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What are organic foods? Are they healthier?

15 Oct 2021 • 3 min read


It’s simpler than you think to save your health – and the planet at the same time!

Making organic lifestyle choices doesn’t have to cost the earth or be a huge effort.

It may mean you need to get a little creative, but that’s all.

Give these small changes a go.

Here, we help you delve a bit deeper into the world of organic food – what it is, what going organic involves and how you can embrace the organic way of living.

We also share plenty more practical insight, providing you with all you need to know about the organic way of life…

What are organic foods?

Choosing organic helps protect soils, ecosystems and biodiversity.

It’s letting nature do what she does best by interfering as little as possible, and is a great way to cut down on those health-harming chemicals entering your body and the environment.1

EU law requires all organic food and drink to be certified by a recognised institution - the Soil Association Certification is the UK’s leading organic certification body.

It carries out inspections and awards the title to farms and businesses that meet its strict standards, licensing more than 70% of the organic food on sale in the UK.

For products to be called organic, they must be made from ingredients that are sourced naturally rather than synthetically and have been created through purer processes.

For example, synthetic pesticides or fertilisers are not allowed, nor are any Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).2

According to official guidance published by the Government on organic food labelling rules, food and drink manufacturers can only label pre-packed foods ‘organic’ if at least 95% of the ingredients of agricultural origin are organic.

Meanwhile, retailers can only label products as being organic if:

  • At least 95% of the product’s farmed ingredients are organic
  • They sell directly to customers in their shop(s) – this applies to all retailers - from farm shops to supermarkets

Organic foods examples

So now we’ve explained what organic foods are and how they’re classed as being organic.

Organic fruit & organic vegetables

Here are some practical examples of some more obvious organic food switches you may want to make:3 4

  1. Apples

Apples are number one on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list because they’re the most heavily sprayed with pesticides.

According to the analysis, 99% of apples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue, even after being washed.

  1. Celery

Celery also features on the Dirty Dozen list because it contains 64 pesticide residues, 27 of which are hormone disruptors.

Choosing organic celery is a must and tends to be cheaper than most other organic fruit too.

  1. Strawberries

Strawberries are often prone to fungi attacks because they are delicate and soft. 

Because of this, farmers usually spray fungicides on them.

Meanwhile, 40%+ other pesticide residues are reportedly found on strawberries, with some reportedly being carcinogenic, hormone disruptive, neurotoxic and toxic to honey bees.

Don’t forget, it’s possible to buy frozen organic strawberries (which may be cheaper than fresh ones) too!

  1. Cherry tomatoes

According to the Dirty Dozen list, cherry toms contain 69 different pesticide residues.

Most of them are believed to be hormone disruptors, neurotoxins and toxic to reproductive health.

According to the Environmental Working Group, one cherry tomato alone contains 13 different pesticides.

  1. Cucumbers

Research published by the USDA Pesticide Data Program has linked cucumbers to 86 different pesticides.

Many of these pesticides are known carcinogens.

Most cucumbers are also covered by synthetic wax to protect them during shipping.

This wax is made up of chemical contaminants, so if you’re eating non-organic cucumbers, remove the skin.

To avoid the pesticide residues and synthetic waxes altogether, go organic.

  1. Spinach

54 pesticide residues are reportedly found on spinach; many of which are neurotoxic and toxic to honeybees.

The pesticide permethrin, used on spinach, is an insect repellent and believed to be carcinogenic, hormone disruptive and toxic to honey bees.

  1. White potatoes

According to the Environmental Working Group, the average potato contains more pesticides by weight than any other produce.

  1. Grapes

Most fruit, grapes included, is heavily sprayed with pesticides, with grapes containing 56 different pesticide residues.

The main pesticide reportedly kills honey bees and other important pollinators.

The Dirty Dozen list is published by the Environmental Working Group every year to help give shoppers a clearer picture of the food that contains the most pesticides.

It ranks the pesticide contamination of 46 popular fruits and vegetables and is based on results of more than 46,000 samples of produce tested by the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.


Organic products are made from ingredients that have been created using pure processes and sourced naturally rather than synthetically.

However, lots of non-organic fruit and veg, ranging from apples and spinach to grapes and celery, are full of chemicals and toxins, according to the Environmental Working Group.

What is an organic food shop?

Organic food shopping is a new twist on shopping.

The shopping element is exactly the same, it’s just that instead of buying traditionally-sourced food, you shop for organic alternatives instead.

Shopping organic isn’t actually as complicated as you may think it is at first, especially given the fact more-and-more organic products are being introduced every day.

Either choose food that’s clearly been labelled as organic or, if it’s not obvious, inspect the PLU stickers, which are a common fixture on loose fruit and veg.

If the produce is organic, the code will contain five digits, starting with 9. Non-organic produce has four digits.

For example, organically-grown bananas will be 94011, compared to 4011 for bananas that have been treated with chemicals and pesticides.5

In the meantime, here’s some practical guidance to help you get started with organic shopping:

  1. Stock up your store cupboards

Buying your store cupboard essentials in bulk is a great way to save money and makes sticking to organic principles easy!6

Foods, such as organic pasta, canned tomatoes, beans, grains and pulses, are easily found for the same price as non-organic items.

And a full store cupboard means you’ll always have something to hand to throw together a delicious meal without hunting around the food aisles for sometimes scarce organic essentials.

Oh and while we’re at it, with a whopping 96% of grapes testing positive for pesticide residues, it might be worth thinking about stocking up on some organic wine too!7

  1. Hit the farmers’ markets

Eating local produce during the right UK season is a great way to keep costs down.

Farmers’ markets are a fantastic way to find out directly from the producer exactly which produce has been grown or made in line with organic principles.

Plus the more we request organic produce face-to-face, the more likely, going forward, the farmer is to consider a more natural ethos as part of his business.

The power of the pound!

  1. Clean up your act

When’s the last time you looked at your laundry detergent or cleaning product’s ingredient list? We’ll bet never.

Try making your own all-purpose spray that can be used everywhere, from the bathroom to the kitchen to worktops and floors.

How to make homemade all purpose spray


Fill a spray bottle 2/3 with hot water.


Add 1/4 cup white vinegar, and 2 tbsp of organic washing up liquid.


Spray onto any dirty surfaces and wipe - simple!

  1. Go coconuts for natural beauty!

There are plenty of organic, natural, beauty products you can swap into your routine that could actually save you money.

Ingredients in your beauty products can cause the skin to become sore and sensitive and may be linked to disrupting the way our bodies work.

Think of switching to organic coconut oil – it’s the most fantastically versatile product.

Use it as a staple for hair masks, to moisturise the body, and face, and to remove make-up.

It’s been known to help with eczema and itchy scalp - and to top all this it doubles up as a cooking oil too. Again, buy in bulk to get the best bang for your buck.

  1. Get familiar with ACV

You can also mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with one cup of water and rinse your hair after washing for a fantastic shine.

Or use it as a facial toner.

How to make apple cider vinegar facial toner


Pour 1 part organic raw apple cider vinegar into a glass jar


Add 2 parts filtered water


Shake before use to combine the mixture


Apply using a cotton wool ball to freshly cleansed skin morning and night

Apple cider vinegar hair rinse recipe & benefits

Longing for a natural way to boost the health of your hair? An apple cider vinegar hair rinse could be just what your locks need!

  1. Buy by the box

Just as there are more organic products on the market now, there are also more creative ways to access organic produce too.

This includes organic box schemes that provide you with a wide variety of organic seasonal fruit, veg, dairy and meat products, delivered to your door.

  1. Eat seasonal food

Different food is in season at different times of the year, for instance, blackberries are in season in August.

Marrow is in season in August and September and swede at the very start (January and February) and end of the year (November and December).8

Eating food when it’s in season has multiple plus points.

The produce tends to be cheaper because there’s plenty of it and it doesn’t have to be imported from elsewhere.

Next time you’re shopping, take a look at the labels to see which country the produce you’re buying is from. And if you can, choose UK-grown produce.

  1. Grow your own

Have you thought about growing your own fruit and veg?

Because there’s no better way of knowing exactly what’s in your fruit and veg than producing your own (providing you have the space, time and patience to do so).

You don’t have to grow masses either, start small with some herbs on a windowsill or a couple of tomato or pepper plants.

Then, when you’re more into the swing of growing your own.

Look to grow more pots of tomatoes or peppers or branch out into growing potatoes, carrots, courgettes, lettuces…the GYO possibilities are endless and incredibly rewarding!

  1. Go organic bit-by-bit

Organic shopping doesn’t have to 100% happen overnight.

As you’re getting your mind around this new way of thinking and eating, it’s perfectly possible to buy just a few organic products at a time, and then gradually increase them with each food shop.


Organic food shopping is all about changing your mindset to organic mode.

This involves eating food that’s in season, checking labels for country of origin and 5-digital organic codes, buying organic food boxes, visiting farmers’ markets and growing your own.


The organic market, which organic food is a part of, is growing in popularity by the day.

According to the latest statistics from the Soil Association, the entire organic market, including food, clothing, cosmetics and other products, increased to £2.79billion last year, a rise of 12.6% on 2019.

Whether you are already part of the organic movement or the idea of shopping organic really appeals to you now, it’s something we can all embrace, starting with just one thing at a time.

It’s a lifestyle change with widespread benefits, not just for us individuals, but for the planet as a whole.

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 15 October 2021


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