I think we can all agree that eating more fruits and vegetables is healthier than choosing to eat a candy bar and cheese doodles. But, when it comes down to which fruits and vegetables, well, it can be a tricky exercise. What is the nutrient content? Glycemic index? Is it organic or conventionally grown? Adding to my confusion is the fact that there is often conflicting research information released about our foods. It's no wonder on a recent trip to the grocery store my husband questioned, "Is organic produce really better?"
Well, let's see. There was a study done in the UK by the Food Standards Agency (FDS). This is the UK's version of our FDA. They stated that "there are no important differences in the nutrition content, or any additional health benefits, of organic food when compared with conventionally produced food." Let's take a look at the first part of this statement - nutrition content.
There are other studies that have shown that organically grown food does contain more nutrients. One example is an article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. It states that a study done on organically grown corn, strawberries and marionberries showed "significantly higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants than conventionally grown foods." I think it's especially interesting to note this research suggested that "pesticides and herbicides actually thwart the production of phenolics." These are chemicals that act as a plant's natural defense. They also happen to be good for our health.
Which brings me to the second part of the FDS's statement where they say there weren't "any additional health benefits of organic food when compared with conventionally produced food." Well, we know that organic foods don't come with any extra chemicals in the form of herbicides and pesticides! I copied this straight from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) website: "Laboratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems, such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time. However, these effects depend on how toxic the pesticide is and how much of it is consumed." The EPA also states: RISK = TOXICITY x EXPOSURE.
If a health risk increases in relation to the toxicity of the chemicals used in growing fruits and vegetables and the amount of these foods I'm eating, then it makes sense to me to go organic. Not just because I'm consuming less chemicals that are bad for me, but because with organic I believe I'm also getting more of the plants good stuff. So, I think organic really is better.