Sustainable Foods

Hi, I’m Tiffany.

It is my goal to use my extensive education around the human body and nutrition to empower you to learn about how nutrition is linked to your health – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

In the article, Nutritional Quality and Safety of Organic Food. A Review by Denis Lairon, several factors between organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, grains, vegetables, and other sustainable foods were discussed.  The information in this article is a culmination of 2 years of work and 50 experts in many areas including organic agriculture. The findings were then published in French in 2003 and this article is a summary of this report.
First, Lairon gives organic agriculture a definition.  He says, “the main characteristics of the organic agriculture production system are respect for the environment and animals, promotion of sustainable cropping methods, use of non-chemical fertilizers and pest/disease/weed control means, production of high-quality foodstuffs and no use of genetically modified (GM) crops” (Lairon, 2009, p.2).

This is defined by European Union regulation and French regulation for animal production.  In this review, conventional food and organic food is compared with regard to the nutrient content as well as a sanitary assessment of organic foods, including contamination.

The information found in this review showed that organic leafy vegetables and tubers have more dry matter than conventionally grown of the same type.  However, there was no difference with other vegetables and fruits.   Also, organically grown vegetables do contain more Iron and Magnesium and have a higher anti-oxidants such as phenols and resveratrol.

Organically raised animals have higher contents of polyunsaturated fatty acids.  Lairon also found that a majority (94-100%) of organically grown produce do not contain pesticide residue and they contain a lot less nitrates (Lairon, 1998, p. 6).

Organic cereals, however, contain about the same level of mycotoxins as conventionally grown cereals.  With regard to pathogenic contamination, the review found surveys conducted in Austria and France that indicated the level of bacterial contamination (E.coli and S. aureus) to be about the same in both conventional and organic dairy products (Lairon, 2009, pg. 4).

This article was very interesting to me and according to this article, organic or sustainable foods and products in general are better for our health than conventionally grown food and products.   With all the marketing and the conversations I’ve had with some conventional farmers, I was of the mind that buying organic may not be as important for our health and that the chemicals used in conventional farming are so “watered down” by the time the consumer gets them so there are no adverse affects on our health.

I always felt I should be buying more organic than I do, especially with certain products like dairy but I’m even more convinced after reading this article.  Lairon explains in his review that in almost all aspects organic agriculture fared better over conventional agriculture when it comes to nutrient quality and our health.

After reading this article, I do feel it is important to shift over to organic because of the increase of vitamin and mineral content, better fats in organically raised meat and eggs, and less chemical residue.  This is relevant because I feel it is hard for most of us to get quality nutrients that our bodies recognize anymore.

People need to supplement with nutrients now more than ever because our food supply is lacking what our bodies need.  I feel we could make a lot of progress just by adjusting the quality of the food that goes into our bodies even without making a lot of other changes.  This article contained a lot of great information that could be used personally and with clients.

For me this would be a gradual process and I would start with buying organic the products we use  most often.  This is how I would start with clients.  It is hard to convince people that paying a little more for quality food is well worth the investment in the long run.  We are so accustomed as a society to having cheap food and this is a shift that needs to be addressed slowly with many people.

I would use the information in this article and information from other sources such as the Environmental Working Group with the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15.  I feel like this is a good place to start and probably not too overwhelming for the client who is reluctant to choose organic.  The article has a lot of concise, straight-forward information that would allow individuals to make decisions on their own behalf and according to their personal reasons for eating all organic or just some organic products.

I would like to see more articles on what pesticide residue actually does to our health.  According to Lairon (2009), low dose exposure of these chemicals has not been studied in humans.  Having that information would be more helpful when working with clients.  I also would like to see articles that have been done in the US rather than Europe because I feel the US has a different view of the food supply and the resulting health of our nation.

Overall, the article does promote organic agriculture and the consumption of these products. There has been an increase in consumer awareness and demand of organic products which should encourage a new trend that could have a global impact because  organic agriculture “has the potential to produce high-quality products with some relevant improvements in terms of contents of anti-oxidant phytomicronutrients, nitrate accumulations in vegetables and toxic phytochemicals” (Lairon, 2009, pg.6).

Organic agriculture is starting to be recognized as a highly effective and sustainable and therefore should be considered closely by individuals and health practitioners in managing nutritional needs and requirements.

Lairon, D. (2010). Nutritional quality and safety of organic food. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 30 (1), 33-41.

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