The debate over whether organically farmed foods, those raised without the use of toxic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, are really healthier than conventionally raised foods has been going on for quite some time. Of course, it’s understood that certain large commercial food producers have a lot invested in the assumption that there really is no difference between the two. Naturally, common sense would tell us an apple that has not been sprayed with pesticide is healthier than one that has been. Now, a very large study has finally settled the issue and we don’t have to assume anymore; organic fruits and vegetables aren’t just less toxic, but significantly more nutritious than their conventional counterparts.
The most comprehensive comparative analysis of organic and conventional foods ever performed was funded by the European Union and Sheepdrove Trust, and published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Utilizing 343 international studies comparing organic and conventional produce, results showed the nutritional difference between the two to be so striking, that switching to an all-organic diet could equal up to two additional servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
“The crucially important thing about this research is that it shatters the myth that how we farm does not affect the quality of the food we eat,” said Helen Browning, chief executive of the Soil Association, who was not involved in the study.
Results showed that organic produce contains between 19% and 69% more antioxidants than conventional fruits and vegetables. Although no studies have been conducted to confirm the long-term health benefits of an all-organic diet, it stands to reason that a higher intake of antioxidants will naturally provide us with even greater protection against the free radical damage we already know contributes to a wide range of diseases. Researchers noted that antioxidants such as those found in higher concentrations in organic foods, “have previously been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers.”
Reduced Exposure to Toxins
Researchers also found that conventional produce and grains were four times more likely to contain pesticide residues and significantly higher concentrations of the heavy metal, cadmium. Of course, commercial agriculture was quick to downplay these results, minimizing the nutritional differences and completely ignoring the pesticide issue. Their main argument was that encouraging people to eat more organic produce is actually cost prohibitive and would lead to worse health because people would end up eating less fruits and vegetables overall.
“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,” said lead author Carlo Leifert of Newcastle University. “This constitutes an important addition to the information currently available to consumers which until now has been confusing and in many cases is conflicting.”
Better Meat & Dairy
In case you’re wondering, a later study also published in the British Journal of Nutrition found organic meat and milk to be more nutritious than conventional, as well. Organic milk and meat contain 50% more healthy Omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent heart disease, 40% more conjugated linoleic acid, along with slightly higher levels of iron, vitamin E and some carotenoids.
This significant study confirms that it’s not just what we eat that matters but how it’s raised, and in the case of animal products, what they eat, as well. When we are good stewards of the earth, respecting the animals, plants, and soil involved in the farming process will bless us in return with what it yields.
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