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5 min read
The health and environmental impacts of organic foods can be a really challenging area to navigate, and evidence in the two areas are not always aligned. Read more to hear about the evidence in this space and the place organic foods may have in your healthy and sustainable eating journey...

Are organic foods better for health?

Simply put, no. There is insufficient evidence to support that organic foods are more nutritious than non-organic foods. However, eating local, seasonal and organic fruits and vegetables will likely have environmental benefits and reduce the environmental impact of your food choices.


The known health benefits come from eating whole fruits and vegetables, preferably in season as they’re fresh and often spend less time travelling or in storage. However, the health and environmental experts at Eat Sustainably recommend that if you can find and afford local, seasonal, organic and unpackaged fresh fruits and vegetables, they are more aligned to a healthy and sustainable diet due to the environmental benefits.


Are organic foods better for the environment?                                

Growing, rearing or producing organic food involves a whole system approach, meaning it considers the soil, plants, animals, food, people and the environment. Farmers therefore need to use more innovative methods as they don’t use artificial fertilisers and synthetic chemicals. Buying organic foods, especially Australian grown or reared foods, means you’re supporting these farmers in these more environmentally friendly practices.


Importantly, it’s worth considering the environmental impact of the food packaging and the distance it has travelled. A large proportion of the overall environmental impact of a food is due to the energy and resources involved in its processing, packaging or storage. So, although farming practices are more supportive of environmental sustainability, if the demand for perishable organic foods is less, such as fruit and vegetables, they are more often wrapped in single use plastics to increase their shelf life. They may also be stored in a refrigerator for longer (using energy) as they don’t move as quickly out the door. Regardless of the changes in nutrient composition over time, if foods are packaged in plastics (that often end up in landfill) and stored for longer, the environmental impact of this stage of the food supply chain will be greater than buying local, seasonal loose fruits and vegetables – with no plastic packaging!


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