Organic food is healthier than conventional food by a long way, many studies are now showing. There are two main reasons why: pesticides and nutrients. Conventionally produced food is sprayed with numerous forms of pesticides, from insecticides to herbicides to fungicides and more. In large scale agriculture, these pesticides are petrochemical derivatives. In other words, they are made from industrial chemicals which are powerful and dangerous enough to kill bugs and mold, but which can also cause you serious illness if they end up in your body – which they do, since most food which is sprayed absorbs the pesticides. Since humans are at the top of the food chain, there’s no way we can easily avoid these hazardous pesticides when eating conventional food.
The other reason why organic food is healthier than pesticide-laden produce is simple (and linked to the first): organic food has higher nutrient content. Spraying food with industrial pesticides may help prevent a plant from being eaten by a certain insect, but it also damages the plant to some degree. This then is reflected by the plant having lower nutrient levels, since some of its phytochemicals (plant chemicals, e.g. vitamin C) are quite fragile and can be easily damaged by synthetic pesticides.
It is refreshing to see researchers pursuing scientific proof that organic food is healthier, to settle the question once and for all. Below are some of the top studies done on the subject, all of which came to the conclusion that organic food is healthier than its conventional counterpart due to its being higher in antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals and other critical nutrients.
Organic Food is Healthier #1: Study entitled “Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains”, 2001
This study analyzed organic and conventional fruit, vegetables and grains, and measured more iron, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin, C, as well as less nitrates, in organic crops as compared to conventional crops. On average, spinach had 52% more vitamin C, cabbage had 41% more iron and lettuce had 29% more magnesium! Additionally, it also discovered various trends, namely that organic food had less but better quality protein, more nutritionally significant minerals, and lower amounts of some heavy metals (e.g. lead), another great reason to choose organic over conventional.
Organic Food is Healthier #2: Study entitled “Organic Agriculture and Food Utilization”, 2007
This study came to several conclusions. One was that organic food had far fewer pesticide residues, with “the levels in organic products … consistently 4 to 5 times lower than in conventional products”. The study went on say that “pesticide poisoning causes some 20,000 deaths per year globally and an average of 11 days wages lost due to illness, per farmer per incidence, in some areas. Even symptom-free workers often exhibit biomarker changes indicating increased risk of diseases, including Parkinson’s disease.” Another finding was that plants grown organically had better defense mechanisms, and thus fared better after harvesting and during transport and storage. Also, the study mentioned that “epidemiological studies have shown better health scores among consumers of organic food for immunological characteristics and weight control, and similar benefits have been reproduced in animal studies, supporting a possible causal role of the food production system.”
Organic Food is Healthier #3: Study entitled “Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems”, 2010
This study found that “organic farms had strawberries with longer shelf life, greater dry matter, and higher antioxidant activity and concentrations of ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds.” Although taste is a subjective thing, the study also reported that “sensory panels judged organic strawberries to be sweeter and have better flavor, overall acceptance, and appearance than their conventional counterparts.”
Organic Food is Healthier #4: Study entitled “Higher Antioxidant, Lower Cadmium Concentrations and Lower Incidence of Pesticide Residues in Organically Grown Crops”, 2014
Finally, this recent study concluded that organic crops are up to 60% higher in key antioxidants than conventionally grown crops. The research team analyzed 343 studies dealing with the differences between organic and conventional crops, and showed that by switching to eating organic fruit, vegetable and grains, you can get additional antioxidants equivalent to eating between 1-2 extra portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Incredible!
It’s Obvious: Organic Food is Healthier
It’s common sense that food sprayed with pesticides and other harmful chemicals will damage the plant, thus affecting its nutritional profile and overall health benefits. It’s good to see more and more studies being done showing the science is also bearing out this truth. Personally, I eat 100% organic wherever possible; it is somewhat more expensive (but not always), but how can you put a price on your health? Would you rather save a few bucks in the short term, only to have some pesticide or chemical-casued illness in the future, for which you may pay dearly?