaching from fertilizers resulted in high nitrate levels in water and food; high nitrate levels have been proven to cause cancer. On average, conventional produce is found to contain only 83% of the nutrients that are found in organically grown produce. Produce with the highest levels of pesticide residue include peaches, apples, strawberries, nectarines, pears, cherries, red raspberries, imported grapes, spinach, bell peppers, celery, potatoes, and hot peppers. Produce containing the lowest levels of pesticide residue are pineapples, plantains, mangoes, bananas, watermelon, plums, kiwi fruit, blueberries, papaya, grapefruit, avocado, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, radishes, broccoli, onions, okra, cabbage, and eggplant.

Organically grown produce contains higher levels of antioxidants, vitamin C, essential minerals, and phytonutrients; lower levels of mycotoxin, and are more resistant to various mildews and fungi. In fact, organically grown oranges were found to have up to 30% more vitamin C than their conventionally grown counterparts, despite being smaller. You cannot overdose on antioxidants that come from a food source. Your best choices are blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, papaya, cantaloupe, watermelon, mango, prunes, raisins, plums, oranges, red grapes, cherries, sweet potatoes, yams, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, garlic, red bell pepper, onion, corn, avocados, kiwi fruit, nectarines, peaches, pears, grapefruit, lemons, apples, bananas, and eggplant. Frequenting your produce aisle will ensure a healthy supply of antioxidants in your diet.

A study performed by European Scientists at Newcastle University found that rats are healthier on organic foods than on conventional food. The rats that were fed the organically grown produce slept better, had stronger immune systems, and were slimmer than rats fed a diet of conventional produce.

Organic farms prevent soil erosion and help build healthy soil. The soil in organic farms are found to have less nitrogen leaching, better nutrient holding ability, more efficient nutrient cycling, and has less run-off and erosion than their conventional counterparts.

Natural and organic foods are by far our best choice when choosing healthy, nutritious food. Making the right choices will increase our health and longevity. Organic and natural foods have the least amount of chemicals and pesticides; have more nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, are environmentally friendly, and help in maintaining our ecosystem.

Twango ©


Anonymous said...

I agree with some of your opinions, especially factory animal farms, however I speak from experience of 35 years growing wheat, oats, barley and canola on the unpolluted Canadian prairies using direct seeding or NO-Till methods, that reqire some herbicides. We use one or two herbicides per season, not 400 as you state. Half the herbicide we use is glyphosates, that are less toxic than your tablesalt. They are non-volatile and have no odor. They do not even have a warning label. We spray when the plant is at 3 leaves, that is over 2 months from harvest. You will not find any residue by then. The organic neighbors need to till the soil black in an attempt to kill weeds. My soil is totally covered in previous crop residue. They waste time and expensive fuel plus wear out very expensive machinery(the manufacture of which causes much pollution), in a vain attempt to control weeds. Every second or third year they leave their fields fallow, a very unnatural state. Mine are cropped every year. Their fields are still over run with weeds! Mine are clean, 99% grain. Their black fields wash away in rains, and blow away in wind storms. Mine stays put due to much organic matter on the surface. My organic matter is higher due to no- till.I use less fuel per acre, much less green house gas emissions. Organic farms must till and thus pollute the air and degrade the soil. If you saw both fields you would not eat the grain from a weed patch. Please check out no-till grain farming, you will be surprised!

Robin said...

So much to say about this, most of it in agreement.

I recently read an interesting piece in Business Week titled The Organic Myth. Unfortunately, a lot of the organic stuff produced by big companies isn't much better than the conventional stuff.

I'm all about local, and it never ceases to amaze me how so many people have no idea just how close farmer's markets and co-ops are to them.

So many people are willing to do hours of research and spend piles of money on clothing, electronics, and luxury items, and it disgusts me that they're not willing to do the same for the food their putting in their bodies and the bodies of their children. It makes no sense to me.