Q: Is Organic Food Better For You?
September 4, 2012
Our Culinary Nutritionist Andrea Canada gives her view on the benefits of eating organic vs. conventionally grown produce.
A review of studies comparing the nutrient content of organic and conventionally grown foods was recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and covered by various news outlets including the New York Times.
In reviewing over 200 studies, the researchers found that, except for phosphorus, there was not a measurable difference in the nutrient content of organic foods compared with conventional foods. It did find that organic produce had more phenolic compounds than conventional (however there was quite a bit of variance across studies with small sample sizes). Lastly, and I think most importantly, it reported that the greatest variance in nutrient content was due to ripeness.
However, people choose to eat organic foods for a variety of reasons above and beyond nutrition content. The study confirmed that organic foods had lower amounts of synthetic pesticides than conventionally grown foods, and many people buy organic for that reason. Others buy organic because they feel they are making a more environmentally conscious decision. Often times, though, large scale organic farms may be following the letter of the law but not adhering to the spirit of organic farming. And in contrast, small farms may not be Certified Organic but practicing organic farming methods because it allows them greater sustainability in their operation. So if you can, look into the source of all your food and if you’re shopping at a farmer’s market, talk to the farmer about how they’re growing their food.
Organic or conventional, I encourage you to eat more fruits and vegetables. If you haven’t already seen it, the Environmental Working Group publishes a list of the cleanest and dirtiest conventionally grown produce to help guide your shopping decisions. But I think most importantly, eat seasonally and from local sources as much as possible. Fruits and vegetables that are picked at the peak of ripeness and haven’t required time to travel great distances will likely have the most nutrients and phenolic compounds. And as an added bonus, they taste great too.
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