Eat less if you can't afford organic - Vivienne Westwood

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Marie Antoinette reportedly suggested that starving peasants should eat cake; now, a modern grande dame says that those that can't afford to buy organic should eat less.

While delivering a petition to Downing Street condemning genetically modified foods, millionaire fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood spoke to a BBC Radio 5 Live reporter who pointed out that not everybody can afford organic food.

And her response? That such people should "eat less".

"You've got all these processed foods, which is the main reason people are getting fat. They're not actually good for you - they don't give you strength, they give you weight," she said.

Westwood has expressed similar views in the past, suggesting last year that both clothes and food should cost more than they do: "Something is wrong when you can buy a cooked chicken for £2," she said.

The jury is still out on whether organic food is really healthier than non-organic. In 2009, a Food Standards Agency (FSA) study found no substantial differences or significant nutritional benefits from organic food.

However, more extensive research from Newcastle University earlier this year found that switching to organic fruits, vegetable and cereals gave people the same amount of extra antioxidants as one or two extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

"This study demonstrates that choosing food produced according to organic standards can lead to increased intake of nutritionally desirable antioxidants and reduced exposure to toxic heavy metals," says Professor Carlo Leifert, who led the study.

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Pros and Cons of Buying Organic Foods

But what's not in doubt is the extra cost of eating organic - indeed, of eating healthy food at all. Last month, it was revealed consuming 1,000 calories-worth of healthy food costs £7.49, compared with £2.50 for less healthy foods.

And, according to the University of Cambridge researchers, the gap between healthy and non-healthy is widening.

"The increase in the price difference between more and less healthy foods is a factor that may contribute towards growing food insecurity, increasing health inequalities, and a deterioration in the health of the population," says lead author Nicholas Jones.

Westwood suggests that eliminating junk food would make organic more affordable, explaining: "If there was a movement to produce more organic food and less of the horrible food, then organic food would obviously be a good value price, wouldn't it?"

The Soil Association, which campaigns for organic foods, suggests that it is possible to eat organically without breaking the bank. It suggests signing up to an organic box scheme; cooking food from scratch and freezing extra portions; growing your own vegetables and keeping chickens.

However, organic boxes can cost very dear - and chickens don't take too well to windowboxes. Shoppers might be better advised to head for Aldi, which recently launched its own range of organic produce, in some cases costing a quarter of the prices elsewhere.

Cut the cost of groceries

Cut the cost of groceries

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