Nuts are very healthy, indeed
Nuts are incredible for a range of reasons. Organic nuts have heart-healthy unsaturated fats, which assist in reducing inflammation and heart disease risk. They’re also loaded with important minerals like magnesium, zinc, selenium and manganese. These minerals are crucial to the everyday function of our immune system, plus maintaining skin health and hormone function.
Importantly, nuts are among some of the best food sources of vitamin E. Vitamin E is a vital antioxidant used by the body to quench free radicals, preventing cell and DNA damage. Of course, we know that nuts are an important dietary source of fibre and polyphenols, which help digestive health. And they're rich in protein, which helps build muscle, immune cells and ... well protein is essential for almost everything in the body!
So we know nuts form an important part of most healthy diets.
The question remains - are organic nuts healthier?
What are organic nuts?
Simply put, organic nuts are those that are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. They may also be organic if they are grown following organic farming standards.
Why should we eat organic nuts?
There's some small and big reasons why organic nuts (and organic food generally) are a better choice for us as consumers. While it may be true that the cost of organic produce is higher, the long-term cost on the environment and our health may arguably be higher.
Before we get into the health reasons why organic nuts are healthier, let's glance at the macro-level argument for choosing organic produce.
Eating organic nuts is better for the environment
Firstly, buying from organic producers supports small, local businesses.
Organic farmers have a tough time competing with the larger food producers. Their practices are often done on a smaller scale than conventional farming. That means organic farmers are more likely to be independent, family-owned businesses. It can be a huge challenge for small businesses like organic farming producers to make a living doing what they love. Buying organic nuts helps support these small farmers and keeps them in business.
We also know that organic farming has a positive impact on the environment and local ecosystems.
Organic farming practices help keep water and soil clean and help preserve biodiversity. Organic farming is better for the environment because it doesn't rely on chemical inputs that can pollute water and soil. Organic farming also encourages the use of crop rotation and cover crops to improve soil health and prevent erosion.
The use of pesticides and herbicides in conventional farming can contaminate water supplies and harm wildlife. It turns out, bees and beneficial insects form an important part of the life cycle of plants, crops and soil. There's a regenerative and restorative effect to organic and biodynamic farming, which is worth getting behind.
Some people even say organic nuts taste better than conventionally-grown nuts. This is because traditional farming methods prioritise yield over quality, healthy food. Hence, the look and size of conventionally-grown food may be impressive, but the taste? It can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. Consequently, organic nuts may have a better overall flavour than their conventionally-grown counterparts.
Let's now flip the conversation and look at the harmful effects of pesticides. Now we can really appreciate just why organic nuts are better for you.
Organic nuts are lower in pesticides
Organic nuts have low or no pesticides. Pesticides are used in agriculture to protect crops from insects, fungi, and weeds. However, these chemicals can remain on crops, fruits and vegetables even after they are harvested.
Pesticides are designed to kill living things. That means they can be harmful if they build up in your body over time. Studies have linked pesticide exposure to a variety of health problems, including cancer, reproductive damage, and endocrine disruption.
Organic nuts are grown without the use of pesticides, so you don't have to worry about the accumulation of these harmful chemicals in your body.
There are plenty of harmful compounds in pesticides, one of which is cadmium. Cadmium is a heavy metal that's commonly found in cigarettes and phosphate fertilisers. Cadmium, like all heavy metals, accumulates in the soil and is taken up by plants. Cadmium toxicity has been linked to kidney damage, bone demineralisation, and cancer.
Pesticides Cause Harm To Your Health
A 2019 study from Aydin & Ulvi examined a range of dried fruits, nuts and seeds for pesticide residue. The results showed that 'pesticide residue was detected in 29% of the samples' at minimum levels. Levels of thiacloprid and imidacloprid exceeded the maximum residue limit as determined by the study methods. These and many other pesticide compounds have been known to cause acute and chronic health issues in both children and adults.
Several other studies have echoed these findings. A 2020 study by Pascale & Laborde examined the impact of pesticides and their effect on childhood development. They agree that there's a correlation between 'chronic, low-level exposures and alterations in growth and development.' There are also strong links between delayed neurodevelopment, behavioural issues, cancer and an increased risk of infections with pesticide exposure.
Summary: Organic Nuts Are Good For You & The Environment
Organic nuts are definitely healthier than their conventionally-grown counterparts. Whether you're concerned about your health, and the environment, or supporting small farmers, organic nuts are a great choice. Despite their higher price point, considering the long-term cost of chronic exposure to harmful compounds, such as pesticides, is worthwhile.
The truth is, pesticides and potentially harmful chemicals are everywhere in urban communities. From council parks and playgrounds, and sporting grounds to cleaning products and cosmetics in the home - we are constantly exposed to them.
So, while it may seem like an insurmountable task, limiting our exposure is still an essential step towards maintaining long-term health. Choosing to buy and consume organic produce, such as organic nuts is a great way to ensure you're making healthy choices for yourself and your family.
Aydın, S., & Ulvi, M. (2019). Residue levels of pesticides in nuts and risk assessment for consumers. Quality Assurance and Safety of Crops & Foods. https://pubag.nal.usda.gov/catalog/6816670
Dahiri, B., Martín-Reina, J., Carbonero-Aguilar, P., Aguilera-Velázquez, J. R., Bautista, J., & Moreno, I. (2021). Impact of Pesticide Exposure among Rural and Urban Female Population. An Overview. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(18), 9907. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18189907
Matich, E. K., Laryea, J. A., Seely, K. A., Stahr, S., Su, L. J., & Hsu, P. C. (2021). Association between pesticide exposure and colorectal cancer risk and incidence: A systematic review. Ecotoxicology and environmental safety, 219, 112327. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2021.112327
Pascale, A., & Laborde, A. (2020). Impact of pesticide exposure in childhood. Reviews on environmental health, 35(3), 221–227. https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh-2020-0011
Suratman, S., Edwards, J. W., & Babina, K. (2015). Organophosphate pesticides exposure among farmworkers: pathways and risk of adverse health effects. Reviews on environmental health, 30(1), 65–79. https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh-2014-0072
Theodore, L. E., Kellow, N. J., McNeil, E. A., Close, E. O., Coad, E. G., & Cardoso, B. R. (2021). Nut Consumption for Cognitive Performance: A Systematic Review. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 12(3), 777–792. https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmaa153
Wikipedia Contributors. (2022, October 20). Cadmium poisoning. Retrieved from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadmium_poisoning, viewed October 20 2022