Food Glorious Food

Next month is Organic September, an annual month long campaign which raises awareness for organic produce.

But why are more people turning to organic foods these days?

The answer may lie in the soil and modern day farming methods which could be destroying the nutrient content in foods and pushing consumers to be more conscious when it comes to their food choices.

A United Nations report estimates that over 2 billion people worldwide suffer from ‘hidden hunger’ – vitamin and mineral deficiencies, undermining their physical and mental health.

So, what is happening to the food we eat? For good health, humans need several vitamins, minerals and over 30 trace elements for the normal functioning of key metabolic processes. These nutrients are essential to life, yet industrial farming has led to the serious depletion of those vital elements from our food.

Over the past 50 years, vegetables sold in the UK have lost 24% of their magnesium, 27% iron and 46% calcium.

A healthy tea spoon of soil contains over 5 billion living organisms representing 10,000 or so different species. To produce healthy growth, fertile soil needs large populations of soil organisms, which are constantly breaking down and rebuilding nutrients from plant and mineral waste and in the process making minerals available to plants.

Most farmers routinely manage their crops using chemical fertiliser, particularly nitrogen in the plant form of ammonium nitrate or urea. Nitrogen fertilisers produce a flush of leafy growth but weaken plants by stimulating excess growth and an imbalance of minerals. Crops grown this way are more prone to disease which is why they need constant spraying with chemicals to keep them standing.

In turn, these chemicals kill micro-organisms in the soil, making it difficult if not impossible for the plants to absorb vital minerals. This in turn makes the plants more susceptible to disease and so even more fungicides and pesticides are applied and a vicious cycle sets in.

Foods farmed organically contain fewer pesticides. There are only 20 pesticides that can be used by organic farmers, in order to be classified as organic, all which are derived from natural ingredients. This is compared to almost 300 pesticides used in regular farming.

Dr Mark Draper, an integrated physician, is convinced that a sizeable portion of the UK population suffers from type 2 malnutrition, meaning they are deficient in essential micronutrients. The major nutrients such as protein carbohydrate and fats are present in abundance – sometime excess. But people no longer get the essential minerals they need to stay healthy. According to Dr Draper the ideal solution would be a return to well grown foods. However, where these are not available the alternative is a good food supplement to replace the micronutrients missing from the diet.

But with different multi-vitamin supplements everywhere you look these days, all claiming to be the most complete, how do you know which one is best for you?