Are Organic Foods Really Better for You?

Posted on by Ellen Kittredge

This is a very relevant question to ask when making decisions about where to spend your hard-earned dollars. Frequently, though not always, organic foods cost more than non-organic or conventionally raised foods. Is the higher price really worth it? There are many reasons to buy organic besides purely human health, but according to a recent Washington State University study, which looked at the nutritional differences between organic and conventional strawberries, it seems organic really is a better choice. The researchers involved in the study tested 26 commercial strawberry operations in the state of California over a period of 2 years to reach the conclusion that organic strawberries really are better for you. What they found specifically is that the organic strawberries had significantly higher concentrations of antioxidants and vitamin C. Interestingly enough (and this was a surprise to the researchers) the researchers also found that the organic fruit lasted about a half-day longer than conventional. They were expecting the conventional strawberries to have a longer shelf-life, but this was not the case. This recent study (September 2010) that just focused on one food is not all we have to look to, however, to make a determination about the health benefits of organic produce. In fact, the evidence cited in the Washington State University study just seems to corroborate the findings in a March 2008 review of published research on organic foods. According to the report, “New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods,” which examined 97 published studies since 1980, “organic plant-based foods are, on average, more nutritious.” In this review of the published studies, the researchers looked at the following:
  • Four measures of antioxidants (total phenolics, total antioxidant capacity, quercetin, kaempferol)
  • Three precursors of key vitamins (vitamins A, C, and E)
  • Two minerals (potassium and phosphorous)
  • Nitrates (higher levels are a nutritional disadvantage)
  • Total protein.
What they found was that the organic foods within these matched pairs were nutritionally superior in 145 matched pairs, or 61% of the cases. So, next time you are looking at the price tag and trying to determine whether or not you should put a certain item in your basket, think of the evidence and remember that you really are getting your money’s worth. Want to take it a step further and determine which fruits and veggies have higher levels of pesticides? Click here for that info.