Why Eat Organic?

You may have asked yourself, “Does it REALLY matter for my health to eat organic?” “Isn’t the fact that I eat well, enough?” or “Is it really worth spending more to buy organic?”

Here is how we see it: going from eating a S.A.D (Standard American Diet) to eating a whole foods diet is like going from an old rusty 2001 Honda Civic to a new 2016 BMW. But going from a whole foods diet to eating fresh, local, organic products is like going from a new 2016 BMW to a 2020 Tesla Roadster!

The question you need to ask yourself is “How well do I want my engine to run? And for how long?”

Eating non-organic products will give you some of the micro and macronutrients you are looking for. However, it comes with unwanted and harmful toxins from pesticide, insecticides and chemical fertilizers that are known to accumulate in the body over time and create free-radicals.

The nutritional content of non-organic products are also lower due to the toxic substances used to grow and ripen them as fast as possible for mass producing and selling due to high demand.

Simply put: eating organic can not only provide you with more nutrients and keep you from accumulating harmful toxins but it also supports better farming practices, humanly raised animals and simply the awareness and importance of holistic health.

If there are fewer chemical products used to grow organic produce, why is it more expensive to buy?

Well, it takes longer and is harder to grow in “mass”. Think about it: You have a few acres of land to grow multiple different fruits and vegetables. There are insects and birds who come and feast on your crops, the season makes it so it may be harder to grow certain produce. You have high demand for your products and would like to provide as much as you can, as soon as possible. The practical way to deal with the situation?

  1. Regularly spray the crops with harmful pesticides to kill off insects.

  2. Spray the crops with harmful chemicals that speeds the ripening process. Robbing the produce of the nutrients it would acquire from maturing naturally and adding toxins to its content in the process.

  3. Use irradiation practices to lengthen the products’ shelf life.

For organic farmers it just takes longer and it takes more effort to grow and produce fruits and vegetables that are more nutrient dense and free of harmful toxins and chemicals. Some companies pick their weeds off my hand to avoid spraying the land and products with harmful substances. These farmers and farming practices need help and support.

Local company spotlight: Leffers brothers Organics. The Leffers brothers and their wives operate a carrot farm in Southern Alberta. To be pesticide free they have chosen to weed BY HAND. Luckily they have a machine they can use to help them, but each weed is pulled by a person. This means that compared to a rough cost of $50/acre to spray pesticides, it costs them $1,500-$2,000 per acre! We can quickly see that it is not organic farming that is more expensive, as this is how we have been farming for 100s of years, it is industrial farming practices that have brought the cost of non organic down.

What does it mean to eat organic?
Picking a product that has the USDA Organic or Canadian organic label insures that:

  • 95% of the ingredients are organic

  • The product is non-GMO or that there are no GMO ingredients

  • No toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge

  • No artificial flavors, colours or preservatives

  • No antibiotics or hormones for animals

  • Animals are fed 100% organic feed or pastures

  • Protects wild-life and promotes biodiversity

  • Enhances soil fertility

What does it mean to eat non-GMO?

Picking a product that has the non-GMO label simply ensures that the product or ingredient has not been genetically modified. It does not ensure the product is organic. It should be noted that there are only 5 GMO crops grown in Canada- canola, corn, potatoes, soy and sugar beets. A further 6 – alfalfa, apples, cotton, eggplant, papaya, and squash – are grown around the world. If you are looking to avoid GMOs only (and not buy full Organic, simply don’t purchase these ingredients without the non-GMO label).

Here are some good additional resources:

USDA Introduction to Organic Practices

Organic Products Regulations (Canada)

If this is a lot of information and you are unsure where to start, let us help you! Have you heard of the dirty dozens and the clean fifteen?

The dirty dozen: The dirty dozen is a list of 12 fruits and vegetables that absorb and retain a lot of the pesticides and chemicals through their skin and into their flesh. What ends up happening is that the damage these chemicals do to your body outweighs the benefits that specific fruit or vegetable brings to you. It is extremely beneficial to your health that you get these 12 fruits and vegetables organic:

  • Sweet Bell Pepper

  • Potato

  • Strawberry

  • Apple

  • Pear

  • Nectarine

  • Celery

  • Cherry

  • Peach

  • Grape

  • Tomato

  • Spinach

The clean fifteen: The clean fifteen is a list of 15 fruits and vegetables that have a hard-outer shell protecting them from absorbing toxic chemicals from pesticides and herbicides into their flesh. Because the items in this group have thicker skins that are traditionally not eaten (e.g., oranges), they are less likely to absorb chemicals sprayed on them. If you are on a budget and have to buy non-organic, choose items in the clean fifteen to minimize herbicide/pesticide exposure. However, there still are higher traces of chemicals in these foods compared to organic, and they can still be GMO and use chemical fertilizers and non-sustainable farming methods. 

  • Avocado

  • Eggplant

  • Kiwi

  • Banana

  • Mango

  • Papaya

  • Broccoli

  • Cauliflower

  • Honeydew

  • Onion

  • Cabbage

  • Peas

  • Asparagus

  • Pineapple

  • Cantaloupe

This unfortunately does not mean that the clean fifteen are 100% safe to consume non-organic, but being aware of the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen is a great place to start to ensure you are being economically conscious as well as health conscious.

For additional information, read these resources:

Dirty Dozen

Good Food on a Tight Budget

Does Amaranth only carry certified organic fruits and vegetables?
In the spirit of transparency: no. However, we at Amaranth believe in looking at the whole picture. Ideally, most farming would be done locally, would be done organically, and the certification wouldn't require large resources from farmers. In reality, much of our organic produce comes from far away (e.g., South America and California) so we have to balance the environmental cost of shipping these items in a refrigerated truck all the way up the continent, with choosing a certified Organic option. Food transported this far is much less fresh and can be less nutritious and tasty. Compare that to a local farmer that you can connect with and visit in person. They may employ most or all of the organic farming practices but are unable to afford the certification requirements at this time. Their product is fresher, tastier and takes a few hours to deliver.

On this note, it is easy to see why it is beneficial to eat seasonally. There is a reason why certain regions can only grow certain foods and why most fruits and vegetables are never in season all year long. Most produce that are in season are meant to bring you the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need in order to fully survive and thrive through the season. Whether it is hearty root vegetables to help you survive through the cold months of winter or water filled fresh fruits to help you survive the hot months of summer. Every time you buy seasonal fruits and vegetables you are also guaranteeing that you are getting fresher and usually most likely local produce, which is not only more nutritious but also supports our local farmers.

As such, Amaranth balances local produce with certified organic produce. Sometimes we get both, sometimes we can get locally grown herbicide, pesticide free. Sometimes we can get aquaponically or hydroponically grown produce, grown sustainable right here in Alberta! This is an extremely efficient, often closed system that doesn't need any pesticides or herbicides because everything is grown indoors and fertilized by fish or added minerals!

Note: Amaranth will always label its produce as certified organic, local, pesticide-free etc and we are happy to answer any questions you have. 

For more information have a look at these resources:
Meet Amaranth’s Farmers

A Greener World

Do you have more questions? Come in to see us! Amaranth has friendly and knowledgeable staff at all locations who will be more than happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. See you soon!

- Nino, Wellness Manager at Arbour Lake store