Baby and You

Organic Options

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It’s only natural that mums-to-be become more aware of what they eat, both for themselves and their unborn baby. Natasha Collins-Daniel from the Soil Association answers the key questions about organic food and shines a light on new nutritional findings

A healthy diet balancing a variety of foods from whole grains to fresh fruit and vegetables is vital during pregnancy for both mother and baby. This essential healthy eating often continues after pregnancy and into family life. Increasingly parents and, of course, mums-to-be are looking to find out more about the healthy eating options available, including organics.

Mum-to-be Christine Isles, 30, explains why she now goes for the organic option: “I would normally buy organic meat because of the better animal welfare practices and get organic fruit and veg via a box scheme. Now that I’m pregnant, I want to make sure my baby isn’t affected by harmful pesticides so I’m even more keen to eat organic foods whenever I can, particularly dairy products. I’ve found by shopping carefully and cooking from scratch I’ve been able to do this without increasing my overall food bill.”

“All organic food avoids the use of pesticides, prohibits synthetic fertilisers and does not allow any GM ingredients.”

SO WHAT IS ORGANIC FOOD?

Put simply, organic food is produced from farming systems which are kinder to animals and the environment. All organic food avoids the use of pesticides, prohibits synthetic fertilisers and does not allow any GM ingredients. In processed organic foods, hydrogenated fats and controversial additives that have been linked to behavioural problems, including aspartame, tartrazine, and MSG, are banned – meaning more healthy food for a healthier mother and baby.

If you are looking for organic products, check that there is an official symbol from a certification body indicating that rules and standards have been followed. For foods to be labelled as organic, at least 95% of the ingredients must come from organically produced plants and animals.

“A study from UC Berkeley found that infants are much more susceptible than adults to the effect of pesticides.1″

WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS ABOUT PESTICIDES?

Non-organic farmers have a choice of over 300 chemicals to kill weeds, insects and other pests that attack crops, and these pesticides can stay with the produce once it has left the farm. A study from UC Berkeley found that infants are much more susceptible than adults to the effect of pesticides.1

WHY CHOOSE ORGANIC?

A landmark paper published in the British Journal of Nutrition2 found there are significant differences in the nutritional content of organic and non-organic crops. The paper found fruit, vegetables and cereals, and crop-based foods are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than non-organic crops. The findings shatter the myth that how we farm does not affect the quality of the food we eat.

This year, a ground-breaking study published by the British Journal of Nutrition has further confirmed that organic food contains more nutrients. The journal study has proven that organic meat and dairy contains up to 50% more Omega 3 fatty acids than their non-organic counterparts.3

For pregnant and breastfeeding mums, who have a higher requirement for Omega 3 fatty acids, organic milk could be the best option. Dutch government-funded research found that mothers who eat organic dairy products and drink organic milk had more beneficial nutrients in their breast milk. Furthermore, organic milk-drinking mums’ children were over a third less likely to suffer with eczema up to their second birthday,4 and links have recently been established between Omega 3 fatty acids and a reduction in childhood aggression.5 Organic milk is also higher in nutrients like vitamins A and E, iron, and potassium.

“The findings shatter the myth that how we farm does not affect the quality of the food we eat.”

In the past it’s been found that organic milk had lower levels of iodine than conventional milk. This is now being addressed by OMSco. The Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative, or OMSCo, is responsible for supplying approximately 65% of organic milk in the UK. The cooperative has been taking steps to increase the levels of iodine in the milk, via iodine supplementation and/or the use of iodine based teat disinfectors during milking. By early 2015, OMSco’s organic milk achieved iodine levels comparable with non-organic milk. Iodine content in non-organic milk can vary widely as farmers can supplement their cows with as much or as little as they want to. Buying organically certified milk means that there is a minimum requirement that must be met, so it’s one way to be sure of your iodine intake.

Buying organic is becoming increasingly popular. The organic market has demonstrated continued growth and organic products are becoming more and more available. Because of organic regulations and organisations like OMSCo, organic milk prices have not been affected by plummeting ‘farmgate’ milk prices, which means that organic milk farmers are paid a fair price. When you buy organic you are paying for the welfare of farmers and animals as well as numerous nutritional benefits for you and for baby.

IS ORGANIC AFFORDABLE?

You might be surprised at just how affordable organic produce is – and there are various ways to buy it! One way is to join an organic buying group. In a nutshell, organic buying groups are a collection of people who want fresh organic food, pooling together to order produce in bulk directly from farmers or suppliers – meaning good quality food at a more affordable price. If there isn’t already a local buying group in your area, why not set one up?

Box schemes are a great way to get fresh, healthy, organic produce delivered straight to your door. Organisations like Riverford Organics and Abel & Cole make it really easy and have a wide range of fruits and vegetables as well as meat and dairy. You can find out more by visiting our website www.soilassociation.org/organic-living/

“Box schemes are a great way to get fresh, healthy, organic produce delivered straight to your door.”

Another option is to become a member of the Soil Association, which gives you access to ‘Organic Connect’, a directory of suppliers, independent retailers, producers and organic buying groups across the country – including special membership discounts. If you join today, you’ll receive a free copy of ‘Discover Organic’, the hard-backed recipe book full of delicious organic recipes (as well as other goodies!) www.soilassociation.org/support/

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

The Soil Association is the UK’s leading organics organisation. For more information on organics, visit. www.soilassociation.org

1 Huen at al. Developmental Changes in PON1 Enzyme Activity in Young Children and Effects of PON1 Polymorphisms. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2009 June. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0900870 (available at http://dx.doi.org/)
2 Baranski et al. (2014) Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition 112, 794-811. http://research.ncl.ac.uk/nefg/QOF/crops/page.php?page=1
3 “Higher PUFA and omega-3 PUFA, CLA, a-tocopherol and iron, but lower iodine and selenium concentrations in organic bovine milk: A systematic literature review and meta- and redundancy analysis”. Carlo Leifert et al. British Journal of Nutrition http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FBJN%2FBJN115_06%2FS0007114516000349a.pdf&code=d30304da0a612a25d36eebf438633b36
4 Rist, L., Mueller, A., Barthel, C., Snijders, B., Jansen, M., Simões-Wüst, a P., … Thijs, C. (2007). Influence of organic diet on the amount of conjugated linoleic acids in breast milk of lactating women in the Netherlands. The British Journal of Nutrition, 97(4), 735–743. http://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114507433074
Kummeling et al, 2007. Consumption of organic foods and risk of atopic disease during the first 2 years of life in the Netherlands, Louis Bolk Institute Department of Health Care and Nutrition, Driebergen, the Netherlands. British Journal of Nutrition (2007).
5 Richmond TS, Raine A, and Cheney RA, et al. Nutritional supplementation to reduce child aggression: a randomized, stratified, sing-blind, factorial trial. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2016

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