1. Does organic food could cut health risks?
Choosing organic foods means fewer synthetic pesticides and toxic heavy metals make their way on to your plate. High pesticide levels have been linked to the prevalence of ADHD and reduced sperm quality in men. A 2014 meta-analysis published by the British Journal of Nutrition showed that organically grown crops are likely to contain fewer pesticides, as well as being 48 per cent less likely to contain cadmium, which can accumulate in organs such as the kidneys and liver. A largescale French study that tracked nearly 70,000 adults over five years found that people who ate organic produce, dairy and meat on a regular basis had 25 per cent fewer cancers than people who never ate organic. Regular consumers of organic food particularly men, also reported a lower risk of type II diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
2. Are pesticides problematic?
Some research regarding the use of pesticides appears to coalesce around the conclusion that large amounts are harmful. In 2015, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), concluded that glyphosate “probably causes cancer in humans.” The compound is the active substance in some of the world’s most widely used weed killers. The GCC countries have banned its use, although federal agencies in several other countries allow it. A 2018 study of 325 women linked pesticide exposure with poorer pregnancy outcomes among women being treated for infertility.
In the UAE, imports are regularly screened for safety and there are many pesticide-free products available. Local tomato producer Pure Harvest Smart Farms, for example, uses a climate-controlled system developed in the Netherlands to grow about pesticide-free tomatoes in the UAE.
3. Is home-grown food more nutritious?
Studies have found that eating locally grown food pays off in terms of nutritional value and that cutting transit times from farm to fork is better for our health. One study from the University of California shows that vegetables may lose between 15 to 77 per cent of their vitamin C content within seven days of being harvested. Some spinach can lose 90 per cent within 24 hours of being gathered. Locavore eating also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, although what you eat is far more important than where your food comes from.
4. Seasonal eating provides greater nutritional variety
Choosing fruit and vegetables when they are in season may have health benefits. Seasonality is a term used to describe the harvesting and consumption of produce when it is at its natural peak. In the UAE, vegetables such as radish, cauliflower, cabbage and celery should be harvested in the winter, while dates ripen at the end of the summer. Arugula, pumpkin, zucchini and cucumber are perennials, according to recommendations from the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. Besides freshness and quality reasons, seasonal eating encourages a varied diet. UAE residents are used to eating imported food that is out of season, but a greater availability of homegrown produce means more alternatives are now available. Either way, changing up your plate regularly can give you a variety of important vitamins and minerals that you might not obtain from eating the same vegetables and fruit year in and year out.
5. The jury’s out on hormones in meat
Meat products without added hormones have been available in UAE supermarkets for several years now. Natural estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and their synthetic versions influence animals’ growth rate. Several countries permit their use in beef and sheep, but the EU bans them outright, and uncertainty remains over their impact on human health. Overall, scientific opinion seems to coalesce around the fact that hormone residues in the meat we eat remain extremely low – leaving the choice to the individual. All meat sold in the UAE complies with federal regulations that require hormone residues to be below maximum approved levels. That’s true for all food sold in the UAE – so don’t fret if your wallet can’t keep up.