When it comes to buying healthy food for you and your family, the debate over nutritional values in organic and conventional produce can make your decisions challenging.
A new study in the UK emphasizes the nutritional superiority of organic fruits and vegetables over their conventional counterparts. The debate reached a peak in 2012 when Stanford University researchers claimed that organic foods were no healthier than non-organic or conventional foods. Years later, researchers at Newcastle University analysed over 300 studies and found organic crops have significantly higher antioxidant levels than conventional crops. The new evidence addresses many of the flaws that were present in the Stanford study.
Antioxidants protect against cell damage leading to aging and disease. Foods with high antioxidant content have been linked to reduced chronic heart conditions, reduced blood pressure and healthy aging.
Comparing the two groups more closely, they found that there was a 17% mean percentage difference between organic and conventional crops. They also found that organic crops had significantly higher levels of individual antioxidants – such as phenolic acids, flavonols and flavones – with some values reaching 60% increased amount compared to conventional!
So what does this mean? The additional antioxidants available through an organic diet are equivalent to one to two servings of conventional food. By switching from a conventional diet to an organic one, you gain 20-40% higher antioxidant intake. More benefits with less caloric intake!
But that’s not all! The same study also concluded that organic crops have significantly lower pesticide residue and lower levels of toxic metals. Exposure to these hazardous toxins affects brain and reproductive development, kidney health, increased risk of cancers and more.
The next question to ask is why these organic foods have higher antioxidant values than the conventional counterparts. One theory suggests that these antioxidant compounds, which are so great for humans, are produced when plants experience stress. Crops grown with the help of chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and genetic modifications to resist harsh environments experience less stress than organic plants and therefore produce less antioxidants than organic crops.
The organic sector is growing and new research and innovations are emerging every day. Going organic is more affordable than ever and increasingly Canadians are making the switch. A majority of Canadians report purchasing organic products weekly, with 98% of shoppers expecting to increase or maintain their organic fruit and vegetable spending. Thousands of Canadians are thinking organic and looking for opportunities to make eco-friendly and sustainable choices. This new evidence will be useful to educate consumers to make healthy food decisions with confidence.