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Podcast: The Origins Of Organic Food And Why We Should Take It More Seriously

20/10/2015 8:18 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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The science of nutrition is, and always has been, a confounding mess. Are carbohydrates good or bad? Do you really need to banish fat from your diet? Can salt actually cause irreparable harm? The answer to these questions changes every few years. Add to this the plethora of diets that keep coming in and going out of fashion every few months, and you're left confused about what really is healthy. However, the one trend that has been consistent is the organic food movement.

Organic farming is a form of agriculture that does not use artificial pesticides or fertilisers, relying instead on natural ways of growing crops. Much like the Palaeolithic diet, organic food, as a concept, involves going back to our roots. It's evident that organic farming was once the only way we knew how to farm. Forest gardening, for example, has an ancient history, and features practices that are similar to organic farming. Reader's Digest says it perfectly in this article about the facts of organic farming - "Before World War II, all crops were organic. It was only afterward that farms used new, synthetic pesticides and chemicals to minimize weed, insects, and rodent damage."

The article goes on to point out that while organic farming isn't new, what has changed, is our understanding of the harmful effects of chemicals and pesticides that are used in large-scale farming. However, whether there really are sufficient health benefits of eating only organic produce is debatable. This article by Vox is a good read; it explains the finer points of the organic food debate, and brings to attention facts that are often glossed over by proponents of organic food.

Of course, it would be thoughtless to argue that organic food has absolutely no benefits. But, regardless of the debate, wellness is just one side of the coin. Another USP of organic produce is its taste and variety. In the episode, agriculturalist Shishir Chachad tells Vikram about the several vegetables and fruits that are now mostly produced on a smaller scale. Black moong, rakthshali rice, karonda, snap melon... these are lovely products and excellent ingredients.

And the taste? Well, it may be a matter of personal perception, but a report in National Geographic's food section references a study that explains how organic food might taste better than conventional produce. "Studies considered in the BJN paper show that higher antioxidant levels affect food's organoleptic qualities - taste, aroma, and mouthfeel - and how the human senses detect a food's unique flavor," the article states.

Most of us may not consider these points while shopping for organic produce. The rich taste and varied produce are oft-ignored aspects of organic farming. But, remember, nature can, sometimes, be the best creator of flavours.

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