Is Organic the Answer?
How many of us know personally someone who’s suffering from a disease caused by poor eating habits? It seems we’re getting sicker, and part of the problem is our modern diet of intensively-farmed foods grown unnaturally using a cocktail of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
Food is our source of, not just energy, protein, minerals and the rest, but other more subtle, and equally vital substances like antioxidants and enzymes that are known to reduce the risk of cancer – a disease on the rampage. As long ago as 337 BC, Hippocrates, stated, ‘Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.’ It’s time we listened and invested more in producing high quality, natural organic food.
Yet even if we follow the advice from health experts to eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains, we may still not be doing enough. Why? Because produce grown using chemicals in the depleted soils of conventional farms are depleted themselves of vital health-giving nutrients.
And it’s not just plant foods that are affected. Jenelle Povey, owner of Brisbane-based organic butcher and health food store The MeaT-Ting Place points out that meat produced using conventional methods, and grazing on poor soils or where animals are grain fed, contains more fat with lower levels of beta-carotene, fewer vitamin B’s and reduced amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium and omega-3’s. The meat also has a poor ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids and is much lower in CLA (conjugated linoleic acids – an important cancer fighting nutrient) than the organic equivalent. And conventionally produced meat is much higher in the saturated fats linked to heart disease.
In contrast, a European study found that mothers consuming mostly organic milk and meat products have about 50% higher levels of the beneficial CLA rumenic acid in their breast milk. And organically farmed meat also has higher levels of vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA). And it’s leaner too.
Organic crops produce more phytochemicals, and these phytochemicals provide us with the antioxidants that protect us from cancer, because they’re the plant’s own natural protection against pests and diseases. CLA (conjugated linoleic acids) are a family of nutrients found mainly in meat and dairy products that have two very important benefits: firstly CLA’s have been shown to hinder the growth of tumours and secondly they have a significant effect on reducing body fat.
When food is grown quickly using chemical fertilisers, the plants just don’t have the time to absorb those important micro-nutrients from the soil, even if they do exist! So instead of needing to eat just one conventionally grown apple a day, we may need to eat two or even three, with all the chemical residues included! That’s when we realise that organic produce offers good value for money. But more than that – it’s counter-productive to prepare a ‘healthy’ recipe using ingredients depleted of nutrients and contaminated with chemicals!
The ingredients used in many processed foods are very often sub-standard and bear little resemblance to the original produce. It’s wise advice that you ‘should only eat food your grandmother would recognise’. And the use of chemical fertilisers on our fruit and vegetables has a double disadvantage – it seems they’re partly to blame for the lack of nutrients. Organic crops produce more phytochemicals, and these phytochemicals provide us with the antioxidants that protect us from cancer, because they’re the plant’s natural protection against pests and diseases. “The soils on organic farms are rich and alive and contain everything the plant, or animal needs in abundance. When we consume foods from these sources our health benefits. It’s as simple as that.”
Hazel Key, a mother of two, jokes about being ‘the former CEO of a tuck-shop’. But it’s where she learned something important: that getting kids to eat healthily is made much easier if you offer nutritious versions of familiar foods. “Kids are often wary of obscure food, so my approach is to offer them Sushi, Meatballs, Pizza, even Chocolate Cake! And using the best quality and healthiest ingredients, especially natural organic food, is essential.” She believes in eating widely and including all the food groups whilst limiting the amount of processed food in the diet. “We have to realise that our food is the first defence against disease. Too often we rely on supplements, drugs and other remedies. Yes, those have their place, but preventing disease in the first place is surely what it’s all about?”
Here’s a great recipe idea, taken from Hazel’s book The Clever Packed Lunch that’s perfect for the school lunch box. Do give it a try!
Sesame Chicken Toasties Recipe
Makes up to 18 serves
500g (1lb 2oz) lean Minced Chicken not previously frozen
2 cloves minced Garlic (approx. one teaspoon)
2 teaspoons fresh minced Ginger
2 tablespoons (approx. one handful) fresh leaf Coriander (Cilantro) chopped
2 tablespoons Sweet Chilli Sauce
1 large loaf, sliced multi-grain/wholemeal Bread
¾ cup (approx.) Sesame Seeds
• Combine the chicken with the next 4 ingredients listed.
• Divide the mix between the slices of bread and spread to the edges.
• Spread sesame seeds on a plate or other flat surface and press the bread, chicken side down, into the seeds to coat the chicken.
• Freeze them in their own, separate, sealed container in layers with non-stick baking paper between the layers (raw meat must not be stored in the same container as cooked foods).
• Remove from the freezer 30-60 minutes before cooking.
For cooking there are two options:
• Toasting: Place the toasts, chicken side down in a lightly oiled pre-heated sandwich toaster (or under a medium grill) until the chicken is cooked through and browned a little.
• Frying: Heat about 2 tablespoons oil in a frying pan on a medium to high heat until hot. Shallow fry, chicken side down first, until golden, before lightly frying the other side. Drain on absorbent paper.