The basic argument for eating organic is familiar: food that contains residues of pesticides and fertilizers introduce negative elements that undermine good nutrition.
But recent research indicates that there’s more value to organic foods than just the absence of harmful chemicals. The growing evidence shows that organic foods are considerably more nutritious than non-organic foods.
- “Organically” – no pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers were used
- “Sustainably” – no pesticides or herbicides were used, but crops were treated with artificial fertilizers
- “Conventionally” – chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer were used
There was no surprise really that the higher amounts of polyphenolics were found in the crops that didn’t receive pesticides. When stressed by insects, plants produce more polyphenolics, which act as a natural pesticide. Plants that are treated with pesticides don’t need further protection, so they produce fewer polyphenolics.
What was not expected was the data showing that the antioxidant levels were slightly higher in the sustainably grown group compared to the organic group. The sustainably grown corn had the highest polyphenolic content – almost 60 percent higher than the conventionally grown corn.
The conclusion: Foods grown with artificial fertilizer, but without pesticides or herbicides, may contain the highest concentration of antioxidants. Why these fertilizers gave antioxidants a slight boost in foods that were otherwise organic is not clear. But I would hope that further studies might compare the use of artificial fertilizers with natural organic fertilizers.
Meanwhile, the U.C. Davis researchers plan to conduct a similar “organic/sustainable/conventional” study to test the antioxidant levels in tomatoes, broccoli, and peppers.
Earlier work by the same British research team proved that eating salicylic-rich foods translates into higher blood concentrations of the acid, which previous research has shown to fight certain types of cancer as well as plaque build up in the arteries.
And while it seems like a coincidence, it’s probably no coincidence at all that, like polyphenolics, salicylic acid is believed to be produced by plants as a natural defense mechanism against pesticides.
Typically, organic foods cost more and are a little harder to find than conventionally grown foods. But if you’ve been reluctant to pay extra just to avoid pesticides, the growing evidence indicates that you’ll be getting not only safer, but also much more nutritious foods.
To Your Good Health,Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences InstituteSources:
“Comparison of the Total Phenolic and Ascorbic Acid Content of Freeze-Dried and Air-Dried Marionberry, Strawberry, and Corn Grown Using Conventional, Organic, and Sustainable Agricultural Practices” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2003 Feb 26;51(5):1237-41
“Organic and Sustainable Foods Have More Polyphenolics Linked to Health Benefits” U.C. Davis News & Information, 3/7/03, news.ucdavis.edu
“More Antioxidants in Organic Food Than conventionally Grown Food” Dr. Joseph Mercola, mercola.com
“Organically Grown Foods Higher In Cancer-fighting Chemicals Than Conventionally Grown Foods” American Chemical Society, 3/4/03, chemistry