Ask Dr Libby: Is organic produce really better for you?

Try to consume vitamin C rich food every day as it helps to reduce inflammation and stimulates the immune system.

Try to consume vitamin C rich food every day as it helps to reduce inflammation and stimulates the immune system.

Q: Is organic produce really better for you? I'd appreciate your thoughts on this. Regards, Graeme

A: Despite all of our accomplishments in the world, we owe our existence to a 30-centimetre layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains. It is estimated that more than 3 billion tonnes of topsoil is eroded from United States farmlands each year, and soil is eroding seven times faster than it is being built up naturally. I don't have New Zealand statistics for this I'm sorry. In organic farming, soil is the foundation of the food chain, and it is tended as such. Often the only three nutrients that are added back to soils in conventional farming are nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, yet there are 52 others.

If a nutrient isn't in the soil, it can't be in the food and our body relies on daily doses of nutrients to sustain life. For this reason alone, it is so important to support organic, biodynamic and sustainable agriculture sooner rather than later for the health of people and the planet. Organic produce is labelled "certified organic" when it has been grown, raised, harvested and packaged without the use of pesticides, insecticides, growth hormones and antibiotics.

From a health perspective, when we choose organics we not only look after the health of our own body and immune system but also the health of our family, the health of our soil, and the health of our planet. So everyone wins, as all health begins with the quality of soil in which our food is grown.

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Q: I swear my daughter brings home a new bug from kindy each week and then it runs through the whole family. How can I protect us all from constantly getting sick? Thank you, Chloe.

A: The first place to start is to ensure that you are getting enough vitamin C. Vitamin C helps to reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system to produce white blood cells and help them move to the site of infection faster. Try increasing your intake of broccoli, kale, citrus fruit, kiwifruit and asparagus, and ensure that you are consuming vitamin C rich food each day, as this is not a nutrient the body can store.

B vitamins are found in whole grains like quinoa, millet, brown rice and oats, as well as dark-green leafy vegetables. B vitamins help to regulate the immune response and amount of antibodies produced to fight an infection. If you follow a gluten-free or grain-free diet, you may like to consider a B vitamin supplement to ensure adequate intake.

You may also like to consider using echinacea, as it has been used as an immune system supporting herb for centuries. It is best used long term and helps to modulate the number of white blood cells present, which are what fight infection in the body. I advise that you consult with a medical herbalist for guidance with dosage and use of echinacea.

Finally, the overall quality of each family member's diet might need to be looked at, as infection can only take hold if the environment (the state of the body) allows this. This might mean reducing the amount of processed foods consumed, increasing the vegetable content of meals and/or omitting any food sensitivities. Staying warm and out of the wind can also make a big difference to some people's ability to prevent infection.

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* Dr Libby is touring the country with her new seminar From Surviving to Thriving: what every woman needs to know. More information and tickets are available from

 - Stuff


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