Organic is Healthier, More Nutritious, and Tastes Better


Studies show that organic food is more nutritious than non-organically produced

They may also contain higher concentrations of antioxidants which ward off cancer and heart disease. Apparently, "the health benefits were so striking that moving to organic food was the equivalent of eating an extra portion of fruit and vegetables every day."

More Nutrients
Over a two year period, organically and conventionally grown apples, potatoes, pears, wheat, and sweet corn were purchased in the western suburbs of Chicago and analyzed for mineral content. Four to 15 samples were taken for each food group. On a per-weight basis, average levels of essential minerals were much higher in the organically grown than in the conventionally grown food. The organically grown food averaged 63% higher in calcium, 78% higher in chromium, 73% higher in iron, 118% higher in magnesium, 178% higher in molybdenum, 91% higher in phosphorus, 125% higher in potassium and 60% higher in zinc. The organically raised food averaged 29% lower in mercury than the conventionally raised food. [Journal of Applied Nutrition 1993, 45: 35-39, Organic foods vs. supermarket foods: Element levels (Synopsis)]

In 2007 a study out of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom reported that organic produce boasted up to 40 percent higher levels of some nutrients (including vitamin C, zinc and iron) than its conventional counterparts. Additionally, a 2003 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that organically grown berries and corn contained 58 percent more polyphenols—antioxidants that help prevent cardiovascular disease—and up to 52 percent higher levels of vitamin C than those conventionally grown. 

Recent research by that study’s lead author, Alyson Mitchell, Ph.D., an associate professor of food science and technology at the University of California, Davis, pinpoints a potential mechanism to explain why organic techniques may sometimes yield superior produce.

It’s a difference in soil fertility, says Mitchell: “With organic methods, the nitrogen present in composted soil is released slowly and therefore plants grow at a normal rate, with their nutrients in balance. Vegetables fertilized with conventional fertilizers grow very rapidly and allocate less energy to develop nutrients.”

A 2008 review by the Organic Center of almost 100 studies on the nutritional quality of organic produce compared the effects conventional and organic farming methods have on specific nutrients. The report’s conclusion: “Yes, organic plant-based foods are, on average, more nutritious.” 

More Antioxidants
In addition to the berry study mentioned above, scientists at the University of California in Davis grew two batches of kiwifruit; one organically and the other conventionally with the attendant cocktail of herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizer. Then compared the two. The organic ones showed 18% more polyphenols and 27% more antioxidant activity. Polyphenols, although sounding rather nasty, turn out to be good at reducing cholesterol, improving blood circulation and according to some studies, help in prevention of certain cancers. And antioxidants are said to be pretty effective at duelling with free radicals, known for damaging cells.

The study published in the peer-reviewed British journal of the Society of Chemical Industry, "suggests that the organic plants, thrown onto their own defenses against disease and predators, are more "stressed" and therefore produce more of these beneficial compounds." And it's not the first time such reseach has popped up. 

Better Taste
Chef and restaurateur, Dan Barber, will only use organic because he claims it tastes better. Is it true? A 2001 study by researchers at Washington State University concluded that organic apples were sweeter. Along with taste and sweetness, the texture and firmness of the apples were also rated higher than those grown conventionally. These differences are attributed to the greater soil quality resulting from organic farming techniques compared to those of conventional farming.

Ken over at The Cooksden, a cool foodie blog, put together an awesome video with his daughter. They wanted to test in as objective a manner as possible whether organic food tastes better than “normal” food. So they used the most unbiased critic they could find – her hamster Hammy. When all was said and done, Hammy chose organic. In over sixty percent of the trials that resulted in a clear selection, Hammy opted for the organic item. See the video.

Additionally, a survey from the UK's Organic Body and Soil Association shows that 72% people buy organic because it tastes better.

One explanation of why organic tastes better is that organic food contains less water than conventionally grown food. This is because conventional fertilization methods include nitrogen, which causes more water to be absorbed into the cells of the produce than when it is not fertilized with nitrogen. In fact, studies have shown that the use of nitrogen causes an increase of 5-30% more water in produce than in foods grown ecologically, which do not use nitrogen in fertilizer. 

Conventionally grown romaine contains 94.3% water, while ecologically grown romaine contains 92.3% water. Conventional cabbage has been shown to have about 1.1% more water than ecologically produced cabbage, and conventional spinach has almost 10% more water than its ecological counterpart. 

What you may be able to guess from these figures is that ecological produce has a greater percentage of dry components, which means a stronger flavor and more concentrated nutrients. Produce that contains more water will be more diluted in taste and in nutrition. According to the research above, the taste difference may be between 2-20% less in conventionally grown produce, depending on the increase in the percentage of water in the food. 

Another explanation to why organic tastes better is that since organic foods aren't protected by pesticides, organic fruits and vegetables they are under constant attack from bugs and blights of all kinds. This sounds like a bad thing but actually it's not.
When plants are under attack, they begin to ramp up production of their chemical defenses. This can mean releasing an aroma that attracts counter-attacking bugs (wasps for caterpillars, for instance), manufacturing something toxic or distasteful to the insects themselves, or producing an anti-fungal compound.

For us, these "defenses" translate directly into flavor and aroma.  Because they're not protected by pesticides, organic plants that suffer from insect attack can accumulate higher level of flavor chemicals and other protective molecules, including antioxidants.

But the biggest benefit of organic food is that they have less toxins in them; less things that we absorb in to our system that our bodies might not know how to deal with.

Thanks for reading! What do you think?

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  3. Hi, Great post. I like the way of your writing. After read this blog, I am planning to start taking organic foods. Let me know how to find difference between organic and conventional foods. Thanks for sharing useful information. Keep blogging.

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