Is organic food worth the extra money?
This is a question I get asked a lot! My answer is a great big YES!!
It makes a massive difference, nutritionally, to our health and the environment.
My first degree is in Agricultural Chemistry and I more recently studied Permaculture and I have a Permaculture Design Certificate to prove it!
So I know a LOT about soil and pesticides!
The soil is a living organism teeming with all sorts of microbes going about their business, enriching the soil, decomposing waste and making minerals and trace elements available to any plants who happen to be growing there. If the plants grow in a living soil, which is exactly what ORGANIC soil is, then all the trace minerals exist in the soil so the plants can benefit from them and so can you when you eat the plants!
Conventionally grown crops are grown on dead soil, with only the application of the 3 main macronutrients, N, P and K essential for the plants to grow. These plants will grow but they will be lacking in most of the trace elements and will have been sprayed with toxic pesticides, which I may add DO NOT WASH OFF WITH WATER!
If that were the case then as soon as the crops were sprayed and watered or it rains, the pesticides would be washed off, which I can assure you is not the case! That would literally be money washed right down the drain!
There have been many studies done over the years comparing the nutritional quality of organic versus conventional produce, most recently in October 2015, a massive study by Newcastle University, link is here
showing that organic can be up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants essential for good health and more than 50% lower in toxic heavy metals and obviously much lower in pesticide and chemical residues.
That's worth paying extra for, in my opinion!
Bearing in mind that kids are up to 4 times more susceptible to pesticide residues and environmental toxins and if your health is compromised you seriously need to reduce the amount of toxins you ingest, to give your body a chance to heal itself.
Now I'm not suggesting that you buy everything organic, that's outwith the budget for a lot of people and its sometimes not that easy to source organic food.
The Soil Association are certifiers of over 70% of the organic food sold in the UK
Here is their link to Eating Organic on a budget
Here is an up to date list of fruits and vegetables, from The Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) that tend to have the highest levels of pesticide residue (even after being washed and peeled). Click here for a pdf version
Dirty Dozen (this is where you want to spend the extra money on organic produce whenever possible)
these have the least amount of pesticide contamination - so are not as high a priority to buy organic.
If you can't buy organic then at least buy local. Always check where your fruit and veg comes from and buy UK produced if possible.
Of course if you sign up to an organic veg box scheme then everything will be organic and mostly locally produced.
If your budget doesn't stretch to organic or you have difficulty finding organic fruit and vegetables then you can use this simple home-made spray before you wash your fruit and veg.
HOME MADE VEGGIE WASH
To use just spray onto your fruit or veg, leave for 5 minutes, then rinse as usual.
Wholefoods also sell a concentrated product called Veggi Wash which is easy to use, convenient and good value. You just dilute a capful in a bowl of water and soak your produce for 5 minutes, then rinse it.
For those of you who live in or around Glasgow, the lovely folks at Locavore have kindly offered 25% off your first organic veg box, just quote Nourished by Nature! Also if you spend £30 in the shop, you get 10% discount. This is a brilliant offer so please take advantage of it! A veg box delivery starts from £10 per week for a medium bag.. Click here for more details
It's really quite exciting checking out the box every week, to see what seasonal goodies you have! I have just re instated my veg box, I grow my own over the summer, so am usually knee deep in greens, salads and herbs!
Locavore also have a veg bag Facebook group, on which people post recipes or take photos of odd looking veggies asking what they are and what to do with them!
There have been some funny ones that I have replied to. Last spring someone was holding up a bunch of wild garlic and asking if it would be good in a green juice!! I think not!
But it is a seriously great idea to eat seasonal food, grown locally, when its at its most nutritious and hasn't travelled far to get to your plate. The other great thing with a veg bag delivery is the lack of plastic packaging, it arrives in a reusable box so again has benefits for the environment.
Apart from fruit and veggies, the Soil Association suggest that you buy any animal products organic Its always from higher welfare animals, fed on their natural diet, without antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones and the resulting meat, eggs and dairy have way higher nutritional value.
Similarly wheat is among the heaviest sprayed of all the cereal crops and considering that many of us eat wheat at every meal, in the form of bread, cereals, pasta, pizza, cakes and cookies then its worth seeking out organic options. I always use organic flour for home baking and buy organic wholewheat pasta.
The use of glyphosate on British cereal crops has increased by 400% in the last 20 years, and a recent study on European city dwellers found that 7 out of 10 people had traces of glyphosate in their urine Now that's a worrying trend. Glyphosate is now the most heavily used weedkiller in history! Chemicals of any kind have no place in our bodies and can wreak havoc with many body systems.
Lidl sell organic wholemeal pasta & organic rye bread and most supermarkets have a good range of organic products
Again Locavore stock organic eggs, from their own free ranging ducks and chickens, organic milk, butter, cheese, meat, flour and grains.
If you are a meat eater then it makes sense to eat better quality but less often. This is the International year of The Pulse so we should all be eating more lentils and beans for our health and cutting down on animal products
I tend to buy potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, apples, cucumber, celery and courgettes organic.
I also buy organic whole milk for Alastair, who likes it in his tea. I buy organic Soya Milk for baking and the odd cappuchino.
Organic isn't always more expensive. For example Oatly Organic Oat milk is the same price as non organic!! Its a no brainer in that case, always go for organic if you have the choice, especially if its the same price! You will end up with a product with less environmental impact, less toxic residues and more nutritional value!
.....your health in your hands.....
I was shopping at Locavore yesterday, my favourite shop for all things seasonal, locally grown and organic and I bought a lovely bunch of one of my favourite, healthiest and most versatile of veggies! You've probably guessed its kale, a true superfood and worthy of the title! Its simply packed with all manner of wonderful health promoting antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fibre and protein and its well worth including in your diet. I use it all year round and grow my own in the summer.
Faith and Grace, my wee ex battery chickens absolutely love kale so I have to share it with them but I figure that we all benefit since their eggs are extremely nutritious! Oddly enough they don't like broccoli, brussel sprouts or savoy cabbage but they love spring greens! I bought them a brussel sprout tree for their Christmas last year and they wouldn't even try it! I was most disappointed, I thought they would love it! They'll just be getting a big bunch of kale this year!
Anyway back to the kale, its so versatile; I juice it, add it to smoothies, steam it, stir fry it, add it to soups, massage it with oil and have it raw in winter salads and of course make kale crisps with it!
It never ceases to amaze me that a vegetable as nutritious as kale can be transformed into the most delicious, light and crispy crisps!
If you've never tried them, please give them a go, even kids love them!
They are so expensive to buy but so cheap and easy to make. My bunch of lovely organic kale cost £1 and I used a tablespoon of good organic Scottish Rapeseed Oil to add inflammation busting omega 3 fats. I decided to stick with the Scottish theme and seasoned mine with Mara seaweed flakes to add fantastic flavour, loads of minerals and boost my detoxification pathways, always beneficial at the weekend when wine is being consumed! I always like to give my body a wee helping hand because I love it and appreciate what an incredible job it does every minute of the day, keeping me healthy, energised and well!
So back to the seaweed, although it adds a fantastic salty flavour, it only contains 10% sodium instead of 98% in normal salt. So pay attention all of you with high blood pressure and start using seaweed instead of salt for big health benefits!
The other two seasonings I love are Pink Himalyan Sea Salt, quite rightly known as the king of salts, due to the 82 trace minerals it contains, all of which your body can use! Remember table salt is just sodium chloride usually with added anti caking agents and should only be used for clearing the snow and ice from your driveway! It has no benefit for your health and excess sodium is linked with high blood pressure which is linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks! Bear in mind that it is always the cheapest salt which is added to processed foods which is just sodium. If we want cheap food then the food industry will provide it but at what cost to our health?
So always make the best choice for your health, without it nothing else matters! Some things are worth paying extra for and best quality food always has been and always will be a priority for me.
Right, the other seasoning I use a lot and absolutely love is a macrobiotic condiment called Gomashio. Its just sesame seeds and himalyan sea salt, dry toasted to bring out the nutty flavour, then ground in a pestle and mortar. It adds the most delicious salty, nutty flavour and is packed full of calcium and magnesium, protein and good fats. You can buy it ready made but its so easy to make your own.
Simply dry toast 1 teaspoon of sea salt, preferably Himalyan but any quality sea salt will do.
Transfer to a pestle and mortar and grind until fine.
Add 18 teaspoons of sesame seeds to the pan, keep the heat medium and keep them moving with a wooden spatula to prevent them burning. Once they start popping, usually in a few minutes, transfer them to the pestle and mortar and grind them. You may have to do this in two batches. They don't have to be finely ground. Transfer to a glass jar with the salt and mix well. Voila a delicious, low sodium seasoning! We use it on steamed greens, brown rice balls, any stir fry or veggie dish.
BEST EVER KALE CRISPS
Okay back to the kale crisps, the mistake most people make is to bake them at too high a temperature and burn them, then they taste horrible and don't look good either! The ideal temperature I have discovered is 130C 260F. So here is the very simple recipe
1 large bunch of organic curly kale
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
Himalyan sea salt, seaweed flakes or gomashio to season
1. Preheat the oven to 130 C (260F)
2. Wash the kale leaves well, tear into bite sized pieces then
dry the leaves well in a salad spinner or dry with kitchen roll.
3. Place the kale in a large bowl, pour over the oil then massage the leaves well with your hands until the leaves are all well coated in oil.
4. Place the kale in a single layer on lightly greased baking trays. Sprinkle with your chosen seasonings.
5. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the trays around, turn the oven off and leave in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.
6. Add more seasoning if required, then eat them. Eat them all if you want to, they are so healthy and delicious or you can share them if you are feeling generous!
One wee note, kale baking in the oven doesn't smell great so these are not the best to make just before you are expecting visitors! They will keep in a tupperware for a few hours before they start to lose their crispness!
......your health in your hands......
I've been posting a lot of soup recipes recently, because I love soup and its cold and soups are very warming and nourishing! However a nice slice or two of delicious home-made bread just elevates the whole soup experience and who doesn't love the smell of freshly baked bread?
So on that note I thought I'd share one of my favourite bread recipes from the totally awesome and fabulous Lee Watson, author of Peace and Parsnips, one of my absolute favourite vegan authors and all round cool dude! I'd highly recommend his book, it is full of mouth wateringly heavenly combinations from all corners of the world and all totally healthy and delicious.
Anyway back to the bread
This bread is delicious and really easy to make. Spelt is an ancient form of wheat and is way more nutritious than any of the modern wheat varieties. It has more fibre, iron, potassium, zinc and B vitamins and has a low GI which can help to stabilise blood sugar. It contains less gluten than wheat and the gluten is a different structure which is much easier to digest, making it a healthier choice for most of us, especially those with digestive issues. Spelt tends to be more amenable to organic farming since it has a hard hull which naturally protects it from insects and pollutants, negating the need for chemical pesticides, whereas wheat is one of the crops most heavily sprayed with pesticides!
I always buy organic flour for bread and baking anyway and would recommend you do the same. We don’t need any more pesticide residues and kids are 4 times more susceptible to chemicals than adults. So it’s a no brainer if you have kids, buy organic flour for baking!
So this loaf is really lovely, it makes great toast, it’s dense and has a lovely crisp crust. The dough is quite wet and sticky but you just have to knead it for a few minutes then it holds its shape in the tin.
If you prefer you can use half spelt and half white flour or wholemeal which makes the dough slightly easier to work with and less sticky but then its not quite so nutritious! Its still miles ahead of shop bought bread, which is generally full of additives, flour improvers, preservatives, sugar and pesticide laden flour!
500g spelt flour or( 250g spelt and 250g white or wholemeal flour)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon quick yeast
1 tablespoon brown rice syrup or honey
400ml warm water
1 tablespoon rapeseed or olive oil
A large handful sunflower seeds, about ¼ cup
A large handful of walnuts, roughly chopped (optional but recommended)
.......your health in your hands......
🍃 Health educator🍃