Natural Organic Foods Less Healthy Than Non Organic Foods
Although this study shows us some interesting findings, it should be remembered that studies conducted in the area of organic farming and their subsequent foods is very difficult. Many variables come into play such as soil, weather, crop genotypes, and much more. The current study did a fairly good job at controlling for these factors.
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Natural Organic Foods Less Healthy Than Non Organic Foods
Natural Organic Foods Less Healthy Than Non-Organic
Natural organic foods have become incredibly
popular over the last 10 years or so. But are they really as
nutritionally beneficial as "promoters" make them out to be?
Are natural organic foods better than conventional foods in terms
of their nutrient quality?
Just last week, a new study came out that showed that they
In this first ever study looking at retention of minerals and trace
elements, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and
Agriculture, animals were fed a diet consisting of crops grown using
three different cultivation methods in two seasons.
The study looked at the crops of common foods such as carrots, kale,
mature peas, apples and potatoes.
The first cultivation method consisted of growing the vegetables on soil
which had a low input of nutrients using animal manure and no
pesticides except for one organically approved product on kale only
(most organic method).
The second method involved applying a low input of nutrients using
animal manure, combined with use of pesticides, as much as allowed
Finally, the third method comprised a combination of a high input of
nutrients through mineral fertilisers and pesticides as legally allowed
(conventional growing method).
The crops were grown on the same or similar soil on adjacent fields at
the same time and so experienced the same weather conditions. All
were harvested and treated at the same time. In the case of the
organically grown vegetables, all were grown on established organic
After harvest, results showed that there were no differences in the
levels of major and trace contents in the fruit and vegetables grown
using the three different methods.
Produce from the organically and conventionally grown crops were
then fed to animals over a two year period and intake and excretion of
various minerals and trace elements were measured. Once again, the
results showed there was no difference in retention of the elements
regardless of how the crops were grown.
Although this study shows us some interesting findings, it should be
remembered that studies conducted in the area of organic farming and
their subsequent foods is very difficult. Many variables come into play
such as soil, weather, crop genotypes, and much more. The current
study did a fairly good job at controlling for these factors.
But there have been hundreds of studies on organic foods and the
results are anything but conclusive.
For instance, a large review of some 400 previous "organic vs.
conventional food" papers concluded that organic crops appear to be
higher in vitamin C, some essential minerals (calcium, magnesium,
iron and chromium), and phytonutrients (lycopene in tomatoes,
polyphenols in potatoes, flavonols in apples, and resveratrol in red
wine) (Heaton, 2001).
It is important to note that the study excluded many trials that,
according to the author’s criteria, failed to compare the two types of
Dominant Trends in Nutrient Quality of Natural Organic
Nonetheless, there have been some dominant trends in the literature
regarding the nutrient quality of natural organic foods. They are the
• protein content is usually higher in conventional foods (due to
higher nitrogen input from non-organic fertilizers), but the
protein quality is greater in organically-grown foods.
• Roughly 59% of studies have shown that vitamin C
(ascorbic acid) is higher in organically grown fruits and
vegetables. One of the speculated reasons is that under
natural stressors, plants will produce more vitamin C as a
defense-mechanism. Pretty cool! Other vitamins show little
difference between either growing method.
• Less than 20% of studies have shown that important minerals
like calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron are greater in
conventionally grown foods. Instead, roughly 80% of
studies have concluded that organically-grown foods
have equal or higher amounts of these essential
• Studies consistently show that the levels of defense-
related "secondary metabolites" (or phytonutrients)
are also higher in organic foods. As with vitamin C, these
compounds develop out of the plant's need to defend itself
from natural stressors. Importantly, for humans, these
phytonutrients are the real disease-fighting compounds that
are now helping us prevent cancer, heart disease, and many
other degenerative diseases!
• An overwhelming majority of animal studies show that
animals prefer and thrive on organic foods. Findings
such as better health, less disease, healthier body weight,
increased fertility, healthier off-spring, and lower deaths at
birth are just some of the benefits of raising animals on
At the end of the day, the fact still remains that the nutrient quality
differences between organic and non-organic foods are still quite small
(except for the levels of phytonutrients in organics). The USDA even
says that at this time the evidence is unclear as to whether organic
foods pack more nutrient punch. So whether or not organic foods are
worth the price difference is up to you.
In my opinion, though, natural organic foods are better! After all, it's
the way we've farmed since the beginning of time (until recently). The
big selling point about organics for me is their overwhelming
abundance (10-50% greater) of phytonutrients compared to
conventionally-grown foods. Considering their (phytonutrients) impact
on thwarting disease, especially in our sick culture, organics should be
an integral part of anyone's diet looking to stay healthy for life!
Furthermore, if animals thrive on organic foods, might that not be a
hint as to the possibility that such foods are actually healthier for us as
Part of the the organic philosophy is that an agricultural system is
more than the sum of its parts, and therefore, the quality of a food
product should be considered as the result of the general quality of its
production system. Makes sense to me. And by focusing on only one
aspect of food quality, like the nutritional value, fragments our view of
foods and underscores the importance of understanding foods as
So at the end of the day I say organic is the way to go. Not only
for you but for the health of the planet as well. But just remember
that you will nonetheless greatly benefit from eating more fruits and
vegetables, regardless of their growing method.
What are your thoughts about organic foods?
Kristensen, M. et al (2008). Effect of plant cultivation methods on content of major and trace elements in
foodstuffs and retention in rats. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Aug 5.
Heaton S (2001): Organic Farming, Food Quality and Human Health: A Review of the Evidence . Bristol: Soil