Are organic foods healthier? Print

Organic vs conventional, which is better?

There has never been a time when how food is grown and the type of food you eat has been more heavily debated. Here are some considerations when it comes to addressing some of the most common questions about organic food:

In Canada, there are strict requirements by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for both the growing and labeling of organic foods. You can identify Certified Organic foods by looking for the special approved logo.CANADIAN FOOD INSPECTION AGENCY

Organic farmers use plant composting, manure composting and crop rotation as a standard practice to nourish soil. They also feed animals only organic feed. Organic foods are produced without man-made (synthetic) fertilizers, pesticides, growth hormones and GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

There is a myth that only organic growers use environmental practices but in reality conventional growers know the importance of minimizing soil degradation and erosion to improve yields. Conventional growers also know that use of fertilizers and pesticides increases cost and it would not make good business sense to disregard how and when these are applied.

Also note that organic foods are not free of pesticides or use of antibiotics. Natural pesticides such as copper sulfate are used in organic growing extensively. Organic farmers use antibiotics for treatment of sick animals since it would be unethical to fail to provide medical treatment.

WATCH my Facebook LIVE discussion:

 

 

Are organic foods more nutritious than conventional foods?

Simply buying a food that is organic does not guarantee good health. You can find organic foods such as sugar-loaded breakfast cereals, packaged cookies and largely ultra-processed foods in the organic foods section.

Research shows that some foods grown organically have more vitamins and minerals, while others are actually the same have even less. The nutritional content of all food (regardless if it is grown organically or conventionally) depends on soil quality, growing conditions, harvesting methods, length of time before the food is consumed and the diet of the animal itself.

Again there is variability due to many factors but overall research shows organic foods may have lower levels of some pesticides and hormones than conventionally grown foods. Despite this, remember that in Canada we have access to some of the safest and stringently monitored food on the planet.

Is going organic the best way going forward?

Organic principles established in the early twentieth century are based on the concept that “natural and traditional is best.” Unfortunately, this means that some of the best farming and science advances that have the ability to improve sustainability and keep up with the growing global demand for food are not available to organic farmers.

Organic growing methods will be part of the solution to improve environmental sustainability and feed the world, but it certainly will not solve the problem.

For example, organic food production often has very low yields for the land use required. Also note that the carbon footprint for composting is surprisingly large (according to food and agricultural expert Dr. Steve Savage, fertilizing half a hectare creates as much greenhouse gas emissions as driving a car over 27,000 kilometres). Organic farming also depends on natural pesticides, such as copper sulfate, that may be worse for environmental health than some newer conventional pesticides. Organic growers also frequently use plant cover crops to improve the soil, but because of the inability to use herbicides this means they often rely on tillage (digging, stirring and overturning) for weed control that can worsen soil quality.

What is the bottom line?

An elitist mindset that organic foods are superior and that good health is only accessible to those that can afford this style of eating is misguided and concerning.

What matters most when it comes to your health is emphasizing a diet rich in whole foods grown in the ground or on trees and that do not bear a food label full of weird terms that your grandmother would not recognize. The vast majority of the world consumes conventionally grown fruits and vegetables and people with the highest plant based food intake have the lowest risk of chronic disease.

As a dietitian, parent and health advocate I buy a mix of both conventional and organically grown foods depending on a number of factors such as accessibility, cost, seasonality and a desire for variety from both a nutrition and culinary perspective. Make mindful but not obsessive choices about what you eat and where your food comes from. Do your research and learn more about both sides of the debate when it comes to organic versus conventional foods.

article originally published in Calgary Herald

Dietitian Andrea Holwegner “the chocoholic nutritionist” is a media spokesperson and brand ambassador to the food and grocery industry. She is a professional speaker and owner of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. where she manages a team of Calgary dietitians specializing in weight loss, eating disorders, heart health, diabetes, digestive issues, sports nutrition, pediatrics and more. Contact Us for more personal nutritional counselling. 

Strawberries

About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. Andrea and her team really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This