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Organic = Healthy: Who Are You Kidding?

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Ok, before we get started, I'm all for the environment, I'm totally against the abhorrent treatment of animals, and as my profession would suggest, I'm very much up for people eating healthy and wholesome foods. 'Organic' should embody all of this stuff, and as long as it does, I'm pro-organic.

Is it just me, or has the term 'organic' been reduced to a blatantly dubious marketing slogan? The mere uttering of the word resonates with quality and fills us with confidence in the provenance of our food, something we crave in a world where we've become disturbingly out of kilter with just how our food got from farm to fork. In short, it's a term that inspires trust.

But don't for a minute assume that 'organic' says anything about whether the food you're about to eat is healthy. Organic crisps are still dangerously high in fat and salt. Organic lemon cookies still contain a glut of sugar. We can say the same about organic ice cream, organic ginger nut biscuits, organic milk chocolate, organic orange squash, or any other number of blatantly unhealthy organic foods that you'll find in British supermarkets. (I had intended to single out the most absurd example for special treatment, but gave up - the whole list is absurd).

Then we turn to one of my pet hates, the scourge of the modern diet that is the 'beige' stodge that has become the hallmark of how many of us eat today, aka 'white' refined grains. But don't worry, you can eat your way to chronic illness in unbridled organic style with a smorgasbord of dubious offerings encompassing organic white pasta, organic white rice, organic white bread, organic chocolate breakfast cereals, and for those partial to a bit of home-baking, we have organic white flour and organic sugar for you too.

So there you have it, you can amplify your risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, without so much as a trace of pesticides. I can really only conclude with one piece of advice: don't be duped into thinking that organic means healthy. Organic food can sometimes be the very antithesis of healthy food.

I even find myself committing quasi-food blasphemy and questioning the merits of organic fresh produce. Sure, I want to know my meat is at least free-range, and preferably organic, and I'm happy to pay the premium on that one (the intensive factory farming of animals for food is something I can't stomach, and I'd willing go vegetarian before stooping to that). But seriously, you can't tell me that organic green beans from Kenya, an organic squash from Argentina, or an organic bag of kale from Spain, are nutritionally superior to the non-organic equivalents (literally) straight off the field at the amazing farm about a mile down the road from me (and with frightening food miles and all that plastic packaging, I think I know which is best for the environment too). In fact, there is precious little solid evidence at all that organic produce has a higher nutritional value than its non-organic counterparts, as researchers at Stanford recently found.

I'm not saying don't eat organic, just don't be misled into thinking that it is necessarily synonymous with any of the values those of us passionate about food and health hold dear. Sure, like many, I hate the idea of pesticide residues in the food I eat, and even more so, the food my children eat. But those who really care about their health, and the health of their families, would do well to look beyond the organic branding. And for anyone interested in finding out exactly what we should be doing to sort out our modern day health predicaments, look no further than The Health Delusion: How to achieve exceptional health in the 21st Century.