Why are my carrots pink? And other FAQ about organic food…
A Beautiful Intention Post
I think it’s quite clear by now that I love fresh ingredients and where possible I use organic vegetables.
That said, organic doesn’t necessarily mean the expensive high end supermarket vegetables and to tell you the truth, I don’t actually remember the last time I was in such a shop. So what is organic food really and what is all the fuss about?
Part of the Beautiful Intention lifestyle is knowing where our food comes from and as a result, supporting more local business in a roundabout way. If you have been following my journey for a while you will know some of the suppliers that I use and work with, such as The Munching Mongoose, Pauli’s Food Company and Farm Fresh Online to name a few examples.
The common thread between all the above and myself is the basic food philosophy which is fresh, natural, local, uncomplicated, nutritious and conscious consumerism (in a nutshell).
About the pink carrots
So before I give you the expert opinions, let me tell you where the inspiration for this post came from… I had received my amazing box from The Munching Mongoose one week which contained some delicious carrots. Some of my carrots were a beautiful pinky red, some were good old orange carrots and immediately I thought that they always say organic means it’s not necessarily a uniform colour or shape… but pink carrots seem quite odd. The title of this post popped into my head and I thought this would be a great opportunity to share some info.
Right away, I went to the experts to get their informed opinions and useful information about organic food so that I can bring it to you and they were kind enough to oblige me.
Brad Meiring from The Munching Mongoose
What is organic? In a time where food options are boundless and people have become accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it, from wherever they want it, it seems that we have lost touch a little with what food actually is, where it comes from and the impact our choices have on the world around us as well as our health.
With so many terms bantered around and considering the vast “grey area” around the legislation, certification and enforcement of the organic industry, particularly in South Africa, it is easy to be drawn in by marketing speak.
In essence though, organic food is just food – good, clean, ethical, wholesome and real food. It is grown following natural principals without the addition of chemicals or unnatural stimulants. It is about respect. Respect for the produce, respect for the environment, respect for your health and respect for the future of the communities in which we live. It is about using natural products, sustainable methodologies and most importantly it is about the health of the soil, which translates into far more nutritionally complete produce. Without healthy, clean, complex and rich soil, nothing will grow well and pass on the benefit we seek when eating, and you cannot have this base when using chemicals, modified genetics or unnatural products.
“Organic”, and organic food is not rocket science… it is just good science.
At the Munching Mongoose we also believe that organic equates to joy and happiness and family. Happy families farming. Happy families cooking. Happy families eating. Just happy, healthy families!
Our organic fruit & veg does not always look as “perfect” as its store-bought counterparts – tomatoes may not be as perfectly round, or carrots as perfectly straight. Instead of seeing these as ‘defects’, we like to see them as the unique beauty and quirkiness that comes with letting plants grow naturally. And some may have one or two brown marks from being a little battered by the elements. Just like shape ‘defects’ this does not affect the taste or nutrition of your veggie – just chop the brown bits away and cook as per usual!
Our fruit and veg has not been genetically modified for a longer shelf-life – that being said, a lot of the original heirloom varieties are a lot stronger than you think! Some of them will outlive their store-bought counterparts in your fridge – some of them, sadly, will not – but they make up for it in nutrition and taste! To get optimum use out of your produce, it’s important to always correctly store your fruits & veggies. When you choose to buy organically grown produce, you are also choosing to eat with the seasons. For example tomatoes and eggplant grow best in Summer, whilst avocados and citrus like the cold weather.
Seasonal fruits and veggies provide a natural diversity and variety that encourage a well-rounded and balanced diet. Eating with the seasons means eating this natural variety, and this gives your body the nutritional balance it needs.
But what was the deal with the pink carrots?
Okay fine, so my special pink carrots were actually a variety of carrot, called Atomic Red Carrots, so yes, they tend to be a little redder than the normal orange carrots (and also a little sweeter). This bright colour is because they’re higher in Lycopene (another form of carotene), a pigment also found in tomatoes and watermelon. Good stuff!
I went one step further and had a chance to speak to a dietician to find out if there really is a difference and she really did give a very scientific, unbiased view. One thing from our conversation that I won’t forget is that we were discussing the “pretty looking” fruit and veggies from some shops, how long they last etc and we came to the conclusion that fresh produce is supposed to go off. That’s what it’s naturally meant to do and hey, if my apple goes mushy because it hasn’t been chemically treated or Ninja Turtled into some glossy immortal mutant apple, I am actually quite happy with that!
Monique Piderit – Dietician at Nutritional Solutions
South African organic produce includes various cereals, vegetables (mostly asparagus and potatoes), herbs, spices, fruits (mostly bananas, pears and mangos), avocados, nuts and Rooibos tea. Organic wine and olive oil is also produced and organic dairy farming is growing around the country.
Despite growing popularity, to date South Africa does not yet have an official certification system for organic farming and organic farming is not held to strict standards by law. This lack of regulation makes the SA consumer vulnerable to misleading claims by supposed organic fresh produce suppliers. Fresh produce like fruit and vegetables are the most commonly purchased organic foods.
While it may be argued that organic food may be healthier because of fewer pesticides or have less impact on the environment, at this point in time there does not appear to be convincing evidence of a substantial difference in nutritional quality of organic versus traditional produce.
In two large reviews of the research done to date, the authors concluded in both cases that there is little evidence of nutrition-related health benefits linked to the consumption of organically produced food. There are no disease-promoting benefits from eating an organic diet. However, there are also no detrimental or negative health effects from an organic diet.
While there have been small differences in nutrients shown in some studies, this may simply relate to differences in the way the produce is grown. It is likely that the nutrient content of fresh produce is affected by a variety of factors such as the geographic location of the farm, local soil characteristics, climatic conditions which vary seasonally, the maturity of the produce when picked, and how the produce is stored.
Organic food may be safer to consume since no pesticides are used during the farming process. Interestingly, South Africa is one of the largest consumers of pesticides in Africa (Hanford, 2014). Not only is the exposure of produce to pesticides of concern, but also the occupational exposure for farm workers. Alarmingly, evidence of pesticide exposure was seen in almost 9 in 10 Venezuelan farm workers in one study, particularly affecting male reproductive health.
The nervous system is particularly sensitive to toxins which could contribute to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The most prevalent findings on the role of pesticides in health centre around various cancers. Recently, pesticides have also been associated with hearing loss, diabetes and obesity. There are however many factors which could contribute to the development of disease.
In summary, while it seems that organic food is not necessarily more nutritious for us, it may be that the lower pesticide levels in organic foods is better for our overall health.
Visit Nutritional Solutions website here.
I would encourage, where possible, for people to attempt to limit their exposure to pesticide as far as possible by choosing organic fresh produce (when economically feasible), washing all fresh fruit and vegetables before preparation, and growing your own fresh produce with a home, school, church or community vegetable garden.
Nutritional Solutions, is a registered dietetic practice with all its dietitians registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA). They consult in various aspects of nutrition, including clinical nutrition counselling, consulting to the media, food industry, corporate clients and pharmaceutical companies. They also play an integral role in many public health promotion initiatives. The dietitians pride themselves on providing expert nutritional advice based on evidence based practices. Their objective is to provide all clients with the necessary knowledge and skills required to successfully optimise their nutritional health and well-being. The aim is to equip clients to live their healthiest life!
There you have it. The facts and stats, the opinions and the pink carrots! I hope that this inspires you to look up some local suppliers in your area (check out mine if you’re in Jozi or Pretoria areas) or at the very least to be more conscious about the food that you and your family are consuming daily.
A huge thank you to Brad and Monique for their input and time!
Feel free to ask any questions and share your own opinions, here and on any of my social platforms.