By Juliette Bryant, nutritional consultant.
A couple of years ago, colonic hydrotherapist Esther McCulloch contacted me about her vision of creating a pioneering centre that combined food and wellbeing. With my help, she launched the Primrose Juice Bar & Naturopathic Centre in Chelmsford.
One of the important considerations that attracted me to this project was that Esther wanted all of the produce sold in her shop to be organic. When pregnant with my first child 13 years ago, I had started to look more closely at the food I was eating. I was growing a little being inside me that would be affected by what I consumed. From that point on, whenever possible, I have eaten organic food.
But what are the benefits? Is it healthier? Why do most farmers use artificial pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers? Hasn’t the spectre of DDT pesticides faded into the past now? Surely agricultural chemicals have to be tested and safe? What about genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) – are they toxic in terms of long-term health?
I have been investigating these questions for some time. My research has included studying Environmental Science at Writtle College, living and working on a conventional farm, growing fruit and veg myself, and talking to experts. So let’s explore some of the issues.
Leading authority on natural health Dr Joseph Mercola writes: “People have been led to believe that industrial farming is the only way to feed the skyrocketing population. Farmers turned to genetically modified organisms to ‘improve’ the quantity and quality of their crops. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), where thousands of animals are housed in constricted quarters, have also become the norm.
But although GMOs and CAFOs “make livestock and crops cheaper, while giving farmers higher profits”, Mercola questions “at what cost?” “Widespread pollution, drug-resistant diseases, nutrient deficiencies and animal cruelty are just some of the costs associated with cheap and low quality meat and crops,” he says.
Contrast this statement with that of local producer Phil Mizen from Moyns Park Organics in the upper Stour Valley on the Essex and Suffolk border, who points out: “Growing organically is not a methodology. It’s a philosophy, a way of life. For me, it’s about respecting the soil and the wider environment, while producing nutritious and tasty vegetables in a sustainable way.”
Mizen also cites US philosopher and ecologist Aldo Leopold, who once said: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
Another local business that follows the organic food philosophy is the Cradle vegan bakery and café in Sudbury. Its take on the subject is that: “Our mission is to produce delicious food grown by ethical growers whose methods encourage healthy soils and biodiversity.” And given how packed their café is, their customers certainly appear to like it.
Esther takes a similar line at Primrose Juice Bar. “We have a sign that says: ‘Don’t panic, we’re organic’, she says. “We firmly believe that everything we take into our body should have a beneficial effect on our whole being.”
She also points out that in her professional work, she has seen the negative effects that eating a conventional diet can have on people’s health. “Consuming organic produce and goods gives us the best chance of a healthy, more fulfilling life. And it is better for the planet too,” Esther says.
Here are also a few statistics that you may find interesting:
- The US National Academy of Sciences reports that 90% of the chemicals applied to foods have not been tested for the long-term health effects before being deemed “safe”;
- The effects of DDT, once heralded as a wonder chemical, are still being felt in our environment decades after it was banned. This toxin can be found in the sweat of polar bears;
- Some chemicals, now banned in the UK, are sold to developing nations. In some regions of India, for instance, mother’s breast milk is contaminated with lead from the residues of chemical farming;
- Conventional animal farming allows the widespread use of antibiotics and growth hormones, both of which may cause health problems;
- More than 90% of the pesticides US citizens consume are found in the fat and tissue of meat and dairy products;
- The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine conducted a review of 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically- and conventionally-grown foods and concluded there are significantly more of several nutrients in organic foods;
- A study conducted by the European Parliamentary Research Service reviewed existing research and concluded that eating organic food reduces pesticide exposure, improves its nutritional value, lessens disease risk and improves early childhood development.
Put another way, the message is: ‘When possible, go organic.’
My 10-veg organic curry:
1 clove of garlic
1 tbs of coconut oil
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
½ teaspoon of salt
cup of tomatoes
2 cups of cooked vegetables eg red split lentils, sweet potato, carrots
1 cup of fresh vegetables eg courgettes, broccoli, peppers, kale
1 cup of ground almonds
1 cup of hot water
Sautee your onion, crushed garlic clove and chilli in a pan with the coconut oil. Next add the curry powder, garam masala and salt and mix well. Stir in your tomatoes and simmer for five minutes. Blend the ingredients together to make a masala sauce.
Add in your cooked and fresh vegetables, before adding the ground almonds and hot water. Mix all of the ingredients together and cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Serve with rice and salad.
Juliette Bryant is an author, nutritional consultant, superfood chef and presenter who runs courses, talks, workshops and retreats around the world. Her passion is helping people to thrive by showing them how to make delicious and healthy food. Juliette runs a busy practice providing nutritional consultations to individuals and businesses worldwide.
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