Is organic food more nutritious than food produced via conventional methods? As a nutrition editor for EatingWell magazine,
it's my job to stay up on the studies that look at this very question. On July 29 researchers from the London School of
Hygiene & Tropical Medicine reported that there was no nutritional difference between organic and conventionally produced
foods. End of story? I don't think so. Some studies show organics are more nutritious. Consider these findings:
- 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."
- 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.
The jury is still out on whether organic food does or doesn't contain more nutrients than conventionally produced foods. That
said, there's at least one more good argument for eating organic-fewer pesticides. While I've never been a purist about
eating only organic, now that I'm a mom, there are some foods I feel more comfortable about buying organic. Apples
are one of these foods. So are
. Find out which
10 other foods you should buy organic
and which 15 are
considered the least commonly contaminated.
Apples and strawberries are on the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) "Dirty
Dozen" list of foods that have the highest pesticide residues. EWG, a nonprofit organization, identifies the
types of fruits and vegetables that are most likely to have higher trace amounts of pesticides based on the results of tens
of thousands of USDA and FDA tests for pesticides.
Long-term exposure to pesticides has been associated with cancer, infertility and neurologic
conditions, such as Parkinson's. (So buying organic can help protect farm workers who are repeatedly exposed to
Small doses of pesticides are far more dangerous to children (whose bodies are smaller and
nervous systems are still developing) than to adults.
You can remove some pesticide residues with washing but pesticides can be absorbed into fruits and
vegetables, and leave trace residues. Many of the pesticides stay in the peel, so discarding the skin can reduce
residues significantly-by up to 98 percent, according to a 2008 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry study. But ditch
the peel and you lose out on a lot of fiber and many of the antioxidants.
Bottom line: I think that the most important thing you can do for your health is to eat lots fruits and vegetables-whether
they're organic or not, they're full of helpful nutrients. I do think that if you're shopping for a young child (like I am)
buying some types of food organic makes good sense-from a pesticide perspective. And certainly buying organic is healthier
for the environment because it mandates more sustainable farming practices and helps to reduce the amount of chemicals that
leach into our soil and water.